Every developer hopes his or her app will break from the pack and take the lead in downloads. But how do you reach more users? Some developers have learned that developing for Windows Phone can set them apart.
A few months ago, Microsoft launched a challenge: It invited PhoneGap developers to port their apps (already published in Apple iTunes, Google Play, BlackBerry World, Bada, Symbian, or Palm OS) to Windows Phone 8. We announced 20 winners at the PhoneGap Days event in Portland. The three Grand Prize apps were Yoga +Travel, MathIQ, and BrowserQuest; other winning apps are published here.
I tracked down these porting challenge Grand Prize winners to learn what they think about the Windows Phone ecosystem and the opportunities that the platform has made possible. Here is a peek at their innovative apps and insights into their experience.
The first Grand Prize winner is Allison English, creator of Yoga+Travel, an app for taking your yoga practice on the road. English is a certified Forrest Yoga Instructor; she’s taught around the world.
The impetus for English’s app came from her students: many told her that they travel a lot and, as their yoga instructor, they would love to take her with them on the road. English solicited her partner, Velkat IT Solutions Inc., to create the first version of her app for iOS. The app not only keeps English connected with her students but also helps her build her brand and expand her visibility globally.
When Velkat IT heard about the PhoneGap Windows Phone porting challenge, they suggested to English that she tries it. From start to finish, porting her existing app took about two weeks, mostly to adjust the CSS, but the process was quick and easy. The collaborators’ biggest challenge, they said, was to understand how In-App Purchase works on Windows Phone. Once they figured out that process, setting it up went quickly.
Overall, porting an app was a great learning experience for English and her partner Velkat IT, and she’s looking forward to adapting her app to Windows 8—many of her students find the tablet form factor appealing.
The second Grand Prize winner is Daniel Iancu of MindTricks, who developed MathIQ—a mental skills test app designed to challenge your math intelligence.
Iancu began developing apps in 2011; starting with the Symbian platform, he published his first app in the Nokia Store later that year. Soon after, he leveraged PhoneGap to develop apps that would be compatible across platforms. He also published a native app on Windows Phone. The PhoneGap porting challenge came at exactly the right time for Iancu. He had been getting requests from users to make MathIQ available on more platforms. He’d designed MathIQ to include a leaderboard system, and his users wanted to compete with each other regardless of their mobile device type.
For Iancu, it was easy to port his existing app from Android to Windows Phone—it took him just four hours. He was already familiar with PhoneGap and with publishing to the Windows Phone Store. Iancu spent most of his time creating and adapting specific platform graphics, dealing with the back-button behavior, and adapting his app’s CSS. This way, he was able to direct his energy toward optimizing the experience for his users.
Iancu says that compared to publishing MathIQ in the Android store alone, publishing it also in the Windows Phone Store has more than quintupled his downloads!
The third Grand Prize winner is the team of Peter Sandberg Brun and Mads Sandberg Brun, developers of BrowserQuest. In their app, a small multiplayer game, the user plays the role of a young warrior who must navigate his way through a dangerous world in search of an adventure.
Inspired by the open source project of the same name, the Brun brothers created their modified version of BrowserQuest and released it for Windows 8 in January 2013 with great success. Soon after, in May 2013, they released a version for iPad, followed by a Windows Phone 8 version in June 2013. Their main goal was to take the app from the browser platform to the mobile device platform, and extend it even further with a level system, player vs. player fights, and more. It also was an opportunity for them to extend their developing skills.
The Bruns ported the app to Windows Phone, and brought in even more players. In this multiplayer game, each player can chat and fight with other players, even players from other platforms. Opening the game up to more platforms has expanded the game’s user base and led to a broader overall experience across platforms.
Porting BrowserQuest to Windows Phone was easy because the app developers had already worked on improving the game’s performance when they first ported the game from Windows 8 to iPad. Most of the additional code changes they made focused on supporting Internet Explorer on Windows Phone, and on localizing the game.
The app is doing very well on Windows Phone and is racking up rave reviews from players. In fact, far more users have downloaded the Windows Phone version than the iPad version. In addition to high ratings, the team is getting a lot of sound feedback from players. They’ve already implemented some of their players’ ideas, and are now working on getting those changes ready for a simultaneous release to all platforms. Stay tuned!
If you’re curious about other Windows Phone apps made using PhoneGap, take a look at this selection posted by the PhoneGap team: http://phonegap.com/app/windows_phone/.
If you already know PhoneGap but are new to Windows Phone, these links can help you get started developing for Windows Phone:
- PhoneGap/Cordova 3.1 docs: Windows Phone 8 Platform Guide, Windows Phone Command-line Tools
- HTML/CSS for Internet Explorer 10 in Windows Phone: Windows Phone WebBrowser control tips, Internet Explorer 10 brings HTML5 to Windows Phone 8 in a big way, Adapting your WebKit-optimized site for Internet Explorer 10
- Getting yourdeveloper workstation ready: Develop for Windows Phone 8 on a Mac
- JC Cimetiere