My first smartphone was an iPhone 3GS. I was ecstatic to be using the device. My latest phone is an HTC Desire (which is a great Android device for US Cellular subscribers), which isn’t a state-of-the-art Android phone, but it’s definitely solid in terms of the cheaper phones, and plans, available. Now let me ask you a question. Do you know anybody using a Windows Phone 7 phone?
From Humble Beginnings… With (Some of) What You Want
Let me start with a basic overview of how WP7 came to market.
Microsoft went back to the drawing board after the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 in 2009 – which, albeit not as bad as previous versions of the operating system (OS), was not up to speed with the iPhone or Android phones at the time – and they came out with Windows Phone 7. This was a major change to their mobile OS, which had been geared towards a more Blackberry-esque look in WM 6.5. Microsoft brought “apps”, integration with Facebook and other social networking/email services, and some really unique ideas to the table.
It’s a really unique platform – something that deviates from the basic iPhone/Android “app” system. WP7′s Live Tiles are comparable to a live Android-widget that’s built into the phone. You still have an “app store” (Windows Phone calls it the “Marketplace”), you still have the apps that most users would be comfortable with (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Xbox Live, Angry Birds, etc) and you still have the performance of an iOS or Android device. The platform certainly isn’t for EVERYONE, particularly business users who simply can’t live without their Blackberries, but it is definitely a much more usable, pragmatic version of the mobile OS.
So why is it still dead in the water?
Lack of Hardware
Here’s the kicker: Do you know how many Windows Phone 7 phones are currently available in the United States? A grand total
of six. Yeah, you saw that: six. There are next to NO WP7 phones on the market. It’s just depressing to see such a great platform with NO phones on the market. I don’t know what Microsoft was thinking, because they didn’t have a “Microsoft WP7 Phone” – they did the right thing and outsourced to some major smartphone producers like HTC and Samsung (I say the right thing because they wouldn’t have sold one phone like Apple, and their platform isn’t as centered as Apple’s either) – but they only released some five phones at launch. Mind you, WP7 is still a toddler in that respect – the OS has only been out for a few months. And there’s a few phones yet to come out – at least, that’s what the Wikipedia page says.
It’s also important to note the Microsoft-Nokia partnership that will start taking fruit… eventually. Nokia is switching to WP7 as their OS of choice (to the uprising of Symbian fans). The partnership will bring MANY more WP7 phones to the market, particularly as cost-effective phones (I’d love to see more free WP7 phones). Microsoft is hoping this partnership will pay off with a share of the OS market, and while it’s definitely a decent idea, the phones won’t even be released until 2012.
Speaking of which, have you seen any WP7 commercials? Apparently there’s quite a few of them. I’ve only seen one since the WP7 phones were released though. Where’s the ads, Redmond?
Now, someone is going to bring up the point that “Apple is selling lots of iPhones, and there’s only ONE of those!” Well, first off, you’re wrong – there are actually four different iPhone models (the original, 3G, 3GS and 4), five if you count the Verizon iPhone 4. And those have been out for years – since 2007, actually. You can attribute a lot of things to the iPhone’s success, as well as pointing out some fatal flaws the phone/platform has had as well, but one of the main points to focus on is time – producers haven’t had much time to bring out a ton of WP7 phones, while Apple is edging on the four-year mark.
Lack of Features
Ok, so it’s only out on six phones (more if you count the numerous users who are flashing their old WM6.5 devices to WP7). What about the platform itself?
Well, it’s a really nice platform, as I’ve explained. But there’s one glaring issue: it’s got the apps, and it’s got the platform, but it doesn’t have the features or support. By features, I’m referencing some simple things that took awhile to pop up in other smartphones – like copy&paste, and multitasking. Mind you, Microsoft’s NoDo update (which includes c&p) was just released for two of their phones yesterday – the Samsung Focus and the LG Quantum - and it’s nearly out to all of their phones now. I’ve seen some speculation that the Copy and Paste isn’t the best in the world, but it’s there as a feature now. It can be refined in the future if needed. As for multitasking, Microsoft has stated they’re working on it, and we could see it in the “Mango” update scheduled for later this year.
By support, I mean that there’s a decent number of applications available in the Marketplace, but support for those applications is pretty weak. For example, unlike the Facebook apps for iOS and Android, the Facebook App for WP7 has only been updated a couple of times, and the reviews for the app show that. Users complain about missing features more often than not – and their frustration can be explained by the lack of support from vendors selling their apps. WP7 is on par with webOS in terms of marketshare, and until that bumps up, vendors are going to focus on updates for iOS and Android, since they make more money and fans through larger platforms.
Will WP7 Bite the Bullet… or Take it Through the Heart?
At this point, it’s pretty difficult to forecast WP7′s future as a platform. It’s got some good things going for it – great
manufacturer’s, a great platform with cool integration (show me a non-jailbroken iPhone that does that), and a really intuitive interface. The downside is the lack of advertising, lack of devices and a sheer lack of support from software vendors. Microsoft has a winner in WP7 – it just might never see any fruition because it’s moving so slowly.
So what do you think? Is WP7 doomed to fail because it is taking too long to reach the smartphone market in a wide-enough basis? Have you seen WP7? What do you think about the platform? The phones? Post in the comments!