When you hear or read about Windows Phone, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? Microsoft? Nokia? Minimalism? Or perhaps you’re one of many people that nearly break out in a nervous sweat even thinking about using Windows Phone because you know about the clear app gap between Windows Phone and the two most popular platforms on the mobile market right now - Android and iOS. While Windows Phone is a pretty solid platform in its own right, there’s no denying that Windows Phone falls short when it comes to app support.
Although the Windows Phone App Store is constantly getting better and adding more applications, there’s still that one glaring issue that a lot of people aren’t able to get past - the lack of Google App support.
I can’t help but feel that the lack of Google Apps is what ultimately kills it each time for me when I go back to Windows Phone. I used the platform earlier this year when I switched to the Nokia Lumia 928, but I’ve also used the Lumia 1020 since then as well. I love the platform - the way it’s designed, how smoothly it flows, its overall ease of use. I also love the focus that Nokia (well, Microsoft now) puts on the camera. For the most part, I find Windows Phone devices pleasurable to use... until it comes to needing access to Google stuff. Then things aren’t so smooth sailing.
I’ve come to realize that my life is very Google-centric: I use Chrome as my main browser; Google Drive for most of my documents (both work and non-work related); YouTube for... well, you know, YouTube; I only ever use Gmail for my e-mails; I use Hangouts for group chats (and I’ve actually grown to prefer it as my main messaging platform). Google supplies none of these services for Windows Phone users. If you’re lucky, somebody’s made a third-party app for the service - but for the most part, you’ll just have to learn to do without, or come up with alternatives. That’s also a lot of extra work that needs to be done in order to make yourself comfortable within a brand new ecosystem.
It’s like this: With Android, Google Apps are, for the most part, already installed and ready to go for you. Easy. With iOS, you’re going to have to go out of your way to download some of the apps, but they’re at least Google official and you know exactly what you’re looking for. Type “Chrome” in search, or type “Hangouts” in search, and you’ll come up with Google Chrome or Google Hangouts. Also fairly easy. With Windows Phone, you’re going to have to hop on the Internet and do some extensive research on third-party apps, and not only hope that they’re safe alternatives but if they’re even worth using. Not so easy, and not so fun.
I find that a bit frustrating, because I really do like the Windows Phone platform. But in the end, yeah, it makes a lot more sense for somebody who is as Google-centric as I am to go with Android or iOS, both of which have full support of all of the aforementioned services. Adding this issue on top of the pile of other app-related issues that Windows Phone has (like wondering if a certain app will ever make it to Windows Phone or not) just makes the platform a hard sell. It really is one of the last things that Windows Phone needs to deal with in order to be comparable to iOS or Android now that Windows Phone 8.1 has added a lot of useful features that had been missing for so long (namely Cortana and a drop-down notification center) but applications are a huge part of smartphone culture in general. If it’s not up to par, people aren’t going to be as interested.
Still, I’m holding out hope for Windows Phone 10. Perhaps with the complete unified support across Windows phones, computers, and tablets, developers will be more interested in persuing Windows 10 devices as it would essentially be killing three birds with one stone right there. Also, Google Apps are supported on Windows computers so... maybe it will finally be accessible on Windows Phone 10 devices as well.
Image via CNet