Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform has not exactly taken the smartphone world by storm in its first year on the market, as it lags far behind competitors such as Android and the iPhone. Still, there was some good news for the company’s smartphone entry, as its Marketplace recently surpassed 30,000 apps.
Windows Phone Applist, a site that specializes in tracking statistics for the Windows Phone Marketplace, documented the smartphone platform’s latest triumph. Microsoft initially issued tools to app developers in March of 2010, a few months prior to the October 2010 launch of various Windows Phone Devices. The Windows Phone Marketplace reached a count of 11,500 apps in March of 2011, and has quickly exceeded more than double that total with over 30,000 apps currently.
Although the sudden growth of Windows Phone 7’s app population does show that there is some developer interest in the devices, Microsoft still has a lot of work to do if it hopes to even sniff the success of Android and the iPhone. Google’s Android Market reached 250,000 apps in July, and Apple’s App Store reported an inventory of over 425,000 apps in June. When you look at the numbers of those two competitors, it certainly puts a damper on Microsoft’s recent milestone. Microsoft has been successful in luring some of the top apps to its platform, such as Angry Birds and Netflix, just to name a couple. However, it still must overcome a barrier that usually occurs when new apps launch. The apps typically become available for Android or the iPhone, with Windows Phone 7 left out in the cold.
Microsoft’s Mango update for Windows Phone 7 should give the platform a boost. The upcoming OS will come with a host of new features that Microsoft believes will attract app developers. The ability to access the camera and home screen shortcuts to specific parts of apps are just two capabilities developers can take advantage of with Mango. With supposedly over 500 new features on the OS horizon, Mango should spark developer interest. On the flip side, the continuing lack of in-app purchase capabilities will still be seen as a negative mark against Windows Phone.
The late introduction of Windows Phone 7 certainly does not help its numbers, as Android and the iPhone have had extra time to establish their dominance. According to the NPD Group, Windows Phone’s share sits at just 2 percent for the entire smartphone market in the United States. Android holds a 52 percent share, and the iPhone trails with 29 percent. The fact that Microsoft’s smartphone devices hold such a small share of the market yet continue to grow in their app count is promising, as developers are showing that they still have faith in the tech giant.
App Developers Should Keep Data Efficiency in Mind
As carriers continue to institute rules that cap data usage, many smartphone users are becoming more and more worried about rising costs. Controlling usage can be hard, however, especially with the growing popularity of apps.
Carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have begun changing the ways in which they operate to keep data usage under control. Whether it’s through tiered data plans or throttling, the carriers are not sitting idle. To ensure that the data restrictions do not hinder the popularity and usage of their apps, developers need to keep data efficiency in mind during the development process. Larry Rau of Verizon cemented this notion, saying: “Bandwidth is not infinite and it's not free. It's something developers have to be aware of.”
With data at such a premium, there are a few things that developers can do to reduce their apps’ likelihood of becoming bandwidth hogs, as explained in a recent CNet article. The first tip mentioned deals with compression. Videos are always a solid avenue for offering entertainment to users, but they can also hog bandwidth. For this reason, many carriers urge video providers and developers to use compression. Since compression can vary, carriers hope that developers will apply the correct type to their video content. For instance, news reports or how-to videos should not require high resolutions for content such as movies or sporting events. “We work with developers to make sure the type of video used matches the use case,” Rau noted.
Carriers also prefer apps that send larger portions of data but with less frequency, rather than those that constantly ping the network, as excessive pinging interferes with other users’ access. Unisys VP of application services Kurt Gerstner stated that since native apps don’t require constant pinging for updates, they are often more data efficient than web-based apps.
To prevent constant network pinging, carriers suggest that developers cache or store some data (images, logos, etc.) on the phone. Gerstner touts what is referred to as the “store and forward” technique, which minimizes data usage by storing most of the app content on the phone and sending only actual changes to the data.
Although there are many apps on the market that tend to drain networks, Rau believes that most were not purposely created to do so. He said: “It's one of the biggest areas where I find developers can be assisted. They're not all that familiar with the network usage.”