Switching to Windows Phone: Where are the apps?

Introduction

On the day after Thanksgiving I bought a Nokia Lumia 635: a Windows Phone. It wasn’t a dare, I wasn’t under duress, my iPhone wasn’t broken — I wanted to buy a Windows Phone. Over the next few blog posts I’m going to write about my experiences in switching from an iPhone to a Windows Phone.

First a little background. My history of smartphones is pretty basic: a couple cheap Androids, an iPhone 4S, followed by an attempt to like Android again (about a month with an LG F3 Android running 4.1.x) followed finally by a 64GB iPhone 5s. My expectations for the Windows Phone are simple: function as a suitable replacement as a music and podcast client, do basic things like texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter, and allow me to run several useful apps. Oh — and make phone calls at least as well as the iPhone did.

Where are the apps?

“Why do Windows Phones run so fast? They don’t have any apps to slow them down!” There are many versions of this joke but the stereotype is based in fact: there simply aren’t as many apps for Windows Phone as there are for iOS and Android. While I knew this to be the case I wasn’t prepared for just how few apps there are for Windows Phone. Which apps are missing? Here’s a rundown of the apps I’m missing most right now:

  • Gmail: Yes, you can set up mobile Outlook to connect to Gmail but the advantage of the Gmail app is searching: it searches your email on the Gmail servers as opposed to the email on your phone.  I’ve been using Gmail since the days when you needed an invite to join and have so much email in my account that downloading it all to my phone in order to make it all searchable is a no-go.
  • AMEX Mobile, Schwab Mobile: I do my banking with Schwab and have an American Express card I use as my primary credit card and got hooked on the iPhone apps for these just in time for my switch to Windows Phone.  I’m considering changing my bank and credit card based on who has a Windows Phone version of their mobile app.
  • YouTube: There is a Microsoft-created “app” for YouTube, but it’s just a shortcut to launch YouTube’s mobile website in the phone’s web browser. A shortcut to a website isn’t an app.
  • Google Hangouts: I realize this is a newer app but Google is a freaking software company — and they can’t make a Windows Phone version of an app? In anticipation of leaving iPhone I have been using iMessage a lot less and using Hangouts a lot more expecting that Hangouts is surely supported on Windows Phone.
  • MS Word and Excel: I had Word, Excel, and even Power Point on iPhone but never thought that these would be missing on Microsoft’s own mobile platform.
  • Google Drive and Dropbox: I don’t really want to move everything to SkyDrive, especially since I have 1TB of storage on GDrive and real people with whom I share files use Dropbox.
  • Amazon Cloud Drive: With unlimited photo storage for Amazon Prime members I have become a huge fan of this app. I’m hoping Amazon releases a WinPhone version of this soon.
  • Amazon Music: Obviously iTunes-purchased music won’t auto-sync through the air with a Windows Phone, but I figured that at least I wouldn’t need to side-load my Amazon-purchased music to my Windows Phone.

There are more apps which have no Windows Phone version — Meetup.com; all of my Amateur Radio apps, especially EchoLink; Yahoo Sports — which I use less frequently.  All of that said, one of the reasons I decided to give Windows Phone a try is because I keep hearing that the tens of people who have them LOVE them… and despite the lack of apps mentioned above I am liking this phone so far.

More on that in the next installment.