Windows Phone is ready for its close-up with the arrival of Instagram

The most searched for app in the Windows Phone Store is now officially in stock.

As of Wednesday, Instagram, the wildly popular photo-sharing app, is available in beta for Windows Phone 8 users worldwide. Windows Phone users will be directed to their camera roll instead of a camera interface initially, where they have the option to either select an existing photo or to take a new photo to apply filters to before sharing. Instagram headlines a wave of new apps arriving in the Windows Phone Store this holiday season. Also available Wednesday is Waze, a GPS navigation app with turn-by-turn directions and real-time user-sourced road conditions; and in case you missed it, the popular video sharing app Vine was released last week. All told, Windows Phone is seeing an average of 500 new titles every day. (Get all the announcement details over on the Windows Phone Blog.)

“IDC’s recent Q3 report stated Windows Phone is the fastest-growing platform on the market today. This is because we have a broad portfolio of products across price points running the best software – including the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320, which run Windows Phone 8 Update 3 – and a fully stocked app Store, including top apps like Instagram, Waze and Vine,” said Casey McGee, senior marketing manager for Windows Phone. “With many great holiday promotions lined up, there’s never been a better time to buy a Windows Phone.”

Volume isn’t a measure of success

“Windows Phone delivers the most personal smartphone experience, and when developers adopt the Windows Phone 8 features, customer satisfaction is often better than the same app running on other platforms. From the beginning, our focus has been on delivering the best quality and experience of apps for our uniquely personal platform,” McGee said. “We can see that this approach is resonating.”

Case in point, of the top 50 common apps across Windows Phone and iOS, the Windows Phone versions are more highly rated (3.7 vs. 3.6 stars). Those positive rankings correlate to the use of unique features including Live Tiles, pinnable features and lock screen support being rolled out.

“People like the fact that apps on Windows Phone are more integrated than other platforms,” McGee said.

They can plug into the phone’s own search and mapping features, talk with other apps, and appear within the photo, game, music and video “hub” experiences to keep people focused on what they want to do. Apps also integrate with the Kids Corner feature, which lets parents control access to content and apps. Popular entertainment apps, including Pandora and Hulu Plus, take advantage of Kids Corner to provide age-appropriate content on Windows Phone. And with Windows Phone, Instagram users will enjoy unique and personal experiences such as Live Tiles and lock screen notifications.

Microsoft is also building a catalog of increasingly differentiated titles, offers and experiences.

“Many of the most downloaded apps and games aren’t available on Android or iPhone,” McGee said. “Only Windows Phone users can experience titles like Fresh Paint, Bing News, Sports, Finance & Weather, ‘Halo: Spartan Assault,’ or a growing number of popular photo experiences like Nokia Storyteller and Beamer.”

Maintaining the momentum

Microsoft plans to maintain that app momentum with a big assist from developers, who are increasingly interested in the platforms. Todd Brix, general manager of the Windows and Windows Phone Stores, announced earlier this month a unified registration for both Windows Store and Windows Phone developers. New developers (or existing ones who renew) will now pay a single $19 fee to register as a Windows and Windows Phone developer.

“Our focus remains to improve the way we help you [developers] reach new customers and better monetize your apps, all while reducing friction and cost,” Brix wrote.

McGee thinks that message is resonating. “Our growth rate is climbing faster than anyone else, and our barriers to entry for developers are lower than anyone else,” he said. “More and more the question is becoming, why wouldn’t you have an app in our Store? We’ve moved from a platform with potential to one of the top three and one that is delivering innovation and opportunity.”

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Jake Siegel
Microsoft News Center Staff

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:24 a.m. PT on Nov. 20 with new information regarding the Instagram app for Windows Phone.