I’ll admit I’ve been waiting for Windows Phone 8 for a long time. Not just this year, but for those of you who remember the codename Photon, you’ll understand what I mean. Windows Mobile 7 was supposed to bring Windows Mobile to this next decade, and instead what we got was Windows Phone 7.
On the positive side, if you came from Pocket PC 2000 like I did, and had to withstand the torture of what Windows Mobile 5 and beyond were like, then you’d know how refreshing it was to give Windows Phone 7 a try. Its speed and fluidity made it feel like a finished OS when compared to the Frankenstein that Windows Mobile 6.5 had become after so many patches.
The problem with Windows Phone 7 for me was timing. The gap between the death of 6.5 and the launch of 7 was 10 months long, and as a result of my disappointment and rage, I moved-on to become an iPhone user. Even if I do own two Windows Phone 7 devices today (Dell Venue Pro and HTC Titan), I’ll admit my usage pattern mainly focuses on the iPhone. Surely a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s the main platform that I cover at Pocketnow, but also because Windows Phone 7 was the finished product that nobody trusted anymore.
I lost trust in Microsoft because all my Apps and eBooks got lost with my old HTC Touch Pro2. Carriers proved their lack of trust by barely pushing one or two devices, and in cases like Sprint, they simply threw the towel after a couple of months. Developers as well took ages to port just some of their apps, and I don’t blame them if they also wanted to wait and see before investing. At times when you can barely get Asphalt 5 on Windows Phone 7 while iPhone users can run version 7, there clearly is a trust problem in the platform no matter how much you hate me for pointing it out.
That said one of my biggest disappointments with Windows Phone 7 was that it was locked in the past. Surely it didn’t need a V8 engine to perform like one, but when it comes to gaming, there are things a single-core processor just can’t do. Windows Phone 8 does solve these issues, but takes another blow at the trust of the developers that will have to port everything again to support it, and the customers who simply won’t receive it on their devices and have to settle for 7.8. I always find it funny when Windows Phone evangelists repeat the phrase “porting apps is very simple”, but going from that phrase to actually seeing the apps on the Windows Store is a different ball game.
So after 8 years of experience using Windows Mobile, just three using an iPhone and around two using Windows Phone 7, you’d think that I should return to my roots and select Windows Phone 8 as my next platform this holiday season. Here’s the status of my mental debate:
What I like about Windows Phone
Frankly one of the biggest reasons I like the platform is because I still can’t decide if I’d prefer an ATIV S, a Lumia 920 or a Windows Phone 8X. So far, the Lumia 920 is winning, but the point is that variety counts. Yes, I’ll admit the iPhone 5 is one of the most beautiful devices I’ve ever owned, but that’s only cool right now when I’m one of the only people in my country to own one. Once this device hits the fan, all you’ve got left to differentiate your iPhone from everybody else’s are cases, and I hate to use cases. Windows Phone 8 is off to a great start when it comes to giving you options to choose from. If you like color, there’s surely a device for you. If you’re like me and you like to keep it basic and simple, then just pick the white or the black model.
Another thing I like is that it’s the perfect balance between the walled garden of the iPhone, and the senseless freedom of Android. Aside from having a variety of devices to choose from, you also have different ways to tailor the UI to your needs. I still scratch my head trying to understand why Apple can’t even animate the icons on the iPhone, and certainly that’s not an issue with the live tiles on Windows Phone.
What I don’t like about Windows Phone
You know, there’s honestly very little to not like about Windows Phone 8, but if I would compare it to the iPhone, what makes Apple’s smartphone so popular is precisely the fact that it’s made by Apple. Apple has garnered a strong reputation for quality of products, quality of service and long-lasting software support. By contrast Microsoft has a terrible reputation at trashing products for the sake of the reinventing what nobody has asked them to reinvent. If Microsoft wouldn’t have spent the last decade taking a stab at developers, OEMs and customers with so many stupid and unsupportive changes, the genius behind the Windows Phone platform would be a raging success right now.
Another thing that I don’t like about Windows Phone that I also didn’t like about Android in its beginnings is its excessive focus on efficiency by making the UI a wall of text. Coding a black or white background with a block of color and text is far easier and less power-hungry than having an icon that actually looks like a folder. As a result, my three-year-old son or my 67-year-old Grandfather had no problems in understanding an iPhone after just minutes of using it. I tried doing the same exercise with a Windows Phone and the learning curve was much tougher. The point is that even though the UI is cool, people have a hard time relating to it, and that includes me. If you’re an exception, good for you, but if you made the vast majority of the public, Windows Phone 7 would’ve sold like pancakes at Denny’s. I seriously got bored of viewing Facebook alerts in the People Hub on a stale block of text and links. Believe it or not, it reminds me of the results you’d get when you hit the DIR command in DOS 4.2.
I have neither speed problems, nor any battery issues on my iPhone 5. I feel that Microsoft can do better in making the previously known Metro UI more beautiful. Sometimes all it takes is a stupid wallpaper. I’d love it if they kept the horizontal scrolling with the different options in the hub paradigm, but with enough elements that remove the boredom from seeing text and flipping-boxes on a screen. If Apple can figure a way to retain efficiency while adding beauty, there’s no excuse for Microsoft to not be capable of doing the same.
The bottom line
Being late has a price. Five million iPhones sold in just five days, and those customers aren’t coming back for a Lumia 920. Whether you consider Windows Phone 8 superior when compared to the iPhone or not is subjective. For me, and I guess for the rest of the iPhone using world, superiority is not defined by horsepower, a horizontal UI, nor live tiles. What makes a product better than the other is its ability to deliver on what customers need. So far, Apple’s reliability has shown the world that customers are willing to pay more for such a thing.
Surely you could argue with me the same arguments we get in the comments all the time stating that the iPhone has its days counted, and that Windows Phone 8 is going to be great. Sadly there are millions of reasons covered in aluminum and glass in the market right now, that don’t rhyme with the same music I’ve heard from Windows Phone since 2010.
I do wish Microsoft well with Windows Phone 8. I’ll even give them a last chance by getting myself a Lumia in the next coming weeks due to ground breaking features like City Lens. Judging from what I saw today at the press release, I don’t think I’ll be able to drop the iPhone for a Lumia yet. That said, it doesn’t mean I’m not open to changing my mind once I get the device. Maybe Windows Phone 8 is more of a “try me” product than a “judge me” product. Time will tell, and I’ll keep you posted.