Windows Phone App Development

Windows Phone 8 is Microsoft's operating system for smartphones. It's the third most widely used system following Android (84%) and iOS (12%), and runs on about 3% of the world's smartphones. Currently Nokia is the only brand which sells Windows Phone devices. It's had a rocky start as Microsoft were late to the game, and therefore doesn't have the same volume of apps available for it as iOS and Android do. However it's a well-designed system and, we think, deserving of wider attention.

Should I create a Windows Phone version of my app?

Windows Phone may only represent 3% of smartphone users - but that's still a huge number of them, representing an audience of some 6 million people. And there's a good argument that, due to the relative dearth of apps available to Windows Phone users, yours will be more prominent.

Whether or not you wish to support Windows Phone also depends on the cost implication. We can assist here, as there are certain development techniques that we can employ which could significantly reduce the overall cost of a many-platform app.

Windows Phone history

The current version is Windows Phone 8 which was a big leap forward from its predecessor version 7. It competes well against more established rivals, and its fans find it easy to use, bright and well-designed. The forthcoming Windows 10 which will run on all devices including desktops, tablets and phones should further improve the functionality and make its interface more familiar.

Developing Windows Phone apps

Due to the limited number of Windows Phone devices on the market, ensuring quality and consistency across devices is reasonably straightforward. We have almost the entire current range in-house and several older models too, and we are able to simulate a particular spec if needs be - and we ensure that any app we create looks and feels great on each one.

The limited amount of hardware and relatively straightforward beta testing mean that we can often develop Windows Phone apps in less time than on other platforms.

Where do Windows Phone apps come from?

As with iOS, Windows Phone users are limited to one single source for their apps. Users' phones are locked to the Microsoft Windows Store, and users are blocked from installing apps from anywhere else. Any app which you wish to make available must first be vetted and approved by Microsoft.

What can Windows Phone apps do?

Windows Phone apps have to adhere to Microsoft's rules, or they won't be allowed for sale. The rules are fairly loose and allow for a good deal of customisation, which means that Windows Phone apps can do almost anything that apps on any other platform can. There are certain explicit no-go areas, but we will warn you if your app idea could potentially trip into those.

Live Tiles

Windows Phone is nearly unique in that it does not present its apps in a fixed grid of icons. Instead it has "live tiles" - icons which are resizable and can be placed anywhere on the screen. When large enough, they show a window into the app itself. For example an email app's live tile might show the subject of the most recent email; a calendar app's live tile might show your next appointment.

Live tiles offer great brand awareness potential because they are immediately visible whenever the phone is unlocked.

How do I make a Windows Phone app available?

Window Phone apps are made available by posting them to the Windows Store. This is a fairly complex procedure with a number of hoops to jump through. At the end of the process Microsoft will review your app and either pass it for sale or request changes. Generally, our knowledge of the rulebook means that we have few problems, and apps are mostly reviewed in a consistent fashion.

To post a Windows Phone app you will need a Microsoft developer account, which costs and can take a while to set up. We can either guide you through the process, or you can publish your app under Apps In The Sky's own developer account.

Maintaining Windows Phone apps

Windows Phone apps aren't subject to regular changes in the rules which affect other platforms, so there is a low chance of them being removed from sale. We always keep abreast of such changes and will notify you in the unlikely event that a change is needed.

However, Windows Phone does seem to have more problems than other platforms when new devices are released. Sometimes small bugs in the OS prevent apps from running on new devices, and we therefore have to modify our own app to work around a Microsoft issue. This is quite rare but has happened in the past, and to mitigate against it, we re-test apps with the latest hardware when it becomes available.

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