I think we can safely say that Windows Phone 7’s success will rely heavily on the applications that will be developed for it. Apps are the corner stone of every operating system, mobile or otherwise. A mobileOS is like a blank canvas and apps are like the different types and colors of paints available out there. But until you throw some paint on a canvas, it’s just a canvas. You can have low grade and high grade canvases but a crappy canvas with a some decent brushwork trumps a laminated blank canvas pretty much any day of the week. My iPhone is a decent phone and I like it just fine, but could you imagine using it, or any other phone for that matter, without any apps? Think about how limited it would become. There’s a reason why Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all flaunted the number of apps their OSes possess at one point or another. Apps are clearly essential to the mobile experience, and so is having a fast, efficient way for people to browse through them all.
So assuming Windows Phone 7 does succeed, we’re going to have a lot of apps populating the Marketplace. Having lots of apps to choose from is great. More diversity means, more competition, and better quality stuff. That capitalism right? This all sounds great in theory, but in practice it’s not so nice.
Let’s take a look at Apple’s Appstore. I like the paint analogy, so we’re going to stick with it. Think of an AppStore like the paint section at your local home improvement superstore. How do they usually set it up? They line the walls with different colored paints from different brands. Do you think you can find a paint similar to something you want alone? Sure! But it’s much harder to find the exact color you want without some help. Likewise, I have a very hard time sorting through all the different types of applications that are out there. This isn’t the case if I am looking for a particular application, since I can search for it by name. However, let’s say I want a new game, but I’m not sure which one to get. I can type in “game” and see what comes up, or I can go to the game section. If we choose the latter, we are greeted by a splattering of sub-categories like “New and Noteworthy”, “What’s Hot” and “Gripping Stories”. You can also choose to just look at paid or free apps. This is all simple enough and makes logical sense from a layout perspective. But from a user perspective, it’s a complete nightmare! What the hell does “What’s Hot” mean? Does that mean popular? Does popular mean the most downloaded or most played? Or what if I’m stuck between 2 recipe apps and they both look nice. One costs $1.99 and the other $5.99. How will I choose? Does more expensive equal better quality? Not always, and even if it did, is quality boast worth the additional $4?
My choices are limited with Apple. I can try and find a free version of the app(which isn’t always the case) and see if I like it, read the ratings, or search online for more reviews. All helpful, but not absolute. What one person loves another hates. So how can we deal with all this? Well Microsoft’s trial solution was quite elegant and effective. I simply love it. The ability to try the full app, no strings attached, lets me know for sure if I like it, and more importantly, if I like it enough to pay for it. Such a simple solution to a big problem. Apple has seen the wisdom of this idea and has added a “Try before you Buy” section to their Appstore. Although from what I can gather, it’s just a collection of free apps that also have paid versions. It’s not nearly as comprehensive as Microsoft’s solution but more like a stop-gap measure until Apple can figure out their own solution.
The trial option was a great idea, but Microsoft can’t stop there. Do they expect customers to try every app before buying one? I guess they could, but who has the time nowadays? My amazing solution is so simple it will blow your minds, and quite frankly I’m bewildered, as to why no one has thought of it before. Microsoft should add a sorting filter for try/buy ratio. Yes, I know I’m a geek and some people don’t get ratios or whatever, but can you imagine how useful that would be? User reviews and ratings are bias and don’t really tell you much unless you read each review and that’s time consuming. Having someone rate a product is meaningless since each person rates differently. But having a try/buy ratio at our disposal, we can immediately see how many people preferred to buy a product and how many decided to pass it up. In addition I think they should add a filter to weed out apps with fewer than “x” number of buyers so you can limit your search to less risky options.
So what do you guys think? Genius idea or complete and total fail? Tell me in the comments, I’m eager to hear everyone’s opinion!