As I’ve started answering questions about Windows Phone on Stack Overflow, MSDN and Nokia forums, I noticed that many of my answers were essentially paraphrased “Unfortunately, that is not possible to do on Windows Phone.” And it is not as if people wanted to change default search provider to Google (you can’t) or setup your device without Live account (you cannot either), these were developers either anxious to port existing applications from Apple/Android world or fresh ideas for improving Windows Phone platform.
But they’ve all hit dead end in their development career. You simply cannot do lots of cool and interesting applications since you don’t really have access to many APIs, or because you don’t have true multitasking. True, the situation is vastly improved with Windows Phone 8, but some features are still missing. And not only developers are hurting, users are hurting too.
For example, you don’t have read API for accessing SMS messages, mails, internet usage, podcasts, videos, etc. You also don’t have write access to many interesting things. How is that useful, you may ask. Well, I want:
- …a cool application that tells me with whom I talk or message the most in a given month.
- …to see cool visualization of my recent activities
- …backup SMS messages somewhere else
- …to measure which application is spending most of my expensive bandwidth and maybe block it from accessing internet.
- …to share which podcast channels I subscribe to and which episodes were my favorite
- …be able to detect incoming calls and display additional info on screen, like last SMS sent to that person
- …to be able to hangup a call and send SMS from some template
Windows Phone features one really cool concept – hubs. The built-in ones cover most of your phone activities: messages, people, games, media. But think of the ways you could extend Message Hub, People Hub, Music+Video hub, Games hub to further increase both my usage of the platform and better engage in various activities.
I could add Steam achievements to Games or put links to HTML5 games directly into the Games hub. I could synchronize custom podcasts from the web – like adding YouTube channels as podcasts or I could add them in music or video libraries. Heck, I might even add my own library. How else am I going to send, receive or edit videos. As for People Hub, the central source for all your social clients, I could add Yammer or Flicker integration. Messaging could also be extended with various clients. Oh, and don’t get me started on music player limitations – you cannot play your own playlists in system player! SongCollection doesn’t have public constructor. How else am I going to turn my phone into cool gadget that I wear all the time with me and recommend to all of my friends. You cannot synchronize cool info for all your local songs, like Last.fm stuff or add scrobbling.
How hard is to enable applications to receive events like “Next Song” or “Pause” from the overlay menu into some sort of application handler?
Really, think about all the possibilities. That would be wonderful for the developers.
That would be wonderful for the users.
But sadly, even with Windows Phone 8 you cannot do any of these stuff. You don’t even have the basic thing like notification center. How hard is to create a ListBox with collection of strings? So how am I going to recommend Windows Phone to someone who wants basic things as internet quota manager or who wants to send template SMSs (e.g. for paying ticket in public transports). Many great ideas, but sandboxed application with severely limited APIs have crippled the platform. And you can’t have podcasts if you are not in USA or something like that.
And don’t compare WP to iOS or Android. Instead of catching up, lead the way for once. If you want people to jump ship, add stuff others don’t have, but sure as hell don’t forget the stuff they already have. Unless Windows Phone evolves, it will be a platform of limited reach and the only people who buy them are going to be the ones that are faithful to the platform.
Others won’t care that much.