Windows Mobile Hand Wringing

I am getting more and more depressed over Windows Phone. There is so much negativity around the product that it is nigh on impossible to be positive and upbeat about it. Blog after Blog, tweet after tweet, service after service paints a picture that is so thouroughly negative that one could be forgiven in thinking that we are witenssing the imolation of a product.

So why do I think this?

3rd party app support is still very aweful

Here are some examples:

  • Map My *
    • All apps have not been updated in years


  • Strava is non existent

  • The Amazon app is a steaming pile of ...well, you get the idea

  • Facebook - is..so..crap. It crashes whenever I look at an event. Classy. It has not been updated in years, but you wouldn't know that since the list of things that are updated is non existent, because apparently people don't really care about what updates are in updates. Well, you know what? People may not care about the actual contents of the update, but documenting them shows users that you actually care about the ecosystem, and therefore they will be more willing to take punt on your ecosystem.

  • Google is missing in action. I know I know. They ignore the platform cause they can.

  • Twitter app is always months behind other platforms

  • Many services just do not develop for Winphone, and I do not think that Universal apps is going to make a difference. Look at the number of banks in the US that are ditching their apps. And lets not get into the number of banks in my locale (AU) that ignore it totally.


  • Some exceptions:

    • Audible - superb app and support finally. Whatever happened here needs to happen to other major ecosystem players
    • Groove music --> just a shame it took so many iterations to become usable. This is great example of how not to do it. And this is part of the perception problem in that if MS cannot make a great app, how do others expect to do a great app when they are focused elsewhere?
    • Office Mobile apps.


Cortana is an absolute joke.

Lets have a look at the environment in which Cortana is trying to compete in. In my locale, Siri and OK Google are used on all devices to do real things. Where is Cortana? "It is coming" is all we hear. Well, guess what, so is Christmas. Go and ask a "normal" about Cortana and see what response you get. IF they acknowledge it, they will shrug it off as an interesting thing but will ultimitely gravitate back to their known and working system. This does not seem to be a "challenger" mindset that Satya wants them to have. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Bing team is so insulated that they are blinded by their own echo chamber. (as an example, go to bing.com.au, do a search, and notice that there is no way to filter the results to a date range. But you can on the US site. They have been quoted as saying that there is no need to filter date ranges. This is not an isolated case either - other locales also get short shrift in this regard. This only adds to the perception that MS only care about the US market)

The UI animations are terrible.

Example: the task manager shows a list of apps running. Great. Slide down to close, and it takes 1 second to dissapear and the next one to slide over. Compare this with iOS: Instant. It doesn't matter that the app is taking a bit of time to close: hide it in the background. Windows phone used to be totally awesome in how it priroritised the UI thread. However, this seems to have gove away and down the Android path, which is very dissapointing

Devices

So, the 950 and 950 XL look awesome. BUT, 1200 AU is a lot of coin for a platform that appears to be dying a slow and agonising death. And lets not talk about availability. Is it or isn't it going to be available? When? How can I buy it? Why in gods name do we have to wait for a carrier to offer it? This after availability in other markets now have dates.

Windows 10 Mobile

Having used the Insider builds on my Lumia 930 for the last few months, I have to say that there is still a ton of work to do. The apps are craptacular to say the least (See point 1 above). The store is so terrible it is actually embaressing. I say that knowing how hard people have worked on it, and know that they have poured their heart and soul into it. But it just looks so cheap, and I do not know what else they can do to make it better. It doesn't help that the apps in the store are crappy and are not updated.

While I am on the store and app updates, whenever an update to an app happens, there is no way to know what the updates actually are. Do they add functionality? Do they fix anything? The viewpoint the people do not care is a totally ignorant - how do you expect people to know if any new functionailty is showing up? Is it a real update or is it all smoke and mirrors? So me it just smacks of laziness, and if the app developers are able to be lazy, then the experience is not going to be a premium experience is it? It will attract crap.

So, if I was a "normal" person

There is no way I would take a punt on Windows Phone. You only have to look at any advert that has a mobile app to see that there is never a Windows icon. If the vast majority of advertising for businesses/service apps do not have a Windows icon as an option, then no-one is going to trust that the platform is viable.

This is a chicken and egg situation: App developers will not invest if there are no people on the platform/ecosystem, and people will not buy into a platform/ecosystem if app developers will not invest, and so on.

So what is the solution? Smarter people than I are in charge of Windows and Windows Mobile, so I doubt that anything I may say will make a scrap of difference, not will it be revolutionary or enlightening.

So what to do?

I prefer the UI in Windows Phone. I think that the Live tiles are the best feature, and I do believe that it is far superior to other ecosystems. But then, isn't that what Apple had been saying for years about the Mac? Did people care? No. Only now they do - Apple made all the right decisions with the iPod then iPhone. MS sat on their hands with an attitude of an incumbent.

So here we are. I feel that the 950 XL will be my last Windows phone, and I am going to be very sad to see it go. I am sure that I will eventually be happy with whatever it is replaced with (Android/iOS). But I certainly will not have the same emotion about it again. Maybe it is time let it go and succumb to the majority view and just get an Android device. I know that this is what is going to happen, but it is going to be a hard transition, as picking an ecosystem that works with my Windows world is hard. Going Google locks you into their ecosystem (they do some stuff for iOS but I feel they do that only because they have to. I get the impression that they would rather not). Going iOS means locking into a very expensive ecosystem that only runs on Apple.

The one little ray of light in all this is that at least MS is the only one that works on all platforms. Which is so very ironic considering their history, and that Google still likes to paint themselves as the "open" company. Either way, Google will win that one, since they at least have choice in devices and price.

So the only thing left to decide is which one of the 500 Android phones to get? That is almost as hard a decision as leaving Windows Mobile behind.

Richard

Richard is a Director and the principal Consultant at Dev iQ Pty Ltd. He specialises in SharePoint, Team Foundation Server/Visual Studio and .NET Development.

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