Nokia: 2013 was about getting the apps, 2014 will be about making them great

2013 will go down as a watershed year for Windows Phone. High profile devices like the Lumia 1020 garnered massive press attention while the super affordable Lumia 520 actually drove Windows Phone adoption. Starting in the last quarter, a new push for must-have apps was launched through the efforts of Microsoft and Nokia. Apps like Instagram and even a renewed WhatsApp became staples of the platform.

Here at CES, Windows Phone has a lighter presence this time around. No new phones are being announced and Microsoft is holding back news until Build later this spring. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft and Nokia aren’t present and we’re sitting down with both of them today.

First up is Bryan Biniak, Global Vice President & General Manager at Nokia. We spoke with him this morning about developer challenges with Windows Phone heading into 2014.

High prospects, but there’s more to do

Nokia’s message has been very upbeat recently, and Biniak is partly responsible for that. Biniak’s job is to get developers to make apps for the Windows Phone OS, and while that job is getting easier these days – partly due to BlackBerry’s demise – it’s not without its trials either. While Nokia’s goal is to get all developers to consider Microsoft’s OS when making apps, it’s not about quantity. Biniak constantly reminds us that “to win, they [apps] have to be better” on Windows Phone. That message was also conveyed by Microsoft back in November with their ‘critical mass’ statement. It shows that in order for Windows Phone to be a contender, it’s not just about having the app available, it also has to be compelling to the user.

One of the issues Biniak and Nokia have to deal with is convincing developers that it’s worth their time – and money – to invest in the Windows Phone platform. Sometimes that involves just a simple meeting with the developer to break the ice, but other times incentives are used. For instance, some companies just don’t want to hire a new employee. Many startups are very family-like in their endeavor, requiring like-minded thinking. Simply hiring someone for a platform that you’re unsure about it requires significant investment and risk. But Biniak notes “When companies hire people internally, you know you won” and Nokia is seeing that happening more frequently these days.

Still, there are other times when companies are not yet ready to do it all in-house. Here, Nokia will offer to outsource the development, doing the app themselves for a fee that could be 1/3 the cost of hiring a permanent, dedicated coder.

Biniak is also concerned about monetization of a company’s app. It’s more than just recouping the costs of development, but the ongoing operational costs of maintaining that app. Case in point would by Glympse, who released a Windows Phone app back in 2011 but have not continued support, even though the Windows Phone 8 OS is now much more conducive to their tracking service. Situations like this is where Nokia wants to step in to re-vitalize interest (in fact, we passed that on to Nokia’s DVLUP team who are looking into it).

A “meaningful experience”

Nokia’s long term strategy however isn’t just merely to prop up development of Windows Phone, but to serve as inspiration for companies looking to create an app for the platform. For Nokia, it’s about ensuring a successful marketing campaign, including reaching out to our site, and getting companies to take interest in Windows Phone on their own. “That tipping point is very important”, according to Biniak.

Apps like WhatsApp, Moliplayer, Groupon, Yelp, Line, Foursquare, and forthcoming Path, are all examples of Nokia’s efforts to deliver top-rated experiences on Windows Phone. Readers may recall that WhatsApp in 2012 was not exactly a winning hit on Windows Phone. Poor reviews and a plethora of bugs prevented it from reaching its potential. Starting in early 2013, Nokia began working with WhatsApp, and they now have Liz Ngo from Nokia to deliver their vision. If they need help, assistance or even deeper level access to the OS, they go to Liz. That kind of partnership is not very common in the smartphone industry, and it demonstrates what is at stake for Nokia (and Microsoft).

Even user incentives like the $20 voucher to the Windows Phone Store are part of this concerted effort by Nokia. By giving buyers of certain Lumia phones 20 bucks to spend on apps, which often run in the 99 cent range, it helps create a positive cycle in the system, making sure devs begin to see increased revenue and consumers dip their toe into the world of Windows Phone software.

The year ahead

So what’s next in 2014? Bluetooth 4.0 LE is coming to all Lumias with the Black update and that should be a sign for new wearable and connected technology support. We’ve hinted at some big-name official apps for smart devices either currently in development or about to start, and we’re sticking to that prediction.

