Changes in Windows Phone Store for Developers

by Dmitry Kirsanov 9. September 2014 06:09

If you are curious enough to develop software for Windows Phone, Microsoft got few surprises for you, which you may or may not already noticed, depending from how often you publish your apps.

First and the most important change is that Microsoft stopped testing new apps. Completely. This improved the speed of application submission from 3-7 days to 10-20 minutes. No one is going to check your app for compliance to UI, security and usability guidelines, as Microsoft has way more serious problems to solve – abysmal market share of just 2.5% and huge gap in apps with Google Market. And high quality, as you know, is an enemy of high speed, unless is backed by increased budget. Since Microsoft doesn’t yet control your budget, all they could offer is to help the speed of submission by eliminating the quality fence.

The downside of this is lowered quality of apps. For example, I released an application, which successfully completed the certification and was published in about 15 minutes, but failed to even start. That’s right, it produced exception right on start, no welcome screen or splash.

Of course, it was unintended - I checked my app, but because of one undocumented bug of Windows Phone Store, it couldn’t even start if installed from the Store. But still, it was published, Microsoft asserted that application conforms to UI standards, and a few hundreds of users wasted their precious time and nerves.

Apparently, and this is pure speculation, Microsoft has fired all testers.

In practice, this means that you should no longer consider the “QA” of Windows Phone Store as your last layer of QA control – there is none. If you didn’t have the beta versions of your apps before, now you are forced to have one. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to publish the beta version, thanks to new automatic certification, but unlike the Market, you can’t promote the app from beta to release – in Windows Phone store beta and release are two different applications and need to be submitted separately. So, instead of 50 apps you’ll have 100 with betas or even 150 with alphas.

Another change is in Windows Phone support. Apparently, its quality has degraded as well. Technicians no longer know the OS they are working with (from developer’s perspective, anyway), and it appears they operate some sort of support panel which restricts what they can or can not do. A year ago it was different, and support technician could actually tell you what is the reason for the problem, and quite often they admitted the problem. Now they simply avoid answering questions and, basically, waste your time. And apparently the support only consists of one (first aka last) layer, as no problem escalation is possible.

And geographic location of support changed as well. I am pretty sure that previously I was talking to someone from India, and now it’s “Joe- C” from USA. If Microsoft is trying to subtly push the idea that USA needs more H-1B visas, they are succeeding.

Another thing that appeared with introduction of Windows Phone 8.1 is rudimentary comments system in app feedback. If your phone has Windows Phone 8.1, you may leave a comment AND get a response from a developer. Neither you or developer can edit or flag the comment, so if you have some habits or guidelines from Google Market, re-think them here. Unlike in Google Market, you can’t appeal the comment, even if it contains clearly false statements. And that’s official position of Microsoft.

Yet another strange behaviour of Windows Phone Store is sudden resubmissions of apps. For example, I had an app that was submitted last time many months ago and was working happily ever since. However, now I see “updates” to the app waiting to be published, time after time, with the same version and information, and I know I didn’t do that. I’m not sure if it’s a bug or a feature, but the more apps you have the more annoying this feature is.

I would love to know what is the Microsoft’s strategy over Windows Phone, as changes imply there is one.

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