Since both of the top spots in mobile operating system world have been occupied by Apple iOS and Android, there is only a chance for a third position for one of these operating systems—BlackBerry 10, released very recently, and Windows Phone 8. In terms of the number of apps and their actual worth, new operating systems do not compare well with iOS and Android. Let’s analyze the apps and their usability in these new platforms.
The Number of Apps
Android has 650,384 apps according to Appbrain, at the time I am writing this article. Apple iOS leads and as of Jan 7, Apple has reported 775,000 apps out of which 300,000 are native iPad apps. Let’s see where Microsoft’s Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 stand in terms of app statistics.
Microsoft has three operating systems—Windows 8 for regular PCs and laptops, Windows RT specifically for tablets, and Windows Phone 8 for smartphones. Although there have always been talks about bridging the gap between RT and Windows Phone 8, we will not be discussing it here. Windows RT is a lost cause as it supports 44,309 apps at this point. MetroStore Scanner gives us this statistic.
Windows Phone 8 on the other hand has crossed 130,000 apps as of today, and Microsoft has made an official announcement of that. Also, these apps have been downloaded over a billion times.
While Windows Phone 8 has crossed 130,000 apps, BlackBerry 10 started off last month with 70,000 apps. The main marketing tactic of BlackBerry is the fact that it is a first generation mobile OS with the highest number of apps ever. CEO Thorsten Heins and other major people in BlackBerry, such as VP of developer relations, Alec Saunders have repeatedly told how BB10 is the operating system with the highest number apps at launch. They are betting on developers to release more and more apps.
However, to date Android and iOS are leading with an amazingly large number of apps.
The Usability of Apps
All these app ecosystems, including Apple and Android, really need to do a better job at weeding out unnecessary apps. If you do a minor search on these app ecosystems you will see how many ‘fart’ apps you can find. Literally hundreds! Among paid apps, a competition will automatically come since a user will pay only for useful apps. On the other hand, among free apps, there is no competition. As long as a developer can submit an app that follows the platform’s app submission guidelines, they can get in.
None of these apps get any useful work done, and they are simply clogging up the app store. The elevated number of app statistics of these ecosystems has everything to do with the number of unnecessary apps. Apple app store and Google Play have thousands of fart apps and many of them are even paid apps.
Still, App Store and Google Play have plenty of high-quality apps and games which make them stand out. BlackBerry and Windows Phone 8 on the other hand, cannot afford to have useless apps like these.
Among BlackBerry devices, Z10 has the maximum compatibility with BB10 apps. Among famous games, we were able to find very few familiar faces in the AppWorld. Where’s My Water?, Asphalt 7 Heat, Uno, etc., are some of the apps in BlackBerry app world.
Among Windows devices, top paid apps include a little more, with Fruit Ninja, Assassin’s Creed, Angry Birds, Sims 3, etc.
Then I went ahead and looked up apps developed by the top games vendors for Android and iOS. Some of the top game developers are Gameloft, Disney, EA, Rockstar Games, Zynga, Rovio, Imangi, etc. Here are the findings.
Electronic Arts (EA): EA gives sixteen games for Windows Phone 8 while there is absolutely none for BlackBerry 10. However, none of EA’s top games, NFS Most Wanted, FIFA 12, NFS Shift, The Simpsons, etc., are not available in Windows Phone store.
Rockstar Games: The famed developer of Grand Theft Auto series and Max Payne Mobile has no games for Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10.
Rovio: The developer of Angry Birds has quite a number of offerings for Android and iOS, while within Windows Phone Store, Rovio offers Angry Birds and its variants—Seasons, Star Wars, and Space. BlackBerry 10 has Angry Birds Star Wars only. Within BlackBerry App World, there is however an app named Hungry Birds.
Disney: When we talk about Disney, we are talking about Where Is My Water and Temple Run – Brave, which are two of the most popular games in Android. Within Windows Phone store, there are two Disney games, Where’s My Water? And Where’s My Perry? Where’s My Water game is also available on BlackBerry 10. There are no other Disney apps for Windows Phone or BlackBerry.
Gameloft: Gameloft has quite a number of amazing games for us—The Dark Knight Rises, Asphalt, Amazing Spider-Man, Uno, Assassin’s Creed, Driver, GT Racing, etc., are some of them. Within Windows Phone 8 store, Gameloft has exactly nine offerings, and they include Assassin’s Creed, Asphalt 7, 5, Uno, etc. On the other hand in BlackBerry app world, there are 7 games from Gameloft, including Uno, NOVA 3 (not available in Windows Phone), and Asphalt 7.
