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The joys of (nearly) becoming a Windows Phone developer

After developing SalaryBot for both iOS and Android platforms, it had crossed my mind that may be the next step would be to develop the app for Windows Phone. After a bit more thought, I decided not to bother, as for the market share I just couldn’t see how this would be worth my effort. Then I got incentivised by Nokia.

The most expensive phone call I’ve ever had

Bad phone call
“Woah woah, hold on – You’re saying that people BUY these Windows Phones?!”

To my surprise, Nokia (or at least a marketing agency on their behalf) got in contact and offered me a free Nokia Lumia 1020 if I ported across my app to work on Windows Phone 8. The small caveat was that it had to be submitted to the Windows app store within a month.

No problem, I thought, this is the beauty of developing hybrid apps. Little did I know that developing the app would be the least difficult aspect of this venture.

Getting Windows 8

Being a Mac user, the first hurdle was the fact you need Windows 8/Visual Studio to develop the app. I used the quickest possible solution; I borrowed a laptop with Windows 8 from a family member.

Creating the app itself was the easiest bit of the whole process. As the hybrid app was developed with Apache Cordova, it was as simple as running cordova platform add wp8. Incredible. All I’d had to do was just test that it actually worked and get it submitted to the app store.

Emulator: round one

As I didn’t have a Windows device in my household, I thought that running the app on the emulator would be enough just to verify it was working. It would have really been useful if Nokia sent me the free device in the first place so I could use it for the purposes of developing/testing the app. I’m pretty sure not many iOS/Android devs have Windows devices just laying around.

Of course what isn’t obvious, is that the Windows Phone emulator only runs on Windows 8 Pro. Only having access to Windows 8, I was scuppered.

Emulator: round two

I got back to Nokia, and a week or two after various calls, they eventually sent out a copy of Parallels Desktop with a Windows 8 Pro image. Fantastic. This would mean I could finally run the emulator, and from the comfort of my own Macbook (borrowing a family laptop was not a long term solution).

Man punching laptop
SLAT?! How about I SLAT you in your jaw buddy?!

Only this turned out to be even more trouble. In order to run the emulator inside the VM, you have to make sure nested virtualization is enabled (which took a long time to find out) – as you’re effectively running a VM inside your VM.

Nearly there.

Oh, by the way, the emulator only runs on 64-bit processors.

Oh, and it needs SLAT support.

Crap.

Emulator: knockout

With the amount of time I invested into trying to get the emulator to run, I thought I was in too deep – I had to get the app working. I bought the cheapest Windows 8 Phone I could find – a second hand Lumia 520 for £80~. It took 40 minutes to go out, buy it, and get the app deployed onto the device. Pro tip: just do that.

The 50/50 that cost me everything

Angry gambler
I’m not a gambling man, but if I was, I’m pretty sure I’d look like this guy.

I was amazed to see it run on the device with no issues at all. It just worked! Great, now to submit the app. Nokia provided me with a free developer account voucher to use on the Window app store. It gave me two choices; register as an individual or business. As I am registered with HMRC as a sole trader, I chose business.

This was the single worst decision I could have made throughout the whole process.

Microsoft enforces a verification process on business accounts, which it outsources to Symantec. I waited a week expecting to have some sort of call or email from them – nothing. I decided to be proactive and ask them to verify me. I spoke to someone via live chat.

End of the line

As I explained to them I was a sole trader, they then said there was only one way to prove I was who I said I was; I had to get my business bank branch to print, sign and stamp Symantec’s template letter that said I had turned up that very day and that I was who I said I was.

Of course, my business bank (Santander) doesn’t quite work like that. They don’t have branches. All business banking is done online and over the phone. I spoke to numerous people at the bank, and eventually got an answer that sounded like it could work. On their instruction, I sent a letter via snail mail to the business banking HQ, saying I want them to do the reference (at the cost of £10). It hinted in the letter that Symantec would then follow up with whoever did the reference, personally.

How I nearly became a Window Phone developer

More than a month has passed and I’ve heard nothing from anyone to suggest anything’s happened. Needless to say, I never got my free Nokia Lumia 1020 as I can’t even get past the point of registering a Windows developer account. As I’m so far down the line now, I may consider registering for an individual account to get around this.

If you’re an iOS/Android dev looking to get into the Windows Phone market I hope the above helps in your adventure. Just be sure to weigh up the returns before going down this path.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell is a software engineer based in Leeds, UK. Enjoy his personal accounts and insights into the weird and wacky world of software development.

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