The mobile app super league - how do Windows Phone 8 and Symbian compare?

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We hear time and time again how iOS and Android are streets ahead of the competition in terms of availability of applications and I've even done a few repostes of my own, a while ago. Time for a new snapshot though, looking at the top 30 Android applications and their availability or equivalency on the Symbian and Windows Phone 8 platforms, representing our readership here on All About Symbian and All About Windows Phone. Summary?

The asterisk below, by the way, refers to the fact that I'm excluding outright novelties, jokes, games, themes and utilities specific to Android OS. And picks are from the UK-accessible Android Play Store - local highlights may be different in other parts of the world.

The top 10 Android commercial applications* as at January 17th , 2013:

  App name Description Symbian Windows Phone 8
1 SwiftKey 3 Replacement keyboard with extra prediction ability The Belle Refresh and FP2 keyboards are pretty good. Swype available too, though nothing as polished as SwiftKey. No replacement keyboards are allowed, but the default one is very good.
2 TuneIn Radio Pro Internet Radio, comprehensive world directory Used to be available for Symbian but presumably withdrawn because of compatibility issues. The free Nokia Internet Radio gives access to 20,000 or so world radio stations though.  Available and free for Windows Phone.
3 Poweramp Full Music player, with gapless playback and many EQ options The Symbian Music player is very high quality, with EQ options/customisations. No gapless playback though.  At least two music players built-in, plus dozens of third party, some with gapless playback etc. 
4 Camera ZOOM FX Camera application with plenty of options and integrated effects suite Many equivalent third party camera FX options, both as standalone apps and with camera functions built-in. An abundance of third party camera and FX apps, plus Windows Phone 8 has 'Lenses' built-in, which is fully extensible. 
5 OfficeSuite Pro Document viewing and editing suite, PDF viewing and integration with Dropbox,, SkyDrive and Google Drive Depending on device and firmware, various combinations of Quickoffice and Microsoft Office Mobile built-in. Some units have both, somewhat confusingly! At least two other third party office suites available for purchase, too. Pocket Office built into Windows Phone 8 and well integrated in terms of sharing/SkyDrive etc. 
6 Tapatalk Forum Allows easier browsing of Internet forums, replying to messages, etc. Nothing available.  Board Express for Tapatalk is a full client for all compatible forums. 
7 Smart Tools Collection of small real world utilities (measuring aids, converters, magnifiers, etc.) As you might expect, hundreds of similar utilities and collections.  Ditto. Lots of available options. 
8 Flightradar24 Pro Shows air traffic around the world in real time FlightAware is free and roughly equivalent, though not as polished. FlightAware again, quite slick on Windows Phone. 
9 Endomondo Sports Tracker GPS and acclerometer-driven sports stats, uploading and sharing system Available, along with Sports Tracker, the original app that kick started this whole genre on smartphones, and both free. Ditto and free again. Endomondo, plus Sports Tracker, plus other options too. 
10 Accuweather Platinum Glossy and comprehensive weather forecasting Available in limited form, but Nokia Weather, qooWeather and several other free options impress far more.  Available, plus a dozen other free, polished alternatives. 


TuneIn Radio, one of the free stars of the Windows Phone world... Browsing niche music radio stations and playing back prerecorded shows...

No major holes to be seen here, other than Tapatalk for Symbian. Let's look now at the more numerous (and arguably higher profile) top 20 Android freeware applications* as at January 17th , 2013:

  App name Description Symbian Windows Phone 8
1 Facebook Facebook client Serviceable Facebook is built-in, plus four other polished third party clients. Basic Facebook support built into the OS and People hub, plus a Microsoft-written full Facebook client and a number of third party offerings.
2 Whatsapp Instant messaging, sharing facilities Available.  Available.
3 Skype Instant messaging, VoIP, video calling Available, though no video calling support.  Available and fully functioned, though note that integration with the OS isn't yet perfect. Microsoft own Skype and are 'working on it'.
4 eBay Optimised eBay client No client, reliant on the mobile web site.  Available. 
5 BBC iPlayer TV/radio catchup client for the BBC in the UK Available, with full DRMed downloads for offline watching, etc.  Not available. Yet. 
6 Facebook Messenger Instant messaging to Facebook friends
Not available, some IM clients allow access. Not available, though many third party chat clients allow access. And some support built into platform. 
7 Twitter Twitter client Serviceable Twitter client is built-in, plus a number of excellent third party clients, some free.  Available, plus basic Twitter support built into the OS, plus a number of excellent third party clients.
8 TV Catchup UK TV client (dubious legality?) Not available.  Not available. 
9 Adobe Reader PDF reader Built into the OS.  'PDF Reader' free and supplied by Microsoft. Hopefully built into the OS in future versions. 
10 Instagram Low resolution photo sharing social network client Not available.  Not available. 
11 Viber Instant messaging and VoIP Available, though only messaging and sharing, no calling support. Available, though only messaging and sharing, no calling support so far - it's 'coming soon'.
12 Gumtree Gumtree client Not available. Not available.
13 Met Office Weather forecasting Several free weather forecasting applications, including one built into Nokia Maps Suite.  Available. 
14 AntiVirus Free As it sounds. Should it even need to exist? Not needed. Though a number of companies have tried to make a quick dollar on the idea(!) Not needed. Again. Sigh... 
15 Amazon Kindle ebook reading, cloud-synced Not available.  Available. 
16 BBC News Optimised client for the BBC News web site Widget and feeds built into Symbian OS.  Available. 
17 Calorie Counter Keep track of diet, etc. Available. Numerous third party applications around this name and theme. 
18 Tiny Flashlight Use your phone's LED flash as a torch Built into the OS.  Numerous third party apps available. 
19 Google Play Music Play Music client to access all your uploaded music Not available.  No official app, but the free CloudMuzik is a full Play Music client.
20 Sky Sports Live Football Client for Sky's football news service Not available.  Available. 


BBC iPlayer - browsing and downloading TV content for offline watching, on a Symbian smartphone

By my reckoning, I make that around a quarter of the top 20 Android freeware applications aren't available for Windows Phone 8, of which the highest profile are BBC iPlayer and Instagram. Personally, I remain scornful of the latter (though I know many like it), but iPlayer would certainly be handy.

The Symbian freeware app scene is somewhat bleaker, with 8 of the top 20 not available in any form and, with the current state of the Symbian ecosystem, perhaps not much chance of updates and new applications arriving.


However, overall, I still reject the assertion that "There are no apps for Symbian/Windows Phone" [delete as applicable] - there clearly are quite a lot for each, with Windows Phone 8 having the greatest future proofing, of course.

Notable too is that the table above is starting from the point of view of an Android bestseller list - there are, for example, a number of Symbian applications (Profile Scheduler springs to mind) for which there's no Android equivalent, so 'Not available' labels would be present in the Android column for a reverse table. Not to mention core OS functions (again, see profiles as a good example).

Of course, when people talk about 'lack of apps' for a platform, what they really mean is that their favourite store or niche online service isn't represented yet. I've written many times about there being a 'bookmark for that' (article update coming soon!), i.e. using HTML5, mobile-optimised web pages is arguably just as valid an approach and one that works well on any platform. Whatever store or service is involved, they'll usually have a mobile web presence.

Comments welcome. Have you come across any showstopping app 'holes' in your chosen smartphone platform? At what point would Symbian stop being a viable app ecosystem for you? And has Windows Phone 8's application availability reached the tipping point for you yet? - Instagram aside, I can't see many major omissions....