Imaging will continue to get priority on Lumias as Nokia refines current tech and delivers new experiences. The quality of apps will continue to improve as Nokia guides companies to not only the best user experience, but unique ones as well. Nokia seems to be prepping for more big announcements at Microsoft’s Build conference in April, which Windows Phone Central will be covering in full force.

Finally, for Nokia it’s about “getting the basics right”. Is the app experience on Windows Phone “good, great or amazing?” Biniak says it needs to be the latter, as app volume simply won’t cut it in 2014. And that’s exactly what they’re seeking to achieve.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • :)
  • :D
  • I haven't been keeping up with the newest/latest/popular apps on Android or Iphone since i haven't used an ANdroid in ages...but all the apps i did use on Android are now on Windows Phone and I hope that in 2014 we start seeing simultaneous releases(or perhaps maybe like a week or two later) to Android and ios. It seems like the main challenge is getting the popular GAMES to debut on windows phone now. 
  • ...and the Xbox live games seems to be dead. It was supposed to be one the unique features of WP where MS doesn't need to consider a portable system. I love WP but sometimes I question wtf are they doing everyday the WP team.
  • Yeah. I'm not an avid gamer and I've never used an Xbox, but looking at Xbox support on WP is just pitiful... A real shame too, as lots of people often get excited at the prospect of Xbox on their phone, at least the ones I've met. Yet another great concept that Microsoft, thus far, has failed to deliver upon.
  • You should still try out the apps on Android and see the differences. Same titled apps on Android are so much better than the WP versions. Whatsapp is a start for that, followed by the Facebook app.
  • Facebook freezes the Samsung Ativ S.  Seems to be a problem with the live tile. 
  • Love to hear about apps, and nice progress update. Can't wait for new hardware reveals though.
  • Nice. I really hope they update those official apps that have bugs or bad design. Can't wait to see what 2014 will offer for Nokia and Windows Phone.
  • Now we just need Spotify to step up their game and fix the ducking app so it's up to the standard of other choises. I personally know 5 people who would switch right away because of that and i bet there are many more who fele the same.   Not ruling out other apps here, i just wan't something to happen to Spotify.
  • Exactly this! Spotify is the only app I pay for monthly and its also the only app that sucks complete ***!! Its absolutely ridiculous how spotify has been treating us, even the whatsapp app is amazing compared to Spotify
  • Maybe it's time to look at making the switch to XBox Music :)
  • Not just Spotify, though they are a particularly egregious example. There are so many apps by major companies out there that were released and then never updated, full of bugs and with only rudimentary functionality compared to other platforms. This is a big problem if MS wants to keep people from jumping ship.
  • For me IMDB comes to mind. I use this app regularly, but the last update was in 2012. Its been more than a year its been updated. No login feature  to access my watchlist. If nokia could work with them and make them release new update, that would be fantastic.
  • Yep, that's one example. There are so many others. I used early last year and it was horrible. I thought of it for this thread, and just checked. Their app still hasn't been updated - since October 2010!
  • Same here, if spotify were on par with the android app i'd jump into a lumia 1520 tomorrow!
  • Start with the ebay app, its absolutely awful in comparison to the android and ios apps, its barely changed since it was introduced at the start of WP7
  • And amazon should also get their crappy app fixed.
  • Amazon app is amazing.
  • Yeah Amazons' app is pretty good
  • Its been updated today. Amazon stays updating
  • Looking at you Spotify!
  • Yes, please Spotify, fix your app so it doesnt take so darn long to load the song/album lists when choosing an Artist. Drives me nuts :P  I love that the app is pretty much flawless on my iphone, now I want it smooth and minty on my Lumia 1520. 
  • Yeah Spotify Step Up Your Game Please... I am close to ditching it and its the only app i pay for
  • I just want three apps and then I'm good.
    Flipboard. Snapchat. Pocket.
    WP community what's the latest news on these three?
  • Pocket => Poki :-)
  • Hey I didn't know about this! This seems great. Thanks for the up.
  • Public release is this month. Follow us on twitter if you like ;-)
