Microsoft, you can’t buy our way into using Windows Phone
Earlier today, I explained that Windows Phone is finally gaining the traction it deserves in countries around the world.
It’s great to finally see the platform give Android and iOS some much-needed competition, though the platform has a lot of ground to make up to compete with the likes of either on a global scale. And Microsoft’s most recent program is indicative of just that.
Forbes reported last week that Microsoft was extending its iPad buyback program, in which the company will give customers a minimum of $200 in the form of a Microsoft Store gift card for “gently used” iPads – iPad 2 and newer. As part of the “#timetoswitch” campaign, Microsoft opened the in-store deal up to iPhones, too, still offering a minimum of $200 for “gently used” iPhones. And a similar promotion has been offered online for several weeks for any Apple, BlackBerry, or Android device.
But the real question is: will any of this matter? Can Microsoft actually reel in new customers by giving prospective buyers credit for their old phones? Better yet, can this sort of deal pull you into the Windows Phone fold?
On a large scale, this “#timetoswitch” campaign will be but a mere blip on the map, if even that.
With no-down-payment early upgrade programs, such as AT&T Next or Verizon Edge, affording a new phone is easier than ever. On top of that, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile here in the States offer trade-in programs where anyone can sell back their old phones for credit towards their next phone. NextWorth and Gazelle also buy back old smartphones and tablets for cold hard cash.
Just performing a quick check on the buyback pricing, Microsoft isn’t offering anything particularly original compared to the wireless providers or third-party buyers. Verizon, for example, will pay $200 for an iPhone 4S in decent condition. So will Microsoft. The major difference here is that you can spend your credit from Microsoft on any product in a Microsoft Store.
In-store, the deal is limited to iPads and iPhones. And lest we forget, there are only approximately 70 Microsoft stores in the US, meaning, the deal is very limited in scope to begin with. The online promotion may apply to BlackBerry, Android, or iOS devices, but the VISA gift card does not require the customer to buy a Windows Phone … or any Microsoft product, for that matter.
For you and I, Microsoft’s buyback program is just one of the many. It’s commonplace in today’s market, yet it comes with no value proposition over the competition. This campaign, however, is quite obviously targeted at consumers who may not know better, the random passersby who wanders into a Microsoft store for a multitude of reasons.
We’ll say Joe meandered into the Microsoft store to check out “that new camera phone” he saw on television, better known as the Lumia 1020. As he checked it out, the store representative said, “Pretty cool, huh? You know, you can sell your old clunker phone to us for a minimum of $200 and put that money towards anything in this store – even that phone.”
Bewildered, Joe looks at the sales rep and says, “Tell me more about how I can carelessly make a impulsive decision to buy a new phone because someone offered me some store credit.”
That’s exactly how this “#timetoswitch” and the previous (sometimes rigged) Windows Phone Challenge campaigns were designed to work. Guerrilla marketing and salesmanship at its finest.
We know this deal from Microsoft isn’t going to turn a lot of heads. It’d be different if practically every mobile company under the sun didn’t already offer buyback and trade-in programs. But that’s not the point we’d like to make.
Windows Phone is on an upswing, and I can fairly confidently say none – or very little, at best – of Microsoft’s current or past marketing has done the platform a whole lot of good. Most of it comes off as sleazy and desperate, though we know Microsoft isn’t hurting for cash. It’s almost as if Microsoft believes so little in its own products, it has to come up with absurd commercials, ad campaigns, and buyback programs to convince itself its products are worth it.
Microsoft is selling Windows Phone short.
When Google belly flopped on the Nexus One, it didn’t stoop to new lows by relentlessly poking fun at the competition and publicly trying to convince itself its products were better. It went back to the drawing board and figured out ways to show offs its products high points with a little style and class. Look at the Nexus program now.
Rather than wasting money buying back customers’ old phones and trying to convince everyone Windows Phone is worth their time, the company should focus on the real problem: retail level sales associates. Get phones in all of their hands and let the platform speak for itself.
I recently had a change of heart towards Windows Phone, and I would personally recommend it to the right people who ask. But I can’t think of a single scenario where would I suggest one take up Microsoft’s buyback deal.