I have used a variety of phones from Blackberry to Android to Symbian finally landing on iOS as my preferred choice. Each of the phones had flaws and some had fatal flaws, I’m looking at you Blackberry 9700, but I have been the most burnt by Windows Phone. I spent my own money on each of these phones but I regret giving my money to HTC and Microsoft when the most when I got the HTC Titan. The hardware was solid and it wasn’t really HTC’s fault that I felt screwed over so I’m going focus on Microsoft here. Windows Phone 7 was the huge reboot to Microsoft’s hugely troubled Windows Mobile post the release of the iPhone. So here’s the story of how I bought a Windows Phone and got screwed.
This during the part of my life when I was experimenting a lot of different smartphones operating systems. For me 2010 was the year of Android when I used a Galaxy Captivate as my primary phone after owning an iPod Touch for a year. The whole system seemed half baked and laggy as hell which really killed the experience for me but I had tons of fun messing around with launchers, rooting and ROMs which is how I eventually bricked my first phone (and later fixed it). It was pretty awesome considering that it was my first smartphone experience. My dad bought an iPhone 4S the next year; he wasn’t a fan and stayed true to Blackberry. So there we were with an iPhone 4S in the house and I had always wanted an iPhone 4S but that was the time that Windows Phone was getting some traction and becoming more popular thanks to its polarizing new Metro or ‘Modern’ design which was based on a super simple tile home screen and a vertical list of apps. It was very appealing a world where Android and iOS were quickly converging on the same design so I wanted to try something new, which I later regretted. I bought a HTC Titan with Windows Phone 7.5 in 2012. This was the probably the worst buying decision I ever made.
The phone was super slick, snappy and fresh but I quickly realized I didn’t have any apps that I used all the time on my iPod Touch. I essentially used Facebook, Twitter and the Top Gear apps. Everything else happened in the web browser with no gaming which was in stark contrast to the nearly hundred games I had on my iPod, from Zombieville to Paper Toss. The apps were a serious pain point but what I really hated was that it failed to do even the simplest of tasks like Group MMS which just did not work. It drove me insane but something else led to me dumping it for the iPhone 4S which was shortly sold for an iPhone 5.
Windows Phone wasn’t and still isn’t all that bad. The phone ran extremely fast on relatively average hardware by Android standards and the whole system had amazing social integration which I used all the time. The phone felt smooth and exciting since the animations were flipping around bright Metro-style tiles. That same year in June or July Microsoft has their annual BUILD conference where they were supposed to put out Windows Phone 8 which would magically fix everything and all would be great. That was partially true since WP8 made huge strides in improving functionality by adding actual multitasking and even resizable tiles, among other things. Early adopters like me, that got Windows Phones before they truly hit their stride, were ecstatic but then I was crushed when they said that Windows Phone 8 would only be coming to new phones like the new Lumias and HTC Windows Phone 8X/S. They completely screwed over early adopters. All we got was a crappy Windows 7.8 update that gave us the resizable tiles. The reason was that they had completely rewritten the Windows Phone kernel to match Windows 8 on PCs and tablets. This was a bullshit reason. They have the best software engineers in the world and they can’t put in the resources for they legacy devices? I think not. It was typical Microsoft putting the bottom line above the consumer experience. I use an iPhone now and I am never going to buy a Windows Phone again. I get that they most certainly won’t do this again but I’ve just lost that trust in them. I’m reminded by this every time I open my closet to find an HTC Titan running Window Phone 7.8!
While I was writing this article ZDNet and The Verge put up articles about this so I thought I’d talk about those too, infused with my opinions. ZDNet’s article is related to Microsoft’s failure to work with carriers and provide timely updates or even updates at all to fairly new Windows Phone flagships. Microsoft is beholden to carriers or Verizon, in this case, which means that they can’t deliver updates exactly on time like Apple with iOS , and even Android has gotten much better with carriers and manufacturers delivering updates much sooner than before.
The key weakness of Windows Phone 8.1 is highlighted by Tom Warren at The Verge, which are the APPS! Windows Phone just doesn’t have the apps. They get many popular new apps many months after the releases on iOS and Android, often with gimped functionality that arrives even later in updates. The prime example of this is Instagram. They only put out the app on Windows Phone, easily more than a year after releases on iOS and Android. The app still isn’t as fully functional as it’s basic feature set is incomplete. You can’t take a picture in-app. They have to picked from your gallery, filters applied and then posted. And forget video that’s just not there. A total shit show. Microsoft can boast nearly 500,000 apps on their store but that trails behind the more than 1 million apps that both the iOS App Store and Android Play Store have. Even though they have half a million apps, most of the big name apps are missing and I’m sure that there’re like 10,000 YouTube apps. The worst part is that Google refuses to acknowledge Windows Phone and make apps for it, which makes life very hard for the hundreds of millions Google services users. The worst part about the Windows Phone app platform is that a majority of those 500,000 apps are small time ambiguous apps that are crappy versions of Youtube, Facebook or Vine apps, or just a bunch of filler apps like mosquito repellant apps.
Things just don’t looks good in terms of apps on Windows Phone and it looks like Microsoft just doesn’t give a shit because they make a bunch of really amazing apps which come to Android and iOS BEFORE they reach Windows Phone. For example the Microsoft Office Sway app was released on iOS first which is the most bizarre thing ever because you’d think a company sinking money into developing in-house apps would use them to bolster their own mobile platform. The biggest middle finger to Windows Phones users has to be how apps and services made by Microsoft are also gimped on Windows Phone. Skype received some pretty awesome updates on Android and iOS, but what about Windows Phone you ask? Nothing for them. The Skype Qik app arrived on all three platforms at once but surprisingly (or not so much now) the Windows Phone version had the smaller feature set without ‘Qik flicks’. As an iPhone user I applaud Microsoft’s effort to embrace all platforms and release apps for all of them but it’s unfair to Windows Phone consumers when they get the short end of the stick. Microsoft Office is the staple of Microsoft’s products and it’s a huge selling point for Windows on PC but Microsoft Office which was exclusive to Windows Phone is now available on iOS and Android, with basic editing features for free. I can accept that Microsoft is trying to broaden Office’s share of the mobile work suite market competing with Google’s apps and iWork but above you will find a picture, courtesy of The Verge, of Microsoft Office running on an iPhone and a Windows Phone. I challenge you to explain to me how the Windows Phone version is better than the iOS variant. It just isn’t and it sucks.
To sum it all up my personal experience of paying $600 for an unlocked phone and not receiving updates on top of a failing app store is reason enough to not buy a Windows Phone. Then there’s the fact that you get almost all the same “Microsoft experiences” on other platforms which are arguably better than what you get on Windows Phone. It seems like the new CEO, Satya Nadella, is less interested in the hardware and software platforms, and more interested in being the services company that exists on all other platforms. Sadly the result of this is that Windows Phone is most likely to fade away and never grow to its full potential.