My history of Smartphone use is well documented. In fact, one of my last major posts was about my big switch to Windows Phone 7 back in August of 2011. It has been roughly three and a half years since I wrote that post and in that amount of time I have owned 4 Windows Phones and even got my wife to switch from the iPhone to a Nokia Lumia 1020. Things were pretty great for us both during that time but we both came to the conclusion this week that we have had enough.
You will find no bigger supporter of Microsoft, and more specifically Windows Phone, then me or my good friend Shane. We have carried the torch for Windows Phone since its inception. The OS was different in all the right ways. The interface, app integration, and user experience is by far the best out there. Nokia, and now Microsoft, have also designed the best looking hardware on the market by far. Their use of polycarbonate materials, sometimes mixed with metals, gives the most durable and sleek looking phones. Their use of bright colors for their devices along with the ability to switch those colors with unique charging case options provides for some really unique looks. See for yourself:
Also Nokia/Microsoft’s dedication to providing the best cameras on the market in their phones combined with everything I mentioned above, make them the best phones available on the market today. The Windows Phone experience at its core is superior bar none!
So with all of this praise, why am I deciding to leave the platform behind? One small simple fact…Apps. The app problem is VERY real on Windows Phone and has been from the beginning and while the situation was looking for a while to be correcting itself, it hasn’t and I would argue that the app situation on Windows Phone has gotten even WORSE. If Microsoft wants Windows Phone to be a key player in the world, and a true viable third platform, it needs to get serious about solving the app problem. Let me explain…
For years app developers would not develop first party apps for Windows Phone, except for a few notable exceptions, because of market share. Thus gave rise to many 3rd party developed apps to fill those voids. Some of those 3rd party apps even provided superior experiences to the first party iOS/Android versions. The most obvious example of this is 6tag, an Instagram app that blows the first party solution out of the water. This was the case for many of the early years, as it was for Android back when I had my Droid, and I was not upset by this. Fast forward to 2013 and a flood of popular first party apps hit the platform. Microsoft leaders were claiming that the “app gap” was closing and that Windows Phone was the place to be. It was around this time my wife, fed up with the iOS experience, discovered the apps she used the most (except Candy Crush) were all available on Windows Phone and that the camera on the Lumia 1020 was the best on the market. She decided to make the switch and we were off to the Microsoft Store. To this day she still feels there is no other phone camera that takes pictures like hers, and she’s right.
2015 has been a rough year for Windows Phone, and I feel the most pivotal. Windows Phone has faced the following challenges:
- Carriers not deploying OS updates in a timely manner
- App providers abandoning their Windows Phone apps
- App providers not keeping Windows Phone app features in line with iOS/Android
- Microsoft continually refusing to release a “flagship” Windows Phone until Windows 10
These 4 areas have been a big black eye for many on Windows Phone and many notable public supporters have left the platform. Microsoft has generated a lot of buzz by releasing many affordable low and mid range phone over the past year. This is their attempt at capturing new market share worldwide in developing regions. Sadly, the recent market share data worldwide has shown little gains.
So what is Microsoft’s response to all of this, WINDOWS 10’s UNIVERSAL APPS! The concept is that you write an app once (tablet, phone, or desktop/laptop) and you can easily make it available for the other platforms thanks in part to shared code base and the fact that the OS will be the same across all devices. This is a pretty huge development and I only wish Microsoft figured out how to implement this with Windows 8. I predicted this would happen back in the early days of Windows Phone but did not imagine it would take this long to implement. Will this solve the problem? Microsoft says so. I personally do not think it will. Why? Well developers have been slow to develop apps for Windows 8 desktop. There are a few popular apps in there but no real innovation is going on in that space. You can give developers the best tools and opportunities for your platform but if the money/numbers aren’t there, they won’t develop for your platform. Sadly I think this is the fate that faces Windows 10 apps.
I will always be a “Windows Guy” for my computing platform. I spent years working on OS X during my time at Princeton University and I will never go back to it. So Microsoft will always have my business there. In fact I am one of the few people I know that really likes Windows 8 desktop. How about Tablet? Well I have 2 Surfaces, the OG Surface RT and the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 is a phenomenal device and for all intents and purposes is my “laptop”. I have great hope for how Windows 10 will improve the experience even more on the Surface Pro 3. As for more traditional tablets, the Surface RT, was our first glimpse at a true tablet experience for Windows and sadly without the apps it isn’t there. Maybe that will change for Windows 10 and I have more hope that it will for tablets, then for phones.
Lately I have been using a Google Nexus 7 tablet as my “around the house” device and Android 5.0 has won me back over. It’s nice having access to whatever apps I want, it’s nice having the apps updated with new fixes and features on a regular basis, and Microsoft’s support of Android is arguably better then their support of Windows Phone. That last part has helped me make this decision to leave Windows Phone all the more easier. I find Microsoft’s ecosystem to be superior in my eyes. Outlook.com, Office365, OneDrive, Xbox Music, and OneNote are all things I use on a daily basis and they are all available on Android with the best app experience possible. While Android is Google’s baby and I have ceased using all Google services minus YouTube & Hangouts/Talk, the fact that I can continue to use my Microsoft stuff and leverage the app availability that Android has gives me the best of both worlds in my opinion. Combine that with new new hardware design & camera of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and you can see how I arrived at my decision to leave. It has been a perfect storm of events that has lead me here. Had I not gotten the Nexus 7 for Christmas & had Samsung not given us the S6 I might not be writing this post today. But they did and here I am anxiously awaiting my pre-ordered S6 to arrive on Monday.
In closing, will I ever come back to Windows Phone again? I hope I do. Microsoft is planning on announcing a new flagship device this Summer/Fall. I know the hardware and OS will impress me but until the app situation gets better, I’ll be watching from a far. It pains me to say all of this. You have no idea how hard of decision it was to leave but I have been left with no other choice. You can still count on me backing all of Microsoft’s efforts going forward. My wife and I’s recently purchased Microsoft Bands will work great on her new iPhone and my new Galaxy S6 and I look forward to whatever new devices they come out with over the course of the year. Chances are I will be first in line for those, just not a new phone…