Opinion: The State of Windows Phone

Jackdaw Research released a damning report yesterday about Windows Phone and why it is "failing to catch on" with consumers and in the enterprise. It is a scathing study which makes it seem like the platform is doomed to failure, which I don't believe is necessarily the case...

Microsoft is taking a feedback-first approach and allowing users to test and shape Windows 10 before it hits the market.

For some background, I’ve only ever been a Symbian, iPhone, and Android user. I joined the iPhone craze with the iPhone 3G, moved to the iPhone 4, and became bored with Apple's "locked-down" ecosystem which created the feeling that apps were in-and-out experiences. Android and Windows Phone both allowed apps to talk with each other; which made their respective platforms feel more alive until this year when Apple added the ability to iOS 8.

Windows Phone's fresh take on UX is something I fell in love with despite only spending short periods of time with it for review purposes. Part of this reason is because, unlike Android, Microsoft dared to be different out-of-the-box from the competition.

The other love of my life recently switched to an entry-level Lumia 635 I had lying around after her iPhone packed in. She loved Windows Phone and how it felt personalised to her, especially that UX which is completely different from the similar experience you’ve had for the past few years on Android and iOS. 

When she decided she wanted a device with a front camera, I can tell you, it was a serious struggle to get her not to go for another Windows Phone. Jackdaw is right, the future of Windows Phone is worrying, but not yet doomed when people can fall in love with it the way we both did... 

Jackdaw's report brings up the most-criticised part of Microsoft's mobile platform; the apps. Whilst it's undeniable that the amount of apps available on Windows Phone is less than Android or iOS - the most popular ones are there. There is even a good proportion of cross-platform apps which, although perhaps personal taste, offer a better experience on Windows Phone. You can find some truly beautiful apps on the platform... 

Apps are, however, the one reason I couldn't recommend Windows Phone to my girlfriend on her upgrade. Right now the situation is fine, developers are creating fantastic apps for the platform despite Jackdaw's claim that "developers won’t develop for a platform with no users". 

But the device needs to last at least a couple of years, and with the future of Windows Phone in limbo at the moment, it's hard to recommend it to anyone. Damning reports like Jackdaw's will put-off developers and nail the platform's coffin, and that's why I'm writing this piece in the hope that it will prevent some from giving up on an OS which could have so much to offer... 

This brings me to Jackdaw's next point, "Windows Phone doesn't have a clear differentiator in the market". Right now its devices have a reputation as the leader in the mobile photography space, but admittedly that is more due to Nokia's long-standing hardware expertise. The real differentiator on an OS-level will be a single platform for developers to release applications across PC, Tablet, mobile, and even console. This is a unique and tempting proposition which has been promised for some time, and looks finally set to be realised as of Windows 10...

It was a serious struggle to get her not to go for another Windows Phone.

Microsoft knows it has to take radical steps to avoid the bitter taste Windows 8 left in the mouths of its users, and the company is doing just that. For the first time ever, Microsoft is taking a feedback-first approach and allowing users to test and shape Windows 10 before it hits the market. No-one can complain about Windows if they had the chance to change it. 

These are of course just some of my personal thoughts. Jackdaw brings up some valid points, but I think their study focuses too much on the negative and gives little consideration for all the possibilities which could change Windows Phone’s outlook in the next year or so. I hope developers don't give up on the platform as a result of such doom-and-gloom studies; it would be less-exciting for the market to remain a two-horse race between iOS and Android. 

Do you think Windows Phone is doomed to failure? Let us know in the comments.

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DevilsPrinciple
7 Dec 2014, 6:57 a.m.

Jackdaw is spot on with this criticism.( As are you, Ryan) I share this criticism of the Windows phone. My criticism is not without a teal world experience.
Two years ago I switched providers at which point I upgraded my phone to a Motorola Moto X, an android. My two sons wanted the Apple phone. When I voiced my apprehension to them about the i5 I explained to them that it didn't have the it didn't have the open operating architecture, which meant they would have much less flexibility. Particularly with apps. Additionally, a review of the phone in store at Apple revealed a phone that was thin, light and fragile. My sons had fallen prey to Apple's marketing and to peer pressure. This was played out when they complained (later) after owning them, that they couldn't download apps they wanted and broke ( the glass) even with a protective shroud. They now own Androids.

It also proved my suspicions about Apple. They would never acquiesce to an open environment as Android has. If you doubt this, the market share between Android devices and Apple devices overwhelmingly favors Android and apps and robust hardware are the reasons.
There's no turning back. Developers write code ( think apps) more for Android than they do Apple. Google's Play Store is testament to that, because that's what the market wants. You have to admit that the Google Play Store is a fun place.
But as Jobs did with all of his products, he appealed to renegades against the " Big Blues" of the world with mainstream products as objets d'art. Jobs may be gone, but his thinking lives on in the product.

Open source coding has exploded, as have more robust hardware platforms everywhere and there's no turning back. That's why 6 phone won't succeed "as is."

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mcalvin
9 Dec 2014, 2:10 a.m.

I have used multiple devices on each platform, from the iPhone 3g/4/4s to the Samsung Galaxy and Htc One. My Nokia 1020 is by far my favorite, and the only one have continued to use for more than a year. Microsoft just needs to figure out how to fix the "I hate Microsoft" attitude that most people have just because its cool to hate Microsoft v

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