The first stage in setting up a smartphone is installing the apps, or at least, it is for me after you get past the setup stuff. The basics, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, the popular apps that pretty much everybody uses. Then comes the connected apps or the shared apps-- the apps that you use to connect to other devices. This may include fairly popular apps like Google Drive or OneDrive. But it may also include smart hub appliances like Life X Bulbs, Amazon Echo, Canary, Google On hub. The list goes on and on. Then comes the customizable apps to change the look and feel of your phone. If you're running Android, you'll really know what I'm talking about here. If you're rocking something like an iPhone or Windows Phone, you might not be able to relate quite as well.
So here's the thing about the Lumia 950 and Windows Phones in general: there aren't very many apps. If the Windows app store were a town, it'd be a ghost town in comparison to New York City of an app store on iOS or the Los Angeles Google Play Store on Android.
I started with the basics. I was able to download a YouTube app, a Twitter app, a Facebook app and a Google app. I didn't see an app for Snapchat or Periscope or Google +. In fact, there are no Google apps on Windows besides the basic Google search app. And every other Google app is from a third-party developer or from Microsoft. Yeah, Microsoft. Microsoft actually created their own YouTube app but it's absolutely horrible. It's so bad that it's literally just an app that redirects you to the web version of YouTube.com. That's it-- it's more of a website link than an actual app.
So from just the basic apps I mentioned, the apps themselves aren't very well-designed. For example, the official Twitter app is pretty darn hideous to look at. It's flanked by two huge banners of icons-- the top row of navigation icons are way bigger than they need to be. The timeline, as a result, is very small. I can only see about three posts at once. You can compare this with the iPhone Twitter app and it's pretty bad. The functionality of the app is also mediocre, updating notifications and the timeline was also delayed. I had to refresh several times to receive the most up to date news.
Instagram is a similar story, granted it is a beta app. But it looks a lot more like the Twitter app with large navigation icons that take up more space than they should. You can barely view a single Instagram picture. You can't view a complete Instagram post. I would say the Facebook app is much more well-designed than the rest. However, it too could be further refined. I do like how when you scroll, the icons disappear on the bottom and there's a nice little indicator on the lower right hand corner to show you when there are new posts.
In terms of connected apps, these actually become more sparse as I found an official Chipolo app but no Amazon Echo app or Canary app or Life X app. There's a third-party Life X app but it has limited functionality. It does work but not as terribly well. As for customizable apps, well the selection becomes almost non-existent. Windows Phones are somewhere between Android and iOS devices. Microsoft controls the software, like Apple, but not necessarily the hardware. So customizing your device is limited as it is with iOS.
There are some apps that let you change the background and tile art. But don't expect to find too many widgets or custom launchers or anything you'd expect to see abundant in an OS like Android. So Windows Phone does offer widgets through the live tiles of course and it does offer launchers. But from the launchers I've seen and used, they're basically just apps that when opened, provide a standard homescreen with shortcuts to other apps. They're not exactly baked into the OS by any means.
Overall, the Lumia 950 may offer more of a degree of customization than iOS but iOS has way more customization apps in general. So if you're coming from Android or iOS, you kind of take apps for granted. You really forget just how important apps are to a device when you don't have them. They can really make or break a device straight from the get-go. Now Windows Phone has been out for a while. It's been out for about 6 years now. They're a little bit late to the playing field but 6 years should be enough time to establish an app store with all the basic apps for the most popular services. But that's not the case. Part of the blame can be put on Microsoft for their inability to gain any market share as well as for their inability to invest in all the right places. Part of the blame can also be on companies like Google who refuse to develop apps for their services on competitors' platforms when they have the resources to do so and have done so on iOS.
With all that said, we're still in the beginning phases of testing the Microsoft Lumia 950 so if you want to stay tuned to learn more about this device, make sure you are subscribed here on PhoneDog.com.