Zynga: There are quite a number of famous offerings in Android store by Zynga, and some of them are Words With Friends, Scramble With Friends, Zynga Poker, etc. Within Windows Phone store, there are two games by Zynga, Words With Friends and Draw Something. BlackBerry app world doesn’t have any game by this developer.
Other game developers like Imangi (Temple Run series), Halfbrick (Fruit Ninja, available for Windows Phone, not for BlackBerry), Four Pixels, etc., have close to nothing to offer for Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.
If you are coming from Android or iOS and are a fan of some of these popular games, you are going to be equally disappointed with Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. With BB10, you can get fewer games than WP8.
Social Media Apps
I have looked at Windows Phone store and BlackBerry World for top social media apps. Facebook doesn’t make apps for these platforms. However, Microsoft and BlackBerry have developed their own Facebook apps to work with the platform. Also there are a few third party developers coming up with Facebook apps.
Microsoft has developed its own YouTube app, while within BB10, there is no YouTube official app. Other major social networking apps missing from these platforms include Instagram, Google +, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, etc.
Fortunately LinkedIn and Twitter have their own apps for these platforms.
When it comes to productivity apps for Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms, we are looking at maps, office, image editing programs, etc.
First of all, Google has no integration to Windows Phone or BlackBerry. Google search app is the only app available for Microsoft from Google. For BlackBerry 10, Google provides no app.
However, there are third party developers, including Microsoft itself, coming up with all kinds of Google-related apps. Some of them are Google +, YouTube, etc.
There is no Google Maps on either platform. On Microsoft, there is a third party app named Bingle Maps that promises to give Google and Bing Maps within it.
Comparing productivity and business apps between these platforms and Android seems quite like a lost cause. Box seems to be the only cloud storage provider for Windows Phone other than the obvious SkyDrive. Integrated office apps are available on both platforms, but there are very few third party offerings. Within BlackBerry world, you can come across a few business-related apps like business card reader, interest calculator, etc. BlackBerry has also created its own app for a few of the cloud platforms, Box, Dropbox, etc.
Looking at browser offerings, Windows Phone has only IE 10, and there is no other browser with Webkit engine like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari. BlackBerry 10 also comes with its native browser only, and there are no other popular browsers. Z10’s browser has quite a number of capabilities, and some of them are discussed in CrackBerry blog here.
One important thing to note is that these applications, like Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., are all available through the browser running in these platforms. However, there are people who have grown accustomed to native apps rather than the regular website on browsers. Remember the massive customer dissatisfaction with Apple iPhone for booting Google Maps from the App Store. Those customers still had access to the Google Maps through the browser.
Voice control is available on both Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 devices. Most of the basic actions such as calling, texting, opening apps, searching the web, etc., can be accomplished properly on both these devices.
I will not say they are as amazing as Apple’s Siri or Google Now on Android, but they get things done. Microsoft has been quite bad in recognizing voice for such a long time. Even within desktop Windows Microsoft has not achieved success in recognizing even the western English speakers. But now, most of the voice recognition systems are near perfect. Microsoft has also updated its voice recognition system quite a bit and is capable of recognizing natural language pretty well.
Within BlackBerry 10 OS, you can even update your Facebook and Twitter accounts through voice commands.
As you can see, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 are quite a bit identical in terms of apps and games. Windows Phone 8 is a little bit ahead of BlackBerry though. There are a few important things to note.
Firstly, Windows Phone 8 has been there for some time, and it has been only a month since BlackBerry 10’s official release (still the phones are supposedly selling). Windows Phone 8 platform has OEM diversity (with phones from Nokia, HTC, and others), while BlackBerry is the only manufacturer for BB10 OS. Another aspect is how actively these platforms are promoting their operating systems.
BlackBerry is organizing developer events across the globe in the form of BlackBerry Jam. Jam events are worldwide and they are conducted on a number of locations. On the other hand, Windows has two events scheduled, both in the United States, while I am writing this article. Check this out:
To analyze further, here is a comparison of search interest between BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 according to Google Trends.
WP8 and BB10 don’t even compare to Android or iOS in terms of search trends.
Well, it seems BlackBerry is a little bit more excited and enthusiastic about pushing its platform forward than Microsoft. That enthusiasm makes all the difference. If it manages to achieve a huge number of usable apps in the coming days, BlackBerry can definitely get the third spot among mobile operating systems.