  • I already did :)
  • Snapchat - 6snap (unofficial, but working like a charm) 
  • What about path? I really want this app on my wp8 ! I've been waiting since July until now but the path teams are still being pathetic to release this app for wp8 users
  • Path is outdate n become 4l4y (villager teens) man. So many alayers use it now. Sucks app..
  • That's easy for you to say.   Not so easier for us to read.
  • snapchat = 6snap 
    fliboard is already available   
  • This is badly needed. Viber, IMDB, Flickr to name a few. They are there, but they're either terrible or severely outdated.
  • IMDB badly needs an update.
  • I don't agree with you about Viber, actually like it and its at par for me vs. Android version. Other apps I agree.
  • Check out Film Closet, it's fantastic and has IMDB implemented (rating, watchlist favs and so)...
  • Spotify, ebay and youtube need major updates.
  • YouTube lol. Good luck with that.
  • YouTube does not even have an app (anymore). We all know the tragedy ...
  • MyTube is the way to go there. Best Youtube client on any platform.
  • Metro tube ;)
  • 2014 also better be about staying loyal, if you know what I mean.
  • you mean update to 8.1?
  • google not developing apps for wp8 is a big problem for people. Not to mention the people who switch from android to WP8. Google should be number 1 (for apps) since they aren't budging.
  • I can see that
  • Eh. I used to think that. But I since moved on from Google dependency. I think the main issue for me was Google Voice. Now that's going the way of the Dinosaurs for 3rd party support. But I understand their importance but its just realistically not going to happen anytime soon.
  • Agreed, google voice is the only app I need..metrotalk is awesome but they are going away because of new close minded google is not what google was few years back.
  • if they are relying on Google services then they can stick to Google products (which suck anyway, except YouTube)
  • This is very ignorant of a comment
  • YouTube has started to suck lately because of the comment issues.
  • It's not entirely ignorant.  Gmail, for example, is basically unchanged since it rolled out almost a decade ago.  It seems like Google rolls out a product and then never really goes back to freshen it.  With the exception of Youtube, the UI on the Google products is total crap.  I've used gmail forever (and extensively), but because I was on WP I finally decided to switch to .  Since the switch, I can't believe how much better the user interface is and how much easier performing the simple day-to-day email tasks are.  The other Google "Office-clone" products are the same way, minimalistic clunky UI.  Google Drive is the same way, I quit using that when I uploaded a bunch of photos and it wouldn't thumbnail them.  That feature has since been added, but you don't get auto-generated album covers.  Things like that may seem pedantic, but when dealing with large amounts of information it's the little things like an album cover that can help jog your memory.  Google is supposed to be all about slicing and dicing the information but I think they largely survive on the traffic of search and youtube.  Everything else is kinda half-assed.
  • I moved from Gmail to Outlook today and use Live calendar and contacts. This is Google's loss really. I am sure a lot of others have done the same as well.
  • At the moment I want only one app.GTA San Andreas.
  • +920 where the hell is it??
  • We are number 3 so don't give too much hope for WP8 apps improvements and availability
  • Don't want any apps, just for the OS to be more competitive (and for a working music app that supports playlists).
  • Xbox music and Nokia music both support playlists...i have playlists on my phone right now...20 playlists as a matter of fact create from my home music/cd library.
  • I gave Spotify up, Gone to Xbox music instead. Viber is bad, Flickr is more or less none working. Still id like to see a more fully featured and faster skype. It is not very reliable, missing file send and more. And even though im not a big fan of google, official youtube, gmail and g+ should be there
  • After reading this article, April cant come soon enough.
  • Any word from Nokia on the Lumia Icon for Verizon, or is this Microsoft's "issue" now?
  • There's a dearth of Canadian apps (e.g. banks, airlines, vendors, etc) for Windows Phone.
  • I hear you there. Royal Bank, Westjet and PC Plus would be nice additions.
  • Thank you...
    Everything Canadian is missing... Canucks, whitecaps, Scotiabank, bmo, transit, Maple leafs, Canadiens, etc... A very long list
