The Top 40: Exploring the 'app gap' for Windows 10 Mobile to Android and iOS

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It's been a long time since I revisited this topic (several years), but it's, if anything, more relevant than ever. Just where does Windows 10 Mobile (née Windows Phone) stand in terms of third party applications, compared to the competition? I mean, first party, in-the-box offerings are outstanding, with Outlook, Skype, Maps, Office and much more, but what about the 'app gap', as popularly characterised? How bad is it, compared to iOS and Android? I took the current 'Top 40' from the application charts from the latter two platforms, as of October 2015 and tried to find equivalents.

Twitter clients round-up on Windows Phone

Now, I should perhaps point out that I'm talking about 'applications' here, not 'games'. The latter comprising a pretty large chunk of the top charts on other platforms. Plus, each platform breaks down applications into 'Paid' and 'Free'. So, in a bid to try and stay on-topic, what I've done below is pick the top applications from both paid and free lists, on both Android and iOS, and hopefully you'll recognise just about every entry listed below. But can Windows 10 Mobile's ecosystem provide a match?

Where there's no match at all, I'll shade the cell in red, for ease of reading:

# Application (iOS/Android combined) Present or equivalent?
1 Whatsapp Messenger Available and working well
2 Netflix Available and working well  
3 Facebook Messenger  Available and working well  
4 YouTube Ahem. That old Google spat. Still, there are at least four top quality third party YouTube clients. Metrotube still my favourite.
5 Instagram  Available and working well, albeit with 'BETA' tag still
6 Snapchat Not available under any name or version
7 Facebook Comes with Windows 10 Mobile, kept up to date
8 Shpock boot sale  Not available, I'd never heard of this before, mind you! An app of the same name is a fraud
9 Spotify Music  Available and working well 
10 Google Photos Microsoft Photos does the same job in this ecosystem, of course. Annoyingly, you can't get to Google's version even via the Web though
11 Skype Built into Windows 10 Mobile Messaging, as seamless as SMS, in theory
12 eBay  Available and works, though some activities (e.g. checking feedback) are limited
13 Google Maps Microsoft Maps does a similar job, with better offline capabilities but worse live traffic routing
14 Twitter  Available and working well, including a dark theme, unlike the iOS/Android official clients
15 Google Search/Now  Cortana is the direct rival, of course, and does just as good a job. See here for my assistant voice comparison 
16 Amazon (Shopping) Available and kept updated, though has been glitchy for some. Comments welcome.
17 SoundCloud Nothing official, but the API is so good that there are a dozen third party clients. And yes, I've been meaning to attempt a round-up...
18 Tinder  Nothing official, but there are several decent third party clients, including 6tin and Timber.
19 Pinterest  Nothing official, but there are several decent third party clients, including
20 BBC iPlayer  Available and works well, though without the ability to download for temporary offline watching. There's probably a DRM-related reason behind this....
21 ITV Player  Available and working well
22 JUST EAT - Takeaway food  Available and working well
23 Shazam Available and working well
24 Deezer Music  Available and working well
25 Uber Available and works, albeit with a slightly quirky UI
26 CM Security Antivirus You don't need anti-virus on Windows 10 Mobile - no, really. Because you can't get 'dodgy' apps from unknown sources
27 Microsoft Outlook Built into Windows 10 Mobile, obviously(!)
28 Minecraft Pocket Edition Part app, part game, Minecraft remains a phenomenon, but firmly available on Windows 10 Mobile, thanks to Microsoft's ownership of Mojang. 
29 The Official DVSA Theory TEST Kit Several alternatives, though none are 'official'
30 Facetune Available here, though not found by the hopeless search in the Windows 10 Mobile Store client. And avoid the current 'scam' titles in the Store that do show up with this name. Microsoft Store QA should be ashamed...
31 Flightradar24- Flight Tracker Available and working well, though a few of the newer features haven't made it yet 
32 Super-Bright LED Torch LED torch is built into the drop-down Action Center in Windows 10 Mobile 
33 Microsoft Word Built into Windows 10 Mobile, obviously(!)
34 ZEDGE Ringtones & Wallpapers Available
35 Gumtree Nothing available, though the mobile web site works really well, so....
36 Layout from Instagram Nothing official, though there are several third party equivalents if you really, truly want to make collages out of low-res snaps....
37 Plane Finder Nothing available. (Though Flightradar24 does such a good job....)
38 Viber Available and working well
39 Gmail Obviously handled by Outlook's Google account support, though there's also MetroMail if you want a more 'core' Gmail experience
40 Dropbox Available and working well

That's not a bad report card for a platform widely perceived to have a yawning 'app gap', though before anyone relaxes, I'd add three huge caveats:

  • Where there's not an obvious official application for a service, some of the third party replacements are downright opportunistic, merely existing to scoop up search results and serve ads or worse. Again, there's a lot more that Microsoft Store QA (if, indeed, they employ anybody - I do wonder sometimes!) could do here.
  • Although in many cases the third party replacements are very good (e.g. Metrotube for YouTube, 6tin for Tinder), their naming is not obvious. While the Store application correctly throws them up as valid search results for the original service or site, user confidence isn't going to be very high in terms of them having found what they're looking for....
  • A cursory look at 'top 40' applications, as here, completely misses a bigger failing for a minority platform like Windows 10 Mobile, i.e. that there's a 'long tail' of lesser used but critical applications that are missing altogether. Archetypal here are banking apps, though also niche utilities and corporate/database stuff - and it usually only takes one "Oh, Windows doesn't have that!" moment to dismiss the entire platform.

We're still living with a platform that can suit millions of users then, but a lot depends on what someone needs a Windows 10 Mobile device for. As per the third caveat above, as long as there's not some critical application that's missing then there's a lot recommend about Windows 10 Mobile, in terms of UI and capabilities.

Using the 'report card' analogy, I'd go with "Improving, but could do better". Comments welcome!