Android apps on Windows Phone: It’s too complicatedJuly 14, 2014 • By Mihaita Bamburic
No matter how you slice it, Windows Phone Store is a ghost town. Too many popular titles just aren’t there right now. As developers take their sweet time to release the desired offerings or overlook the platform altogether, could Android apps be the answer to Windows Phone’s long-lasting shortcoming?
It wouldn’t be unusual for Microsoft to get in bed with Android, as the software giant already sells Android-based devices, which make up its Nokia X series (admittedly, Nokia launched it). If it works there, it could work just as well for Windows Phone. It’s not like the platform has anything to lose, considering the measly market share it claims since inception. Right? Well, it’s not that simple.
What’s the Catch?
First of all, let us talk logistics. For users to install Android apps they need to either grab the files from Windows Phone Store (ideally) or get them from other locations, such as a third-party app store or website (worst-case scenario).
Considering Microsoft’s approach to Windows Phone, only the former scenario makes sense. Sideloading would introduce uncontrollable security risks (remember Windows malware?), and that is something (sane) users will not want to expose themselves to (or Microsoft, for that matter).
Let’s suppose Windows Phone Store allows developers to publish Android apps. Who’s to say that Windows Phone’s app-gap will disappear, as a result? There is no guarantee that, for instance, Dropbox will bring its app to the tiled operating system. Of course, same goes for other top developers, like Google. Will we see Chrome on Windows Phone? It’s great if it happens, but what if it doesn’t?
Windows Phone developers would be disappointed — to put it kindly — by such a decision. Microsoft will be perceived as turning its back on them. Either way, its core supporters will be alienated and only in the best-case scenario (Android apps populate Windows Phone Store en masse) the trade-offs are worth it.
There is also the matter of compatibility. Not all Android apps can run outside of a Google-friendly Android environment, as many popular ones rely on Google services to work. For Microsoft to create the proper environment it will have to get in bed with Google, which is something I personally do not see happening.
To avoid such a partnership, Microsoft will have to make do without Google services-using apps. That minimizes the impact Android apps can have on the platform; titles that can bring perceivable value — like trending games — are not designed to work in sub-optimal conditions. And no one wants crash-prone apps, or offerings that do not work as advertised, right?
Developers are not going to change their minds overnight and allocate precious resources to release dedicated Windows Phone apps. Giving users the option to use Android apps would go a long way towards getting more consumers and businesses to purchase smartphones running the tiled OS. But, then again, why shouldn’t they buy Android handsets instead? They can run Android apps better than Windows Phone will ever be able to.
There Is No Substitute
A platform today needs dedicated apps to strive. Take a look at Android and iOS, and then take a look at BlackBerry 10 OS. The beleaguered OS can run Android apps — BlackBerry has gone to great lengths to make this happen — but its market share is even lower than Windows Phone’s. Where is the benefit in that? It can be argued that BlackBerry’s loss is also happening because of other factors, like a weak device portfolio, but Android support sure isn’t helping it. (Perhaps Amazon’s Appstore will.) Who’s to say that having Android support will be any different for Windows Phone? Microsoft could just as well dump its tiled OS in favor of Android, while it’s at it.