  • One app I can't do without on my old iphone is GymGoal. It is hands down the best app for managing and analysing your strength and cardio workout life. They have no intent to port to Android or Windows Phone 8, which is a huge disappointment. It means i have to keep the iphone as a second phone. I do wish Nokia and Microsoft could persuade Maryna to port it to WP8.
  • A good alternative might be Gym Pocketguide. Its a app and its one of the highest rated apps on the store, at least in my region
  • 1) My thought reading this article is WP might be dead if not for Nokia
    2) what will happen to all of these efforts when Nokia no longer controls the phone division?
  • They will keep doing the same since the marketing people and guys like this guy are gonna stay with
  • I guess I'm not as optimistic as your are. I hope your right!
  • It will be exactly the same :) instead it'll be Microsoft signing the paychecks they even get the building
  • How can I contact the guys from Nokia about apps that I find missing? They seem to care and leverage their influence...
  • :) Email me a list sam@wpcentral
  • Still need PNC Bank
  • News about official Pinterest app?
  • Sam, can you suggest Nokia/WhatsApp to deal with WhatsApp UI change!!!? I don't know when WhatsApp improve UI
  • Interesting article! I would add to the "monetization" portion that companies want to make a profit. I know that's not popular in our ever-increasing Socialist mindset, but it still is the #1 driver of business in the USA.
  • You're apparently unaware that profits are at record levels, the stock market is booming, and socialist means nothing like what you think it means.
  • Wow. You surmised all of this from my post here? Geezus...
  • apps that I use are already better than on android. And they don't look like junk :)
  • So you say that the MS Facebook app is better than the iOS/Android version?
  • How do you know he uses Facebook?
  • Sure, the MS one on Windows 8 .  The FB app on my Surface blows away the one on my Nexus.
  • The fb Android app is extremely heavy and its like strangling low end phones .damn the fb app was gr8 b4 update when they ruined it.
  • Why am I even having WP? Apps just aren't there where they should be.
  • Good question... Try Android and you will be back in no time...
  • I don't like to think so. The only reason why I want to keep my Lumia is the Nokias camera. Looks like I have to give it up.
  • Send it to me:)
  • And I'm the second one in line
  • Third in line? If its a Lumia 1020 that is...
  • When I read articles like this, I'm certain I backed the right horse. Nokia are absolute stars - genuinely trying to make the very best user experience rather than just maximise profit.
    I am also typing this from my Nokia sponsored 1020...donated on a long term trial basis by Nokia's awesome PR team. I didn't even ask for it...just asked them whether they would be interested in running a story on a project I had planned to do with my 920.
    Love Nokia! I hope Microsoft look after the employees that they take on.
  • I agreed, they are a great teams
  • i want Tango! used it a lot on WP7, and JUST switched to WP8 and it's the only app I am still missing.
  • Words With Friends needs fixing. Big time. This is the only app that actually FREEZES my HTC 8X. O_O
  • Words by Post is the same game with a better and cleaner implementation. Cant remember it ever crashing.
  • The equalent of Words With Friends that everyone uses in the Scandinavian countries, is Wordfeud. (More languages supported). And that has to be the single buggiest most crippled app for sale in the app store. The iOS version is great, but the WP8 version is so bad that it's hard to even understand how they got it through. Really annoying when apps aren't updated after a year. They just put out a quick version to be represented on that platform.
  • HBO Go and we're set...i think :)
  • There still a lot of apps to bring to WP8: *Tango,*TWCTV,*Dish,*DirectTV,*WatchESPN,*Geico,*Official Youtube,*Official Facebook,*NBA GameTime,Target,Walmart,DropBox,Officia Lowes,CBS  and the list goes on: ABC Player
    Amazon Instant Video
    BBC News
    CBS Interactive Player
    CBS News
    CNBC Real-Time
    Fox Business
    Good Morning America
    Google Maps
    HBO Go
    Kobo Books
    Marvel Comics
    Mashable At Bat
    NBC Player
    Photoshop Express
    PNC Bank
    TBS Player
    Watch ESPN
    Wells Fargo
    Yahoo Messenger
    Yahoo Weather All big name companies, So don't say WP8 has all the apps... still lacking...  
  • You must have last checked a year ago.
  • +1 to Pinterest
