The Amazon Kindle app for Windows Phone 8 got an update today. It's a good one, too, fixing the awful three-sided letterboxing and giving the app a more Metro-y tile. But it's massively late, and tripped over itself coming out the gate, too. In a way, it's a perfect encapsulation of everything that's wrong with Windows Phone 8 so far.
WP8 was released on October 26th, 2012. Today is January 29th, 2013. For more than three months, one of the most widely used and important apps on any platform sat there, optimised for the old 800x480 Windows Phone 7 resolution/aspect ratio, looking silly on any new WP8 phone that loaded it. It wasn't alone there, with other notables like Netflix, Rdio, and Epicurious either just recently getting their full WP8 updates, or remaining without.
Read that back to yourself. It's insane. Major apps and services are saying to themselves, "Well, our app looks like crap and doesn't perform quite right on all these new phones coming out, but hell, it can wait." Because Windows Phone matters — just not enough to actually try. That's not the worst thing, but it's been a tortuously slow crawl constantly threatening to slip into stagnation.
There are more tangible hiccups too. On my phone, and judging from reviews, on a lot of other phones, too, the update simply broke the app. I got the notification on the Store live tile that there were app updates for me, got excited when I saw Kindle was one of them, downloaded it, and through the magic of technology my Kindle app stopped working. Great. Tapping the icon would just boot me right back to the home or app list screens, and the tile on the home screen didn't even change to the new logo. Rebooting the phone gave the app a half-second inside of the app before crashing out; it was fine after uninstalling and re-installing (after a communication with the Store).
That experience isn't quite indicative of WP8 as a whole, which is actually remarkably stable most of the time — more so than you're probably used to, actually. But having used it as my everyday phone since launch, you'll see freeze-ups and OS-level screwups in weird places, under light workloads, which is more or less the opposite of where you see them in iOS and Android. It gives you the sense that you stumbled over a loose wire or a glitch, rather than just overloading your device, which is actually way more frustrating.
And you can squeeze all of that out of this one, much welcomed Kindle app update, which gets down to the lesson for WP8 adopters, more or less. The OS is getting there. Slowly. Damn slowly. And even when it gets something good going, it can't help but highlight how far it has to go.