Just having the app isn't good enough

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: March 2, 2013

There is an argument to be made that for mobile platforms like BlackBerry’s BlackBerry 10, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone (the version number isn’t necessary), applications will make or break its success in the market. Consumers love phones, but they love apps just as much. There are even some people out there who would tell you they need the applications they have on their phone. Whether that’s a certain productivity application, or even an app like Instagram, they’ve grown accustomed to having that particular application and can’t live without it. Or simply just don’t want to.

For phone manufacturers, there isn’t a difference. What owners can’t “live” without should be taken just as seriously as what they choose not to. I know a lot of people who stick to Apple’s iOS simply because of the applications. And while I agree with Taylor Martin when he said that some Android apps are certainly starting to look better (which just adds to the total package), there are still some major differences out there.

Now, we have to get one thing straight right away: It doesn’t matter if you’ve never used the same app on another platform. What I mean is that it simply doesn’t matter. If you’ve only ever used Android, and therefore only know what the Spotify app does on Android, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a difference in functionality and usage between that particular app, and the applications available through Apple’s App Store and Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store.

It doesn’t because there’s still a difference. Yes, in your particular case it doesn’t matter, but we’re looking at the bigger picture. Because some people would like to make the argument that just having the application is good enough to get platforms like Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 off the ground. Just get the apps, and you’ll get the consumer on board.

That’s so far from the truth, it’s almost scary.

Sure it makes sense that just having the app means you’re one step in the right direction. Sure it does. But it really isn’t good enough. Not too long ago, I wrote a piece on why BlackBerry needs to focus on quality versus quantity when it comes to their own BlackBerry World. This is a slightly different situation, but the focus on quality is still there. People want to use applications, everyone knows this, but they don’t want to use bad apps. And we all know they exist. Not every application is going to work as smoothly as, say, Path, or be as feature heavy as Tweetbot. (I’m just picking popular apps here.)

On February 8, 2013, one of the most popular applications in the world launched for Windows Phone 8. Indeed, a lot of titles announcing the launch described it as, “finally!” or something similar, indicating that the wait for the app had been excruciating. And when we’re talking about an app like Spotify, I imagine that it very well could have been. There’s an old saying: “It was worth the wait.”

In this case, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close.

After switching from Rdio to Spotify (then back and forth a few more times), and being generally disappointed by my usage time with Xbox Music, I thought giving Spotify a try was worth the effort. I turned on the Windows Phone 8X, downloaded Spotify and got ready to enjoy the experience. Why? Because the experience on the iPhone and Android is great and not terrible, respectively. Unfortunately, the Windows Phone 8 app is just . . . Well, it’s not as good as it should be.

It’s not as good as the iOS app. It’s not as good as the Android app. The navigation is limited. You can get to album information, but getting there is a bit tricky (you have to tap on the artist’s name, and then eventually find your way to the album information). Will the app work to play music if you don’t like Xbox Music? Sure. Is that what we should settle for? No. What the Spotify app tells me is that Spotify wanted to support Microsoft’s platform, but not because they wanted to make an application that was overly beautiful or feature-rich, but simply because, “Hey, why not?”

It’s an app that exists, but doesn’t stand out. It’s simply there. And that’s not what is going to persuade people to switch. If we’re trying to get people to leave Android or iOS, and they’re using Spotify on that platform already, I would be genuinely shocked to see that they’d be prepared to leave Android or iOS for Windows Phone because of Spotify. Unless they just switched because the app exists, and they didn’t try it out first. (I’ve done that before. So, hey, it happens.)

Look, it’s great that Spotify is on Windows Phone 8, but only at surface level. It’s not good enough to just have the application available. It has to be good. It has to be worth using! No missing features based on applications available on other platforms. Unless there’s something in the platform that prevents a feature from existing, that is. Then obviously there’s nothing we can do about that.

Just having the app isn’t good enough, so hopefully that’s not the road that Microsoft or BlackBerry are ready to take to try and gain market presence. If they want to do that, and genuinely want it (as we all know they do), then they need to make sure that the apps that they’re putting effort into launching are worth the effort.

What do you think? Is just having the app, even if it isn’t that great, good enough to make a platform succeed? Or does it need to be something worthwhile? Let me know.