Skip to main content

With Instagram and Vine, is Windows Phone 'turning a corner'?

With Instagram and Vine, is Windows Phone 'turning a corner'?


Microsoft thinks so, but apps aren't the whole story

Share this story

Windows Phone Lumia 1520 stock
Windows Phone Lumia 1520 stock

Instagram has finally arrived for Windows Phone, and for Microsoft it's a very big deal. The app has been the touchstone example for the platform's issues getting first-party titles. However, Instagram on Windows Phone lacks support to record video, making it an example of a different sort: Microsoft is doing better getting apps, but there's still a way to go before the ecosystem reaches full parity with iOS and Android.

Microsoft claims Windows Phone is finally on the rise, thanks in part to apps like Instagram. After three years of sales, its mobile OS is starting to make a dent in the smartphone market. Nokia’s own Lumia sales hit a record of 8.8 million in the latest quarter, and IDC reports that Windows Phone shipments have increased by 156 percent from last year to reach 3.6 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide in the latest quarter. Microsoft's senior Windows Phone marketing manager, Casey McGee, tells The Verge that "we do feel like we’re turning a corner here."

McGee appears to be on a mission this holiday to alter the perception of Windows Phone and truly cement it as the third player. The numbers back Microsoft’s position, but the app argument continues to plague the OS as consumers search for their favorite apps and games and find the Windows Phone Store rather lacking. "We really want to take this opportunity to make sure people really see the breadth and depth of the offering, and frankly see if we can change some of that feeling that the app ecosystem is just holding us back, because frankly the data doesn’t tell us that," says McGee.

Microsoft wants to alter the Windows Phone perception

Microsoft’s data includes an analysis of Apple's App Store against its own Windows Phone Store. "Of the top 50 applications today that both we and iPhone share in common on our platform, the applications on Windows Phone are actually rated higher: 3.7 vs. iPhone with 3.6," explains Microsoft’s Todd Brix. That incredibly small margin is just a blip on the radar, but Microsoft genuinely believes features like Live Tiles, Kid’s Corner, and lock screen integration are helping even out the rankings. Microsoft’s app developers might be doing a reasonable job against iOS on shared apps with unique features, but there's less competition on Windows Phone for apps and favorable reviews for those that fill in the blanks.

A recent analysis by Windows Phone developer Nick Landry shows that out of the top 100 mobile apps, Windows Phone is still lagging behind iOS and Android significantly. Despite the gap, Microsoft’s platform has improved on the situation since launching Windows Phone 8 a year ago, with its claim of having 46 out of the top 50 apps from rival platforms at the time. Vine recently launched for Windows Phone, and the software maker is revealing that Waze and Instagram are both available today, with Mint to follow shortly. Of most significance is clearly the Instagram app. Microsoft and Nokia have both battled to bring the app to Windows Phone, and it has been a particularly sticky point that has prevented some consumers from even considering Windows Phone.

Instagram is super important for Windows Phone's app situation

Instagram "is super important," admits McGee. "When we look at the sort of apps that people look for in the Store it is far and away the number-one searched-for title in the Windows Phone Store. That is a big add, and that is a core reason why we feel like we’re turning a corner and reaching that critical mass." Unofficial Instagram apps may have launched for Windows Phone previously, but commitment from a big name like Facebook is essential for Microsoft.

While the key apps need to be addressed and Microsoft is gaining ground there, McGee doesn't believe the overall number matters. "Ninety-five percent of people, regardless of platform, feel like they’re gonna get what they need if they have 100,000 apps," explains McGee, and Windows Phone has surpassed that stage already. That's not necessarily a good thing, though. There are still hundreds of fake apps, and a quick search for CNN highlights Microsoft's real struggles with its store. Despite this, McGee claims Microsoft's "customers are as happy with apps as Android customers."

McGee also dismisses the idea that Windows Phone users miss out because of a lack of apps. "I think there’s sort of this perception out there with some that Windows Phone customers are feeling something is missing or not having the experience that they want, and it’s really quite the opposite," he claims. "We’re seeing positive reactions from customers, higher-rated apps, and that has a lot to do with the fact that we’re catering to a different ecosystem." Microsoft has done well to build Windows Phone out with its focus on photography alongside Nokia, but it's still struggling to complete app-for-app.

Microsoft needs to ensure apps stay up to date

Even so, the app argument will continue until Microsoft plugs every significant hole, including Pinterest, Dropbox, a host of news apps, and the all-important games that make rival platforms appealing. Microsoft’s main challenge, alongside the app gap, is to now ensure the big names it attracts are doing enough to keep their apps up to date. Spotify is a good example of an app that’s available on Windows Phone, but where the experience is nowhere near close to the polish and features provided by the iOS version. The Twitter and Facebook apps are at near parity, but new features still debut first on iOS and Android. Even the Vine app that launched on Windows Phone recently doesn’t include the multiple-session support that’s available on iOS and Android. A lack of video sharing for Instagram just highlights this even further. It might not be immediately apparent to Windows Phone users who aren’t familiar with the iOS and Android versions of their favorite apps, but it’s noticeable if a friend has an iPhone with apps that are more feature complete or games that simply aren't available. It's not just noticeable — it's disheartening.

Microsoft still needs to address a number of its own problems with Windows Phone. Notifications aren’t reliable and there’s a lack of video and TV show support directly from Microsoft. Xbox Video will debut soon to address the media capabilities of Windows Phone, but all these little things add up. "We see the feedback, there are a lot of things we feel we do well and there’s things we strive to do near term and long term," explains McGee. Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's manager of Windows Phone, "lives on those feature-request lists and knows exactly in priority order what people want and when, and I promise you that factors into the work that’s being done."

Windows Phone 8.1 is still a secret

The future of Windows Phone could be even brighter, but that feels like a common promise. "I think we’re on the right path," says Microsoft’s Todd Brix. "I think we’re making progress." Microsoft has reached the number-three slot, and it's a great step. But the company now has to make sure the apps it has attracted stay fresh, and that it continues to close the gap. Windows Phone needs to be more than a distant third spot, and much more than just a distant afterthought for top app-developers.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago 10 minutes in the clouds

Jay PetersTwo hours ago
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.

James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.

Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.

The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!

External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and

External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.