I've been using Windows Phone primarily for going on four days now. This isn't my first round with Windows Phone, though. I've had a few personal Windows Phone devices and reviewed several more. However, this time I'm actually enjoying it, which I find to be odd considering it never appealed to me in the past. It's simple, smooth, consistent and there are rarely any hiccups.
It suits most – not quite all – of my smartphone needs.
Aside from no official support for Google applications and cloud services, my complaints are few and far between. That said, my biggest concern comes from the make or break feature of many mobile platforms: application support.
Marketplace is an interesting digital store. Much like the Google Play Store, Marketplace serves more than just applications for your Windows Phone device. You can purchase applications, games, music and download podcasts, all from within Marketplace. And in the short time Windows Phone has been available (by comparison, at least), its growth has been quite impressive. Just last month, Microsoft announced that Marketplace hit another milestone. Just shy of 18-months-old, Marketplace is now home to over 70,000 applications.
For comparison, App Store for iOS and Google Play (what was then Android Market) were at 120,000 and 100,000 applications, respectively, after roughly the same amount of time. But those two were growing through the initial smartphone application boom. Windows Phone was rather late to the party. For so many developers to show so much interest in a third (or fourth) ecosystem is impressive, to say the least.
However, I'm hesitant to welcome yet another ecosystem into my life. I've been using Android and iOS for several years now. I have purchased around $200 in applications for the two platforms combined. And, back in the day, I recall paying at least $50 in various BlackBerry applications over the course of four years.
Not only that, but a large number of my favorite applications on Android are free – either ad-supported, freemium or completely free.
When making the switch over to Windows Phone, however, I have noticed that a lot of the applications I use on a daily basis are missing. Several big names – like Spotify, Evernote and Soundhound – have taken the Windows Phone plunge. And, of course, various Twitter clients, Facebook, Foursquare and a plethora of other social applications are available. But popular developers are waging their time on the more stable and reputable platforms. Currently, Windows Phone only has four percent of the U.S. smartphone market share. Developers are rightfully wary.
So am I.
The applications that are available are generally third-party apps, and most of them are paid. For instance, I use Read It Later almost every day from my various handsets and my MacBook. On Android and iOS, I use the official applications. On Windows Phone, though, I'm forced to use a third-party application. There are two versions of it: paid and ad-supported. I despise mobile ads, yet I can't force myself to pay $3.49 for an application with four reviews and four (out of five) stars.
That's not to say MetroPaper or the other 10 or so paid apps I have passed on are bad applications or poorly coded, by any means. But I have already invested money on official applications on other platforms. I don't want to pay for applications on a fifth platform, especially on one that has only gained four percent of the smartphone market share in 17 months. And I'm especially not inclined to pay several dollars for a poorly designed, third-party rip-off of an application that would be free on another platform (i.e.: Google Voice, Twitter client, Dropbox, etc.).
Who's to say Windows Phone will succeed? Who's to say it will still be around in another two years? (HP's webOS, anyone?) And why should I invest in yet another operating system?
I don't think Microsoft is going to give up on Windows Phone – they have risked a lot on this platform's success. And there's no denying it still has potential. But both manufacturers and wireless providers may soon lose hope and interest in the platform if consumers remain skeptical.
Microsoft and all of its partners are stuck in the middle of a vicious catch-22. Everyone – except for Nokia and AT&T, for now – is kind of hesitant about Windows Phone. Developers, consumers and carriers are all sitting on the sidelines waiting for the platform to gain some traction. I'm one of those people. I've bought several Windows Phone handsets now, but I'm slow to start throwing money into Marketplace for the fear it will never catch on. Like most others, I'm afraid to really invest in the platform.
Eventually, I'm sure I'll cave and start buying some apps, likely after I've had the phone for a few more weeks ... or months. But for now, I'm going to play it safe and stick to free apps.