For mobile app developers, it's been a two-horse race up to now: iOS versus Android. We've been keeping an eye on the progress of Windows Phone, and there are finally signs that it may be solidifying it's position in third place, it's edged up to a 3.7% market share worldwide according to a recent survey.
The time seemed right to dip our toes into the Windows Phone ecosystem, so we decided to port one of our existing apps, Bible Promises, to Windows Phone. Why choose Bible Promises? First, Bible Promises has a large community of active users on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Second, as a content-based app rather than a game, it would allow us to explore the native UI elements provided by Windows Phone.
Our first step was to identify a mininum viable feature set. Bible Promises for iOS and Android are both mature products which have gained a lot of features over the year. We didn't necessarily need to port everything over on the first version. In Basecamp, we brainstormed on the most important features:
We also decided which features we should include that would make the app work well in the Windows Phone environment. At the Bibletech conference earlier this year, I spoke with Matthias Shapiro, a Windows Phone evangelist, and asked him one one feature he would add to an app to make it feel native on Windows Phone. He recommended adding a Live Tile. We decided to use the Live Tile to promote the Daily Verse, one of the most popular features of our iPhone and Android apps.
The next step was to get our development environment set up. This was a little painful: we're used to working on our Mac laptops, so had to resurrect an older PC, install Windows 8 on it, and then install Visual Studio Express. Despite a lot of messing about with settings, we weren't able to get the Windows Phone Emulator to work, so all of our testing had to happen on a device.
For a device, we purchased the excellent value Huawei Ascend W1 from Taobao. We had no problem getting this registered as a development device and running our apps on it.
For the app UI, we decided to follow the Windows Phone design guidelines as much as possible. This meant that the app has a distinctive feeling from our iOS and Android apps. We used the Panorama control to allow the user to swipe between verses. To ensure that the app still "felt" like Bible Promises, we carried over the colors and fonts from our existing apps, such as using Georgia as the main font. This ensured the final app felt like a Windows Phone app, but was still familiar as Bible Promises.
Finally, we submitted to the Windows Store! The app is now available to download. There's a trial version which allows you to sample the first half of the category list, the full version is just $0.99 or equivalent.
We'd love to hear your feedback if you have a Windows Phone. Please get in touch!