Windows Phone Needs A Better App Experience

Reviewing the Nokia Lumia 900 reminded me of just how bad the app experience is on Windows Phone 7. I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to find equivalents for every iPhone app, but I hoped that Microsoft tried to emulate the iOS App Store experience for updating apps.

Sadly, updating Windows Phone apps isn’t a good experience.

Windows Phone 7 apps

This issue first occurred after Rowi 2.0 was announced in the Marketplace. I kept searching the Marketplace for Rowi to see what version number was available. For the first day the only version available was version 1.5, which I already had installed.

The next day I checked the Marketplace again, and found that version 2.0 was finally available. Sadly, the only button that appeared for me on the bottom of the screen was “share” because the app was already installed.

Windows Phone expected me to wait for the Marketplace live tile to tell me when the update was available to me. Because I’m impatient and was hoping Rowi would finally be the great Twitter app I knew it could be (it still isn’t), I had to uninstall the app and reinstall it just to get the update. That means I had to input all of my account info and set my preferences in the app again.

Why would anyone want to do that? When Windows Phone first came out, Microsoft advertised it as an OS that would let you “get in, out, and on with life,” which could be why users aren’t notified of updates as they happen.

But there are power users who want to use Windows Phone. Those users, like myself, should have an option to check for updates on all apps whenever they want. They shouldn’t have to wait for the OS to tell them when they can update their apps.

Such an option wouldn’t be ideal, but it’d be better than having to uninstall and reinstall apps after searching for them in the Marketplace. The better model would be to just check as soon users open the Marketplace, like iOS does it. The ideal situation would be the Android method of auto-updates, as long as they happen as soon as, or very shortly after the updates are available.

If users don’t mind waiting for updates to populate on the Marketplace live tile, that’s fine. But, when app updates are available, tapping the app in the list of updates should tell users what updates are available.

In the current model, tapping the name of an app gives users a summary of what the app does. So lets say there’s an update available for the Yammer app (there was last week, which is why I use it as an example). I already know what Yammer does, so giving me a summary is useless.

What I really want to know about the Yammer app is:

  • Is the scrolling better?
  • Is the app any faster?
  • Does the message count on the live tile finally work correctly?
  • Is Yammer less broken than it was before?

The Marketplace tells me nothing, because Microsoft didn’t build in the option for a change-log. Users want to know what the updates changed in their apps, not what their apps already do.

Microsoft still needs to work on courting new developers to create better apps for Windows Phone. But it also needs to work on making the experience of getting and updating those apps better for the end-user.

Maybe “Apollo” will bring in those improvements, along with the high spec limitations that are needed to make Windows Phone competitive with phones like the HTC One X and the next iPhone.