The Full Story of Featured and Spotlighted Apps on Windows Phone

One of the biggest wishes of a developer is to release a popular application. We work hard to create our applications so it is normal to hope for success. With a ton of applications in the Windows Phone store, the process of developing an awesome application and submitting to the store is not enough to guarantee success. Your app needs to be noticed!

I learned from experience that there are three main ways to get your app noticed:

  • Getting featured on Windows Phone websites that publish your press release or do a review of your app.
  • Promoting your app using Bing Ads, AdDuplex and other ad networks.
  • Being featured by Microsoft in the Windows Phone store.

In this article, I’ll focus on what I call “the science” behind being featured in the Windows Phone store. Disclaimer, though, this is from my personal experience only, having been lucky enough to have my applications featured in the Windows Phone Store multiple times in the past few years., This is by no means an actual science/formula.

Being Featured

By definition, being featured is having your app on the first page of the Windows Phone website or on the main page of the store application on your Windows Phone.


Being featured on WP Central is a great way to be noticed, but it will only happen if your app is new or has had a significant update.  However, being featured in the Store doesn’t require any updates to your app; it can happen multiple times and at any time during the lifespan of your application. Another big advantage of being featured in the Store is that the reach is global. The majority of Windows Phone users are just day-to-day users and not fanatics that check Windows Phone reviews. This is valid for other platforms too. I estimate that 99.9% of users have installed at least one application from the Store. They are one click away from seeing the suggested (featured) applications.

As a developer, I like to consult my download statistics on a daily basis. At one point, I started having unexpected download spikes. I was curious to know what the cause of my download spikes was.

With 129 markets, it is impossible to consult each Windows Phone page to know which apps are spotlighted daily. This is the reason that I decided to create a server to fetch the data and to maintain a database of statistics. In parallel, I created the Windows Phone application App Spotlights.

During the past year, I have had interesting discussions with Microsoft and Nokia employees. I learned the following information:

  • Spotlighted apps are renewed everyday around 3am Pacific Time.
  • Spotlighted apps are in fact a combination of featured applications and featured games. You can easily see the mapping between spotlighted apps and featured apps.
  • For key markets such as USA, UK and France, the featured apps are chosen manually. For small markets such as Kenya, the featured apps are based on an algorithm.
  • For Nokia Lumia phones, Nokia selects up to the half of the featured applications and games for their phones.
  • If you create applications for your region or your application is also available on Windows, you increase your chances of being featured.
  • For Windows Phone 8.0, there is a special page where only one app is spotlighted, and this placement will have the biggest impact on your downloads. The second most influential positions are the big tiles on the Windows Phone Store page and the first featured app and game.


App Spotlights

It is always great feeling to know when your apps are spotlighted. App Spotlights can notify you when this happens in any market. But I won’t talk about that here. If you want to find out more about App Spotlights, feel free to head over to my blog.

More Tips on Being Featured

You can get more tips on being from Tips to help get your app promoted in the Windows Phone Store on the Windows Phone Developer Blog.

Good luck!

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