  • I badly need IMDB and Flipboard. I have no complaints about FB app...quite good AFAIC
  • We already have an IMDb app and Flipboard is supposed to be coming soon
  • Official IMDb app only on WP 7.* but not WP8. Been checking the store though I had it on my HTC Radar that was using WP7.*
  • It is on WP8, its just goddamn terrible. Hasn't had a whisper of an update in 18 months.
  • This isn't any commentary on my part on how I feel about the platform. I'm not a fanboy, but I enjoy WP and having tried the others(and I don't dislike them vehemently as some on here seem to), I'm committed to seeing it grow. However, I can see how reading something like this can frustrate some. It can get tiring having to wait til next year or til the next update for WP to be were it needs to be.
  • Path, come on. I'm waiting to drop Facebook asap.
  • I'm no longer concerned with having the big apps on Windows Phone, because we have most of them (still missing Snapchat, maybe WP will open up the required API(s) for Snapchat to bring its app here in WP 8.1).   I'm now concerned with the quality of these big name apps, how frequently they're updated, and if they're on par with the iOS and Android apps. For example, Instagram on WP still has a long way to go. Another concern is the app design. iOS has the best looking apps overall. WP does have some gorgeous apps, but there are also some super ugly apps...   We'll get there someday :)
  • Hope the someday will be coming soon. Indeed we have most of the big apps too, but is far from as good as the rival platforms versions. They really need lots of polishing to be done, and I mean really a lot.
  • I'm glad to see the key apps coming onto the windows phone store however, the quality still lags far behind iOS. The experience and smoothness of apps and especially games is quite apparent when you compare wp8 with iOS. I hope Nokia and Microsoft addresses this issue asap.
  • Iv seen angry birds go and tr2 lag on iPhone 4s wat sort of quality is tat?
  • Glad Nokia took the WP way.
  • "Getting the Apps" No. Windows Phone is still way behind.
  • Daniel, Your articles are Always top notch. Keep it up :D
  • I'm extremely interested in where Windows Phone is going as an OS. I haven't owned a WP and I'll likely stay loyal to BlackBerry until some major shakeup happens. The biggest thing for me down the road is which OS will provide everything you need in one device - phone, tablet, and 'real computer'. It seems logical that Windows Phone is best positioned to provide that, especially with RT and WP8 sharing the same kernal (whatever that means).
  • I was on the sidelines forquite a while debating to move to windows phone and the other month Instagram was the app that finally persuaded me convert to a windows phone. I needn't have waited though as not long after I got my lumia I found 6tag which blew the official app out the water and is far better than the instragam app on IOS and android
  • Ohhh man, I have such high hopes for Nokia!! Really wish they succeed!
  • Good
  • Quality apps are good, but more space would be better.
  • Its good not great and srsly whatsapp isnt getting any better! Always crashing and a clumsy UI. Need some more attention and customization for most apps. Rudy is doing it right but others? Nah
  • And I want MS open API so we can get Swype!! That's app I am hoping the most!!
  • What is Swype? The keyboard typing app right?
  • Nah I think the keyboard is top notch
  • Lol Swype....tried that one on my Droid, it only survived half a day. The stock keyboard is far better.
  • The wp stock keyboard is the most fluidic keyboard iv seen.
  • +1
  • Feeling happy to know that Nokia is active in the smartphone iindustry <3
  • That is why I love Nokia jus for the above reason I.e. Their commitment to quality as u can clearly make out.For example you have a crap load of apps on Android but fuck those coz only few are good but here on WP there are a few selected apps and only those are great you dont have to install each and every app to fibd out which one is better unlike Android(not talking abt Ios).And I know many will say that this or that app in Wp is so poor compared to Droid but if u observe that for example Whatsapp which was a total shit jus a year ago is nearly perfect now in short notice and another example is Facebook Beta and etc.So I guess Nokia is on the right path
  • Let's hope so.
  • "..2013 was about getting the apps, 2014 will be about making them great.." Ok, fair enough. In that case: 2013 was about me getting the phone from the shop, and 2014 will be about  me giving the shop the money for the device I used during the betatesting phase. How the f**** do all the vendors think this is acceptable that I am their beta tester of half-baked ecosystem, but also pay for it on Day1. And I should be even happy that the vendor gave me the possibility so that I could even pay money for being betatester.
