Microsoft, don’t forget flagships while focusing on low-end


Microsoft spoke recently about their future plans, stating that they planned to continue the Nokia tradition of focusing on low-end smartphones for emerging markets. After all, there are a lot more people out there NOT using smartphones than there are using them. But when one hears something like that, one might become concerned. Does a focus on low-end devices mean a lack of focus on flagship devices? I for one sure as heck don’t think so.

Flagships and other higher-end devices are just as important to a product line up as low end emerging market type smartphones. Windows Phone in particular needs to remember the needs of the few as well as the needs for the many. If Nokiasoft plans to pump cheap phone after cheap phone out to the masses at the expense of the 41 megapixel craving population, there are a lot of users out there who might start to feel a little lonely. For now, we’re good. The Lumia 1020 only just surfaced (see what I did there?) a couple of months ago. So if the plan here is to spend the next nine months pumping out low end phones, it’s all good. The 1020 will keep the fires of desire burning for at least that long.

521-tmoBigger is not necessarily better

Of course one great advantage to Windows Phone is, it doesn’t require the latest and greatest hardware to bring a top notch experience. This makes phones such as the Home Shopping Network’s Lumia 520 super cheap and super available. The experience on the phone is nothing short of outstanding if you consider the same experience versus comparable Android or even iOS hardware. Show me a $99 off-contract Android or iOS phone that offers anything close to what the Lumia 520 offers.

Being able to compromise on hardware can allow Microsoft to bring even more quality features to a category of phones that isn’t generally renowned for quality features. A smartphone camera with flash for example. The Lumia 520 left that particular feature out, but a flash on a budget smartphone camera can be a huge add-on. A larger battery would also be an exceptional feature on a lower end phone. Many of the markets that these phones are being manufactured for don’t necessarily have reliable or abundant power. The less one has to charge, the very, very,very much better.

The big guy helps the little guy

Plus, optimizations developed for any kind of phone can be used across all phones on the platform. Developing software optimizations that allow a flagship phone to run for 24 hours on a charge can be used on low-end, less powerful hardware for 48 or 72 hours, in theory. So, even if the strategy is primarily on low-end devices for emerging markets, high end hardware development is just as relevant.

520_plus1020Let’s also not forget Windows Phone is a distant third behind the number one and two ponies. Flagships will help bring recognition to the platform. After all, the TV spots you see aren’t for the Lumia 520, they’re for the 1020. Making Windows Phone a household name in the developed countries is just as important as in the developing countries. People still want the latest and greatest and if Windows Phone ignores the high end crowd, it’s just as much of a death warrant as ignoring the low-end crowd.

Higher end phones also continue to drive innovation on the platform. Bigger and better processors and batteries, and cameras contirbute to the lower-end tech as well. New innovations today become tomorrow’s hardware standards. I for one can’t wait until the 41 megapixel sensor becomes the standard, both in phones and in traditional cameras for that matter.

Bring smooth to the table

So it’s all fine and good that Microsoft wants to focus on the lower end of the spectrum. It’s perfectly fine. There is a vast market out there just waiting for someone to offer them a solid piece of hardware as what is quite likely to be their very first computing device.  It needs to be cheap and durable and long lasting. Windows Phone can add “smooth”to that equation.

But there is another large market out there that is also looking for something different. These folks are looking for something powerful, fast, smooth and innovative. They’re looking for something different than all the fruits and bots out there. They want a killer camera, and great software. Windows Phone can provide that experience as well, as long as the flagship doesn’t get left behind in the wake of the emerging market.


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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!