Windows Phone. Yes that persistent and scrappy mobile OS with the elegant and the fluid UI that heralded in the age of the minimalistic user interface which has been mimicked by the likes of Apple. Yes that mobile OS, which is loved by millions, confidently clawing its way, while boldly flashing its Live Tiles to 4% global market share. Yes that mobile OS with a user base with consistently high satisfaction ratings rivaling the ratings of the other popular platforms.
We WinPhans (Windows+Phone+Fans) occupy a growing and dedicated fraction of the smartphone market. We love Microsoft’s unique and personal implementation of the mobile OS and there are many reasons why; many. Yet we do lament some of the casualties of this smartphone war. You know those unique purely Windows ‘Phonesque” features that drew us in and compelled us (and Ben the PC Guy) to show our friends and families what a Windows Phone could do.
I think there is a lot of passion that we Windows Phone users have about our platform of choice, and a great deal of pride. My friends and family are witnesses of my own commitment and passion about the platform. It is often a topic of conversation, and my local ATT store knows me as well. I’m sure many of you have similar stories. I have been successful at converting about (9) nine people in my circle to Windows Phone. I’m sure it doesn’t do much for our barely 4% market share but we’re a passionate bunch. This is what we do.
I think what really drew many of us in was Windows Phones distinct identity. There is no way in the world Apple will be bringing Microsoft to court for mimicking its Operating system or User Interface. That’s a Samsung and Apple beef. In an article posted at MacDailyNews on 5/28/2014 the author made the following audacious claim about Apple consumers, products and rivals in the industry.
“Apple does not chase market share. Apple develops world-class products that delight users. One Apple customer is worth more than a gaggle of those who settle for poor imitations of Apple products.”
Ouch. Pretty sharp words. Yet I’m almost certain the writer could not have had Microsoft’s Windows Phone in mind when he typed those hubris laced words. It’s abundantly clear to anyone with eyes that Microsoft has NEVER tried to be LIKE Apple with the Windows phone platform. Quite frankly it is the furthest thing from an imitation product one will find on the market.
So much so that the horde of iOS and Android users find it awkward, a tad confusion, at first blush, until they play around with it a bit to learn it’s unique UI and navigation properties. iOS and Android’s UI with side scrolling pages of static icons are so similar that some may confuse moving effortlessly between those two platforms as inherent intuitiveness of those OS’ users interfaces and the slight learning curve associated with using something as unique, yet simple as Windows Phone as unintuitive. At any rate I’m sure the “poor imitations” the writer was referring to most certainly must be Android devices.
Ok, back to what drew us in. I know I’m preaching to the choir here but, our passion and love for this platform for MOST if not ALL of us is because of the UNIQUENESS of the platform.
No UI does it like Windows Phone! Graphically minimalistic tiles that deliver up the data/info that is the most important reason we interact with our devices. “Glance-and-Go” was the early mantra. You guys remember that. Yes, Live Tiles, we love them, and show them off and compare their dynamic, lively, efficient, purposeful beauty proudly against those dead, stoic wallpaper of icons on iOS and android devices.
Windows Phone allows for rich personalization of a users home screen with transparent Live Tiles that sit above any image a user chooses. The tiles flow smoothly over the image offering a slight parallex effect.
Sure Android has widgets but they are not as elegant, graceful or as smoothly integrated into a phones UI as Live Tiles are on Windows Phones. Yeah we LOVE our Windows Phones.
Social Network Integration
Ok sticky point! If you’ve been around in the Windows Phone camp for a while this of course was one of the most loved aspects of the platform. I admit that I have two Windows Phones, a Nokia Lumia 1520 which I upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1 Update1 and a Nokia Lumia 1020(in all its 41 megapixel PureView glory) with Windows Phone 8 which I refuse to update. One I would like to do a comparison between the two OS’s. Two I prefer the original implementation of social network integration that originally elicited my excitement and passion for the platform. Yes this is where things get sticky for Windows Phone fans who want to really talk up the platform while remaining firmly footed in the foundational message of the Windows Phone camp; those who wish to be confident that they have a cohesive and consistent message to hurl out to the world. “Windows Phone is great because of…”
-rich and efficient dynamic Live Tile. Yes! And tightly integrated Social Networking….hmmmm…ok, yes it’s kind of still there with extensibility and all but it’s different. The previous implementation made the phone itself like a seamless portal to our social networking world. We integrated with our friends on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter without ever seeing those apps.
This was a powerfully graceful implementation of the people-centric, vs the app-centric method employed by Apple and iOS. How many of you are like me and absolutely hate when a friend messages you on Facebook (using Facebook messenger)and instead of going to that person(as in Windows Phone 8.0 or Messaging Hub) you have to get to the Facebook messenger app to communicate with them(in Windows Phone 8.1)
The Seamless communication with the people we care about via a single “portal” is a casualty of this smartphone war. Microsoft sacrificed it, Kamikaze style (as it advanced to bring the OS on par with iOS and android) in favor of the more cumbersome app-centric method used by the competition where a user must chase their friends and family through various apps to communicate with them. I understand extensibility connects apps to the OS, and this separation of apps from OS level integration makes updates a bit more nimble. It’s a pity that communication has become a bit more clumsy as a result.
