An update on 256MB compatibility in the Windows Phone Marketplace

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Earlier this year we looked at how many apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace were incompatible with devices with 256MB RAM, such as the Nokia Lumia 610. At the time of writing, in late May, 1.6% of apps were incompatible, but that figure rose to 4.6% for the top 10,000 apps. Four months on, we've crunched the numbers again, and found that the proportion of incompatible apps being added to the Marketplace has fallen significantly. 

App compatibility and 256MB devices

As we explained previously not all apps and games in the Windows Phone Marketplace will run on devices with 256MB of RAM.

Apps and games running on Windows Phone 7.5 devices with 256MB of RAM, such as the Nokia Lumia 610 and ZTE Orbit, should not exceed 90MB of RAM usage and should correctly disable background agents. Because of these requirements, some apps will not run on these devices. The apps and games can still be viewed in the Marketplace app on 256MB devices, but it is not be possible to download and install them.


Updated statistics for 256MB compatibility

As of today, the total number of 256MB-incompatible apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace is 1,251, or 1.14% of the total number of currently active apps. That's a significant reduction from the May figures of 1,397 app (1.6%).

Looking at the top 10,000 (UK download rank) apps, these figures are 302 apps and 3.02% (down from 464 and 4.6%); for the top 1,000 apps, these figures are 35 apps and 3.5% (down from 64 apps and 6.4%). 

As we found previously, a greater proportion of games than apps are incompatible with 256MB devices. As of today, there are 295 (3.01%) games in the Marketplace that are incompatible with 256MB devices, that's down from 310 apps (3.8%) in May. 

In the case of Xbox Live games, a number of incompatible titles have been released since May (Real Football, Crimson Dragon: Side Story, Shoot 1Up, Contract Killer) and one (Halo Waypoint) has been made compatible (where it previously was not). This means the percentage of incompatible Xbox Live titles (34 out of 141) has fallen from 25.2% to 24.1%. 

256 chart

The reduced percentage of incompatible apps can be explained in two ways: firstly, app updates to "fix" compatibility, and secondly a falling proportion of newly published apps that are incompatible with 256MB devices.

Since our first post, on May 29th, 159 apps that were incompatible have received updates that made them compatible with 256 MB devices. That's just over 11% of the total number of incompatible apps. We do expect this number to gradually increase as more developers deliver updates to their apps. However, given the number of updates so far, it is very likely that the majority of existing apps will not receive updates. 

However, a bigger factor, accounting for about two thirds of the fall, is that the proportion of incompatible apps being published on the Windows Phone Marketplace has fallen sharply since the 256MB devices started shipping. In the last six months, 0.17% of new apps (65 out of a total of more than 38,000) were incompatible; for the last 30 days that number is just 0.03% (2 apps).

This strongly suggests that developers have taken on board messages from Microsoft and Nokia about testing for, and making apps compatible with, 256MB devices, something anyone can do using the tools built into the Windows Phone SDK 7.1.1. 

256MB compatibility

In our earlier article, we concluded that consumers should be aware of the 256MB device limitations before purchasing, but did not feel it was a major issue, given that it allowed Windows Phone devices to reach lower price points.

Even so consumers should be aware of the limitations of a 256MB device when making a purchasing decision, especially if they enjoy playing games on their phone. But it's also fair to say, given the lower specifications / costs of such devices, that such trade offs are inevitable. 

The issue of specification constrained apps is not unique to Windows Phone; you'll find a similar story for lower cost Android and Blackberry devices. Microsoft has arguably done a better job of handling the issue than its rivals, with developer outreach programs, rigorous testing and a clear delineation of compatibility within the app store.

In the concern around app compatibility on 256MB devices, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that their lower specifications (and associated lower price point) significantly widens the addressable market for Windows Phones devices. While power users may be horrified by the absence of a favoured app from a device like the Lumia 610, the people who are actually likely to buy it are far more likely to be happy that they're getting 95% of the Windows Phone experience for half the price.

What we can now add to that is that almost all new apps and games added to the Marketplace are compatible with 256MB devices. This does suggest that most incompatible apps were the result of unoptimised code, rather than a real need for the extra RAM and processor resources. There are exceptions to this, with Skype being the best known example, but these apps are a very small minority.

The issue of 256MB compatible apps remains important, not only because the Lumia 610 is one of the best selling Windows Phone handsets (number 1 in China by some distance), but also because it is likely that we'll see additional low-specification Windows Phone 7.5 handsets, such as the unconfirmed Nokia Lumia 510, released later this year, or early next year.


Complete listing of incompatible apps and games

You can download our custom app report, which lists all apps and games that are not compatible with 256MB devices, here (PDF, 3.6MB). There are currently 1,251 apps listed in this report. Some additional apps are also incompatible with 256MB devices, but these are not listed as they are no longer live on the Marketplace (withdrawn by publisher, or pulled by Microsoft), and therefore cannot be downloaded to a new device.

Download 256MB app compatibility report

This report is current as of October 1st 2012. As noted above, it is anticipated that some developers will release updates for their apps and games to make them compatible with 256MB devices - as such, this list is subject to change.  

This is an example of the type of reports that can be created by the AAWP App Tracking service. We also use the service to generate our regular reports on Marketplace milestones. If you're interested in getting additional insight or more detailed data, please get in touch and ask about the AAWP App Tracking service.