Windows Phone's solid growth in danger because of a big app gap with Android, iOS

Another report confirms that Windows Phone's solid growth puts it at number three worldwide, but also warns there is danger ahead. In order to maintain that growth, it says, Microsoft needs to get serious about closing the app gap between Windows Phone and Android and iOS.

The latest Gartner report says that Windows Phone has a 3.3% worldwide market share, up from 2.6% a year ago. Nearly 7.5 million Windows Phone devices were sold in the second quarter, up from a little over 4 million a year previously. That's a nice bit of news. In fact, Windows Phone's total shipments grew faster than did the iPhone's compared to a year previous. For the quarter, the iPhone sold less than 3 million more than it did a year previous. During that same time period, Windows Phone sold over 3.4 million more units.

The figures show that Windows Phone overtook BlackBerry for the number three position. BlackBerry had a 2.7% market share for the quarter. The Gartner report mirrors a recent IDC report, which pegged Windows Phone at 3.7% market share to BlackBerry's 2.9% market share.

But the Gartner report also warned that Microsoft needs to close the app gap between what is available for Windows Phone compared to what is available for iOS and Android. Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, said, "While Microsoft has managed to increase share and volume in the quarter, Microsoft should continue to focus on growing interest from app developers to help grow its appeal among users."

That gap is a very substantial one. Windows Phone has approximately 160,000 apps available for it, compared to more than 1 million for Android, and more than 900,000 for iOS.

Also problematic is that Windows Phone doesn't have many of the most popular mainstream iOS apps, which users expect to get on a phone. Nick Landry, product manager at Infragistics, which makes user interface development tools, has done an analysis and found that Windows Phone has only 64% of the most popular mainstream iOS apps.

The apps Windows Phone doesn't have are must-have apps for many people, including Instagram, Vine, Pinterest and Google Maps. Also missing is Dropbox. And you also won't find some popular news-oriented apps such as Flipboard and BBC News.

Microsoft has an even worse problem with the tablet app gap. Some 54% of the most popular iOS apps aren't available for Windows 8.

It's this simple: Apps sell phones. So unless Microsoft significantly closes the Windows Phone app gap, the OS will have a tough time getting big-time market share.

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