This is what is sticky. The deep social network integration on the OS level that made the social network Apps invisible as we interacted with people, messaging that was centralized via a Messaging Hub allowing communication with one person via one portal rather than requiring multiple apps; an aesthetically pleasing Photos Hub that had a personalization touch allowing ones images to occupy the background, and which also integrated images of friends and families from social networks, a Me Tile that served as the Control Center that delivered up notifications when someone liked a Facebook status, tweeted you, and allowed you to post to multiple networks simultaneously (thank God for developers who created apps like ShareIT and MultiShare but the native implementation was awesome), a Peoples Hub/Contact Cards that allowed you to comment on and like posts and view and interact with images on social Networks without ever leaving the “Persons” contact card.
What am I saying here? One, again, I certainly understand to some extent the reason for pulling certain functionality out of the OS to allow for more efficient and frequent updates to apps without requiring an OS update. I also recognize all of the incredible things that came with Windows Phone 8.1. But I think there’s a point of acknowledgment that needs to be made and I think it echoes the passion of many Windows Phone Fans (WinPhans).
We don’t have a consistent message. We’ve lost some of the core things that drew us to the platform, some of the things you, me and Ben the PC Guy adamantly used to promote the platform. Deep social network integration, Hubs, the power of the Me Tile, the people centric nature of the OS evidenced in various areas such as messaging, photos, the People Hub and more. People First; Windows Phone is about the People you Care About. Glance and Go. Windows did by default what other platforms needed apps to do. We were drawn in by these messages, embraced them, and promoted them to friends and families and well, now some of those things are gone or changed. The Windows Phone challenges that Ben the PC Guy used to facilitate are no longer valid now that Windows Phone works much in the way iOS and android work in many regards. Yes now that Windows Phone is more app-centric than people-centric in some areas. A pity.
Please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Windows Phone. I’m all in. The platform still retains many of the benefits that make it great! What I am talking about here is the shifting of a core message that most of us embraced, which we can no longer use to promote the platform. It makes it a cognitive challenge when certain elements of the platform which were purely and entirely unique are now gone, and the visible thing that replaced what was lost as collateral damage were much desired and needed functionality which simply brought the platform on par with the competition such as the long awaited Notification Center. Which seems to have neutered one of the most unique Windows Phone features, the notification gathering, social networking connecting and social sharing powerhouse the Me Tile.
It used to be easier to rattle off a bunch of unique features found only on Window Phone. Granted there are still many, but the conversation has changed, it’s not as WAM-BAM WINDOWS MAN easy to pitch and demo quick unique features.
Not only has our message become a tad bit more difficult to deliver but the emotional aspect and disappointment many of us accepted as we moved forward with updating to Windows Phone 8.1 and sacrificed some core functionality we previously embraced was also real. It’s pretty tough but, it is what it is. Yet…
Apple has a message. They belong to an elite group that prides themselves on belonging to one of THE most esteemed brands on the planet; a group led by a man that changed the world before he passed. Yes, they belong to a group that receives constant validation from the media, tech reviewers, bloggers that they are indeed who they believe they are. This message doesn’t change. They’re message is not necessarily founded on the tech – but the brand. That’s why even when the iPhone lags behind the competition technologically the followers follow. The first iPhone was far less capable than any Windows Mobile device on the market at the time, but the UI and Jobs’ (you have to give it to him) awesome presentation sold the world on the – brand. And it’s only gotten bigger (the brand) since.
The Android camp has a message too. Yes the tech dudes love the open OS (a lot of Windows Mobile guys like myself who loved the openness of that platform defected to android) but at 80% of the market most of those users are not techies. So what’s the deal with android user’s dedication to the platform? I think its reaches down to that fundamental characteristic about all of us. Here’s an example. You’re walking down the street and suddenly everyone begins running in the opposite direction. You have no idea why but if everyone else is doing it can they be wrong?
The ubiquity of android from the very low quality virtually give away phones to the high quality flagships like the Galaxies puts Android phones in everyone’s view. Even the non-techies see Android everywhere, are pushed android devices, even phones given to low income citizens are android devices (maybe WP should get the 530s as part of that program). Anyway, stats such as the glaring 80% of the global market are indeed a validation to those committed to the platform that yep, this is the place to be.
