The rule of thumb for which platforms to build apps for are:
- Start with iOS
- Then Android
- … then wait
- Then consider Windows Phone
It really comes down to a single decision:
Is it worth getting the last 2-3% of the market?
There’s a lot of data about which phone operating systems people use. While Android is by far the most popular globally, iOS is the most popular system in wealthy areas.
So if you’re building an app and focus on the Western part of the world, then iOS is definitely the starting point and then Android.
But regarding Windows phone app?
The real question is:
Is it worth the initial expense, maintenance and added complexity to add a Windows phone app?
The benefit is quite clear. There is 2-3% of the market you won’t be able to hit without it, and chances are you can be quite popular with those 2-3% as there are way fewer apps to choose between.
However, while those 2-3% in many cases can oftenjustify an initial investment to build it, there are additional challenges.
Let’s say the initial version of the app costs 5.000 USD (this is a relatively very simple app – often it’s closer to 50.000 USD). Then many companies in especially the enterprise will consider it very seriously.
But what about maintenance?
- Every time you update a new functionality in iOS and Android, there is an additional update to be made in Windows Phone.
- That costs money
- That costs a significantly higher time to market, because you need 3 apps updated instead of 2
- 3 Apps is 3 apps that can break. There are bugs everywhere, and the more “important platforms” you have to maintain, the more maintenance work
So while the initial investment maybe makes sense, the maintenance makes it a pretty bad decision in many situations.
So I should never make an app for Windows phone?
No – you should!
But we have to do it when it makes sense, and not just because the initial investment seems to make sense.
If we take the very extreme case of Facebook, an extra 2-3% of the users are worth so much money and branding, they simply cannot ignore it. Also, if users cannot find the app in the store, they potentially open for a competitor (not that relevant for Facebook, as Windows phone users won’t make their own social network).
But in Facebook’s case it makes a lot of sense.
In many other enterprise companies’ cases, it makes a lot of sense.
But does it make sense for your company?
You have to make the calculations. With 2-3% market penetration a Windows phone app won’t be downloaded by a huge amount of people. The cost to maintain it, both economically and lose of agility and speed, is significant.
But if you have a huge market, and those 2-3% means something – and if it’s expected your app is everywhere – go for it.