Opinion: The State of Windows Phone

Opinion: The State of Windows Phone
Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

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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