Ok so Apple has the elite luxury branding message, Android the sheer vastness of their dominance/platform openness (of course we techies see thing like specs and stuff). So what’s Windows Phone message; one that works for all Windows Phone users? What message rings united across us all. Does the people centric message still work? Does the social network integration still apply (technically yes, but you hit the app icon to get there, you “see” the app)? What about live tiles? Is that enough of a differentiator? Cortana, I posit is a powerful selling point. She’s different and she has the entire halo brand behind her, and with the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Nightfall, and Halo: 5 and the Showtime Steven Spielberg Halo TV Show – Microsoft has the opportunity propel her and Windows Phone into the collective consciousness. Shortcoming, she’s not in every region. Windows Phone users making a cohesive statement like:
“Apple does not chase market share. Apple develops world-class products that delight users. One Apple customer is worth more than a gaggle of those who settle for poor imitations of Apple products.” (This statement is consistent with the message of a dedication and embracing of the BRAND)
,is a bit of a challenge. I believe that some of the core elements of Windows Phone have changed. Maybe a regrouping is in order, a concise message devised around what is strictly unique and then a concerted onslaught! This statement wouldn’t work for us.
“Microsoft does not chase market share. (Our camp is madly chasing share) Microsoft develops world-class products that delight users (they absolutely do, however because the platform is trusted to other OEM’s WP users may not experience the WP OS on a Microsoft device). One Microsoft customer is worth more than a gaggle of those who settle for poor imitations of Microsoft products. (One thing about Apple is that their margins are REALLY high. They make more profit than OEMs with larger share).”
One final note. Yes, in answering the call to be more competitive Microsoft has brought Windows Phone on par with iOS and android and have incorporated many widely requested features. Yet as mentioned these updates came at the cost of some of the core features that made Windows Phone unique.
Here’s the challenge. Our camp would love for iOS and android users to join our team and leave their platforms behind. Yet a candid and honest question now would be, what is the incentive? I understand that the added features and the more app-centric approach makes the transition from those platforms smoother for those who may defect. Yet, if the message that rings loudly is that Windows Phone can now do what iOS and Android can do, but can no longer do what Windows Phone was known to do, why switch?
I heard the spin that was put on the message. In the early days of Windows Phone, before the apps became available, the deep social networking was necessary. Now that the platform is more mature, Hubs and the like needed to evolve or rather go extinct. Here’s a cautionary reality. Apple and Google traditionally advance their OS’s acquiring new feature sets while retaining the old. They keep their message, they enhance the experience. It will be a sad day in the Windows Phone camp when either one or both Apple and Google implement people centric features into their respective OS’s akin to what Microsoft sacrificed in Windows Phone. Sure we’ll cry foul and say we had that first; but they’ll have it “now”.
At any rate here we are and it’s certainly not all a lost. Not by a looong shot. Though Winphans have gone for quite a ride from Windows Mobile, to windows Phone 7, to Windows Phone 7.5 and to the abrupt halt for some at 7.8. We’ve grown to Windows Phone 8.0 and then 8.1. Now we stand firmly and confidently with Cortana and 8.1 Update 1 in our hands.
So despite my lament Windows Phone has many features that make it a premiere mobile OS option. Windows Phone has the most fluid UI on a mobile device. It runs very well on low to high end hardware. Windows Phone from the efficient Live Tiles, extensibility that allows a multitude of 3rd party apps to tie into the OS, transparent tiles and other configuration choices that allow for additional personalization options, integrated Office, Skype, Onedrive and OneNote, industry leading imaging tech (for the Lumia range of devices), the most personal digital assistant Cortana (the only digital assistant whose API is open to developers), the most elegant and productive implementation of folders on a mobile OS with live folders, Xbox integration, and so much more, make Windows Phone a powerfully competitive option.
So now what is our common message?
With Smartphones acting more and more as extensions of our person the common message can center on a core experience that we all love about Windows Phone and also what Microsoft pushes as part of the platform; how personal it is. A statement centered on how personal Windows Phone is ranging from the UI to the Digital Assistant, Cortana, can be a battle cry around which we can all rally! After all what makes someone more satisfied than something made just for them? With all of the transitions, challenges and changes the platform has endured one thing that has never changed is that Windows Phone is indeed the most personal mobile platform. This fact has been greatly enhanced by Cortana – the worlds most personal digital assistant.
So why should iOS and android users switch? Well:
1. Windows Phone is the most personal mobile platform with the most personal digital assistant– Cortana.
2. Windows Phone integrates more efficiently with the most prolific desktop platform on earth – Windows. Most homes and Businesses utilize Windows based PCs
3. Live tiles provide the only implementation on a mobile OS where information can be efficiently delivered to a user for the truest “glance and go experience.”
4. Cloud connectivity places all of your content seamlessly within reach from any device or browser. Content creation and consumption is easy on Windows Phone.
These are just a few reasons. I’m sure that all of you WinPhans out there are itching to add to this list. Have at it. Head down to comments and share your thoughts!
It would be great to see some of the lost functionality return in a later update. Wouldn’t it? 😉