Bogdan Bujdea

Windows Platform Developer

Why it’s sad to be a Windows Phone developer

If you asked me 3.5 years ago why I love developing Windows Phone apps, I would gave you these 4 reasons:

  • I like the OS(live tiles, design focused on content, etc.)
  • I like the fact that it’s secure, no malware
  • I like the tools and language that I use(Visual Studio, C#/XAML)
  • I like the quality of the apps(it took a few weeks for a WP7 app to pass certification, but it was worth it)

Now, only the first three points are true for me, because there are a lot of crappy apps in the Store and this only happened because MS is desperate about increasing the number of apps. I still like developing apps for it and I’m proud to call myself a Windows Phone Developer, but there are still some bad parts when you’re developing apps for Windows Phone and I’ll talk about them in this article.

The humiliation

https://www.flickr.com/photos/omargurnah/3151873628/

Image by omargurnah (Flickr)

The worst part for me is when I start every freelancing project by making a list with the features I can’t include in the Windows Phone app, and it’s making me unhappy. If you’re a Windows Phone freelancer, how many times did you have to say this?

“I’m sorry, this feature cannot be implemented on Windows Phone”.

I really hate saying that I can’t do something. I AM A DEVELOPER, I got into programming because I love making computers do what I want, and now I can’t do it because you don’t support it? WHY? If you’re so willing to copy things from Android, why don’t you give us more APIs and access to the OS? Android does this and look at their market share. Do you think they care about the malware they have? Do you think they care about the crappy apps that slowdown the OS? No, and you know why? Because they’re the 1st mobile OS in the world, that’s why.

Solution

People complained about Windows being unsecure for decades, but it’s still the no. 1 OS for desktops. Now I’m not saying that MS should make Windows Phone unsecure, far from that, but if you have a good certification process, this won’t be an issue. I don’t care that it will take 1-2 weeks for my app to get into the Store as long as it can do anything I want, and I think I’m not the only one who thinks like this. If people will sideload malware on their phone it’s their fault, as long as you keep the Store clean I don’t have a problem with it. Trust me, instead of allowing fake apps and duplicates just to increase the number of apps, give us more access and you will gain more developers which will develop more apps, with higher quality.

Lack of official SDKs

icon_sdk

This was an issue all the way since Windows Phone 7, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t just complain about this, I actually wrote small libraries and made them available through Nuget, so I’m trying to help as much as I can to fix this problem, but the problem is not with the 3rd party libraries. I know that every company who creates an app first starts with iOS and Android, but this is also the case with SDKs. Look at Facebook, Google, Twitter, and many others who have SDKs available for iOS and Android, but nothing official for Windows Phone. 3rd party libraries are good for authentication and basic stuff like sharing content, but if you need more advanced features then you need a native app and a SDK. Microsoft is improving the Facebook app but you still can’t do many things with it, and although Twitter and LinkedIn have native apps, they don’t offer any APIs, not even for authentication.

Last year I was working on an app which shared content through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I managed to get the sharing to work on the first 3, but there is no Windows Phone library available for Google+(or at least there weren’t any last year), so I had to tell the client that we have to remove that functionality from Windows Phone. Fortunately, this wasn’t very important for the client, but I still don’t like that I had to do it.

Solution

Maybe get Microsoft to build them? I don’t really know a perfect solution, but if Windows Phone had a bigger market share I’m sure they would build them themselves, unfortunately this is not the case right now.

 

Microsoft needs to understand that companies will not create apps for Windows Phone if they can’t have the same functionality like the other operating systems, so they should work hard on improving this part. Don’t just give us a limited SDK of a closed system, make it accessible and let us create great apps for it.

Let me know in the comments section if you have something to add or you disagree. I will publish soon a post about the good parts when developing for this platform.

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  • Ben C

    Hey Bogdan,

    I’m a similar type of developer to yourself. Also a Caliburn.Micro user – that’s how I found your blog originally. Thanks for the Win10 project template.

    I was a hold-out WP user but I switched to an Android phone right after BUILD. I got to a point where, for my wife and I, it drove us insane that we couldn’t get apps. Even more so that MS was publishing apps to iOS and Android instead of WP! And then there were all the programming issues… Feels there was a whole bunch of thing that, taken together, drove me insane but I’ve chosen to just let it go, move on and focus on Win10.

    Moving to Android certainly made me happier. Everything just works that I expect – especially those apps. Android has some nice features but there’s functionality I clearly miss from WP i.e. live tiles, car integration was better, etc.

    Clearly feels like the world doesn’t care about WP at times. We might as well be Blackberry.

    In my opinion, the one (and only) hope for WP is Continuum. They get this right then they have a chance to win some serious market share. Cortana is a definite plus but it’s not available in my country.

    I’m really happy with what they’ve done for Win10 but they desperately need to hurry up with WP.

    Ben

    • Hi Ben,

      Thank you for sharing your opinion. I keep saying that I will switch to iOS if Microsoft doesn’t release a new flagship, but I keep postponing this since January. I hoped they would announce something back then, but HoloLens got me very enthusiastic so it was good enough for me. Now I’m waiting to see what they will announce in September, but it’s the last time I do this. If they don’t give us something awesome, I’m switching to iOS because I think it has the same quality as Windows. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop developing for Windows or that I’ll buy a Mac, I’ll just use the iOS device as my primary device.

      How do you get along with Android? From what I’ve learned from my friends who use Android, you need a very good device if you want it to work okay.

      • Ben C

        I’ve got a Nexus 6. Big screen, fast processor, big battery, excellent camera. The last point was really important for me. It’s also a vanilla form of Android – unlike every other manufacturer which feels the need to create their own version.

        You definitely need an Android phone with a quad core processor. Most of the cheap phones are dual or even single core and they’re terrible. I’ve heard them referred to as “landfill phones”.

        Those terrible low-end Android phones was the reason why WP has been doing so well, in the low-end market, but things are quickly changing. I bought my daughter a cheap Samsung quad-core phone and it’s great. I just wish Android came with parent controls built-in.

        Unforutnately Hololens won’t be available for consumers until 2020 but supposed will be for enterprise use in 2016.

        I’m attending Ignite in Auckland next week and I plan on pestering the MS staff about their devices. There’s a talk purely about current and upcoming devices.

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