Windows Phone has a lot to recommend it, a good development environment, nice cameras thanks to Nokia, and a decent design aesthetic, but the one place where it falls down spectacularly is in the area of apps.
If only it was merely an issue with limited availability of top-tier apps on Windows Phone, because that is generally something that can be worked around, with independent developers making substitutes or accessing services with a web browser.
But no, the real underlying issue with Windows Phone is the amount of spammy, scammy, and outright crappy clones that fill space in the Windows Phone Store.
To give you an example, below is a result of searching for something that doesn’t exist on Windows Phone: An official YouTube client.
Luckily for me, I conducted this search on a desktop machine, but imagine that results list on a handset. I can tell you that it is an absolutely terrible experience.
Say what you will about Apple’s pedantic review process, but there is no way that a publisher such the copyright-infringing PopularMobileApps, would be allowed to exist in its App Store.
Microsoft’s lackadaisical approach to app review not only applies to Windows Phone, but has also affected its Windows 8 Store, as well.
And don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a recent discovery, either; this issue has been occurring for as long as Windows Phone has existed.
But a little bit of media coverage over the past few weeks has finally forced Microsoft’s hand, with the company’s general manager for Windows Apps and Store, Todd Brix, stepping up to the plate to declare that Microsoft would be changing its ways.
“We strive to give our worldwide customer base easy access to amazing app experiences, while keeping developer friction to a minimum,” Brix wrote in a massively understated fashion. “From time to time, this process slips out of sync and we need to recalibrate.”
According to Brix, the recalibration will involve new policies designed to make the naming of an app clearer, and to make sure that apps are categorised correctly and icons are differentiated. The new policies will apply to all new app submissions and existing app updates for both the Windows and Windows Phone Store, with a review of the existing app catalogue to be ongoing.
“Most of the developers behind apps that are found to violate our policies have good intentions, and agree to make the necessary changes when notified,” said Brix.
“Others have been less receptive, causing us to remove more than 1,500 apps as part of this review so far (as always, we will gladly refund the cost of an app that is downloaded as a result of an erroneous title or description).
“The store review is ongoing, and we recognise that we have more work to do, but we’re on it.”
Clapping down on imposter apps is not mentioned explicitly anywhere in Brix’s blog post, but it is the worst feature of Microsoft’s app stores, and should be the one tackled first.
Hopefully, Microsoft has reconciled the benefits that it will see for users should it expunge all the scams and spam from its app store and isn’t wedded to a metric measuring the total number of apps in its stores — otherwise, users will keep suffering for Microsoft continuing to turn a blind eye.