Talking tech since 2003

In a blog post published today, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Windows Phone Apps, Todd Brix, reflected on how 2012 treated Microsoft’s fledgling smartphone platform. Microsoft and third-party developers added over 75,000 apps to the Windows Phone catalog this year, “more than doubling the catalog size,” according to Brix. That 75,000 number may seem like a small one when placed next to Apple’s 1 million and Google’s 700,000, but Windows Phone seems to be making slow but steady progress. I’m a firm believer that what truly matters is that a platform has the apps people are looking for, and, to Windows Phone’s credit, the platform does have many of the must-have apps that are available on other platforms — save for those that are exclusive to either iOS or Android.

Brix also shared another tidbit. On average, each Windows Phone user has around 54 apps on their device. To contrast: earlier this year, market research firm Velositor found that iPhone users had 44 apps on their devices, while Android users had 32 apps.

Having used all three platforms at one point or another, I can think of a few different scenarios that might explain why Windows Phone users are downloading more apps to their phones than iPhone or Android users. One reason might be that they’re downloading apps that contain features the other two platforms include natively. The other might be that Windows Phone’s apps screen is just more simple to navigate (this is coming from someone who currently uses an iPhone). Apps are listed alphabetically, and you can quickly jump to a specific letter to find an app that starts with it. In my experience, installing a ton of apps on an Windows Phone device didn’t give me as much anxiety as it does on my iPhone, where I feel the need to categorize and still have problems locating apps at times.

Getting back to the Windows Phone apps catalog, Microsoft still has a lot of work ahead of it. For starters, I can’t name a single critically-acclaimed app that has chosen to launch first on the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft has a long road ahead of it in terms of bolstering developer support for Windows Phone and making the platform one that developers want to focus on. At this point, iOS and Android are both obligations for any startup or app developer looking to be taken seriously. Windows Phone is still in that “optional” stage, where it’s nice if a developer supports it, but not supporting it won’t kill an app’s chance at success.

But those are goals that Microsoft will have to aim to reach in 2013. For now, it can celebrate a tiny bit. It has a mobile app store that is 75,000 apps stronger, and a new version on deck in Windows Phone 8. It’ll be interesting to see where the new year takes the company and its mobile aspirations.

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