It’s been more than three years since Microsoft rebooted its mobile OS, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. And one important item on the list is cleaning up the Windows Phone Store.
Like any company trying to get a new app store off the ground, Microsoft’s initial focus was inflating the total app count as rapidly as possible. They made numerous pitches to get developers submitting everything they could code, and it worked.
Today, there are tens of thousands of apps in the Windows Phone Store. More than enough to convince the average consumer that there’s plenty of good stuff to choose from if they decide to buy a Windows Phone.
But as developer Sardorbek Pulatov pointed out in a recent blog post, a lot of the apps you’ll find inside are shameless copies at best – and straight-up scams at worst. Some use the names of popular apps like Facebook, iTunes, and Google Chrome. Others try to dupe users by “borrowing” logos. Some do both… and then charge for what amounts to a site-specific web browser.
Just take a look at the results for “Facebook” when you search. Sharp-eyed users might notice the huge number of ratings on the official app, but the four imposters would mislead just as many.
In the Google Play store, Facebook and Facebook Messenger are the top two results. And while there are plenty of app icons that have been dressed up in Facebook blue and use the signature F, none are as blatant as those in the Windows Phone Store.
You’ll find Chrome and Firefox apps in the Windows Phone Store, too, but none are first-party offerings. King.com hasn’t brought Candy Crush to Windows Phone devices yet, but there are plenty of Candy Crush icons in the store – and a handful of apps submitted by developers willing to risk invoking King.com’s “candy” trademark wrath.
This isn’t a problem that’s unique to the Windows Phone Store, obviously. Google and Apple have their fair share of shady copycat apps to deal with, but they seem to have found better ways of managing the situation. Whether it’s due to better policing or better search and discovery tools, Google Play and the Apple store are still way ahead in this respect.
Windows Phone made major gains on iOS and Android last year, and it’s time for Microsoft to take the store more seriously. Users need a store they can browse that’s as confusion-free as possible. Developers of top-notch apps need to know that Microsoft’s going to keep scammers at bay so they can get paid for their hard work.