Windows Phone 8 brings new hardware and OS features but what about the apps?

The next version of Windows Phone is just around the corner, with it comes some fantastic hardware and the promise of new features. But what about the next gen apps?

While we have spent a great deal of time looking at the coming phones and peeking at the new underlying operating system did we forget that it’s the apps that matter? While we know that existing apps will work fine on the new OS, what lays in store for those dedicated Windows Phone 8 apps?

The SDK controversy

Unlike previous versions of Windows Phone, the SDK is still in limited circulation, which in turn has led to wild speculation about the readiness of the OS. Developers have become frustrated at not being able to get in and start coding. Regardless of why the SDK has been so scarce it means many devs have either been given very late access or in some cases no access at all. Some worry that when Windows Phone 8 launches it may not have many new or updated apps to show off the new platform.  

We simply don’t know what effect this will have at release time. With an existing catalogue of great apps and a shiny new OS to run them, many may not mind. With the advent of native code and key gaming engines like Havok and Unity coming to Windows Phone 8 we’re certainly likely to see some stunning games. We expect to see some software announcements at launch but which ones is still a bit of a mystery.


Ch-ch-ch Changes

Microsoft has made some key changes to Windows Phone 8 to allow native code support, better interactive speech and massively improved maps. We are very excited about what new possibilities these advances will bring, but beyond features, will these changes mean a fundamental shift in what apps we’re likely to see? The development community around the platform is excellent and we have plenty of high quality apps but will the changes to the core OS finally change how Android and iOS developers see Windows Phone?

Apps are still regularly created in tandem for Android and iOS without much thought being given to producing a Windows Phone version. That creates opportunity for developers to fill the gap but it doesn’t change the fact that the first party version is nowhere to be seen. We have seen a gradual erosion of those apps but there remains a few high profile ones that won’t budge. The BBC for instance remains insistent that the iPlayer cannot be brought to Windows Phone, although they were able to bring it to the Xbox 360, will they change their tune when Windows Phone 8 arrives?

That’s certainly our hope, with the platform set to possibly overtake Blackberry this year it will be the third eco system. With the “appification” of the Xbox and Windows 8, will this have that important halo effect that we so want? I have already got to the point where I expect to see certain types of apps on all my Microsoft devices. I’m often surprised when there is no parity, I wonder if this will be the eventual thought process others will have when developing for Microsoft products. A situation where you develop an app like Zite or Flipboard for Windows 8 and automatically think what a no brainer it would be to put it on all three screens with built in syncing.

With the new core capabilities of Windows Phone combined with powerful linking of the three screens by way of the cloud we could be on the verge of seeing something truly wonderful. Picking up where you left off a game across all three screens is compelling as is the possibility of reading news or listening to music and podcasts. If we are to see the true possibility of apps that are all continuous clients the Xbox 360 will form a key part of that. It’s still very early on to tell how the app story for the console will pan out.


Are you experienced?

So what of these new app experiences? The lenses functionality in Windows Phone 8 should lead to some fantastic new apps and could even change the way we think about photo processing on the smartphone. The Lumia 920 is going to have the best camera on any smartphone but the OS will allow apps like flickr to upload photos in the background automatically. We are going to see Windows Phone blur the lines when it comes to using traditional voice plans to make a call or simply opt to use Skype or another VoIP provider to make and receive calls. All these are great additions to an already strong platform, will these type of features bring the remaining hold outs to the platform? Only time will tell.

It is an exciting time ahead, could this be the year we see a change in perception from the public and developers about Windows Phone? I certainly believe the platform has finally shrugged off the new kid on the block syndrome and is being taken ever more seriously as the third key player in the smartphone market.

There are of course apps I’d still like to see get ported to Windows Phone but in all honesty I’m more excited at what existing developers will bring to the platform. It’s those software makers that have brought Windows Phone to life and will know how to make the next version sing. We hope they are ready with stunning new versions of their apps.

We’d love to hear from you, our readers on what you’re hopes are for Windows Phone 8. What apps would you like to see? With the new features of Windows Phone 8, what apps are now possible? Sound off in the comments bellow, we always value your feedback!

Robert Brand