  • Wat u said is certainly true but the fact is in droid people get gr8 apps but not unique apps.wp is all bout unique and beauty of ui.and remember beta testers get stuff first and u r here to test the future of smartphones
    #proud wp user
  • Good to hear that Nokias focus is to imrprove the quality of apps in 2014. There are several official apps in the WP store but they are full of bugs. It gets really irritating when official apps released are buggy. To help increase the WP user base, well desigend and healty apps are a mandate.
  • I would think that Nokia would want to start making a bigger push in the US, where they admit to struggling.
  • Last week I returned to Nokia (before that my last Nokia phone was a N9) from a long time in Android. Tired of lack of updates, freezing problems and crashing apps decide to try with WP8 in a 1520. No regret, everything is so smooth and almost all the apps that I used to use are in WP8. Great to see that Nokia is considering the future and it's working with developers to ensure that! Greets!
  • l just make a reply to have the acces of play
  • These guys need to get over to the Skype team's office and bust some heads.
  • DirecTV app is abysmal. Would be nice if Microsoft would delist apps like that and force app updates to bring the offering more in line with what the app can do on iOS and Android. Chicken and Egg, admittedly. Love DirecTV and the Genie, hate the mobile app!
  • That stand looks like Nokia Gambling on Lumia to me.. Awkward.
  • I just can't wait for the day when the WP logo is displayed next to the iOS and Android ones in ads. THAT'S when it has made it. Hell, I even see Blackberry logo sometimes still...
  • All I want is a good softphone app (like Zoiper) on my phone. I hate that fact that only me with me WP phone can't get the nice softphone capability my Android/IOS colleagues have since we installed our new VIOP PBX system that's based on FreePBX
  • It's not just lack of apps from developers that hamper Windows Phone but lack of app advertisement or promotion from certain developers. Take Gameloft as a prime example, if a user goes to their website they are presented with a series of tabs that span the width of the screen that label Android Games, iPhone Games and iPad Games, Other Games and Mobile Games but no mention of Windows Phone Games. If a user was to click on Asphalt 8 tab they are offered to play this game on iPhone, Android and iPad but again no mention of Windows Phone. It’s the same scenario for other games such as Despicable Me Minion Rush and Uno & Friends amongst others and this can have a detrimental effect on apps available. If a potential 'platform switcher' were looking for an incentive to jump from iOS or Android to Windows Phone and use a developers website such as Gameloft to gage which games or apps are available for the platform then this will misinform them as to what is available for a potential device. Microsoft need to communicate with these developers and discover why they are not advertising or promoting their apps that are available for Windows Phone. It's all fine and well Microsoft asking developers to create the apps but without developers self-promotion on their own website it can kill the app.  
  • I have a Lumia 928, Moto X and an iPhone 5 right now.  I can say that when the time is spent on an app, WP really shines.  It seems that for the most part it is the Nokia and Bing apps that are so good though.  After that it is a big drop off compared to iOs and Android.  WP now satisfies all my app needs.  I can find an app to do whatever I need.  The issue now is quality so I am glad to hear that this is what they are focusing on in 2014.  Three strong players in this market is better than two.
  • Improving apps is VERY important.  Some of them are very buggy and/or lacking features to their iOS counterparts, but adding them is still very crucial.  In some ways I regret getting a Windows Phone 8 as opposed to a newer iPhone due to the overall lack of apps that I used while an iPhone 4S owner.
  • I have Lumia 520. I really prefer NOKIA and Windows Phone 8. It is very friendly, smooth, and best looking mobile operation system. I think Windows Phone will increase in 2014.  I always recommend NOKIA phones for my relatives. So my Grandfather bought Lumia 920 and my grandmother bought Lumia 625. ;-)
  • Still need MBrace!
  • I can't understand why WP has not got a pokerstars app??