For months I’ve carried on under the guise of a Windows Phone user. My Twitter profile states it outright; longtime readers cite it in my defense whenever commenters call me on the carpet for “anti-Microsoft bias”; and my friends even unwittingly re-verify it when choosing random Facebook photos to tag me in.
But as I explained in last week’s episode of the Pocketnow Weekly podcast, my title of Windows Phone user has dwindled to a largely honorary one of late. The neverending stream of review devices from the Android, iOS, and wearable worlds has kept me outside the Microsoft ecosystem for literally months. While I’ve had no shortage of opinions on Microsoft’s moves in the space -opinions well expressed by Adam Lein in a recent editorial– I haven’t carried a Windows smartphone as a daily driver since my HTC One M8(W) review.
So now, on the eve of a holiday break, it’s time to come home. Not as a stunt or an “endurance test” or anything so banal; rather, I’m picking up Windows Phone again to learn something from it. In a time when some very high profile people are leaving the platform for greener pastures, there’s something valuable in returning to it to see just how much worse it really is (or isn’t). To be mawkish for a second: it’s something akin to restoring an old friendship or rekindling an old flame, to see if the chemistry is still there after a long series of dalliances elsewhere.
This may sound familiar to some. Last year I made a big fuss about spending New Years’s Eve with my 1020, and the year before that I took a lot of pride in announcing that the Lumia 920 was my new daily driver. But the former was all about the camera, and the latter was about a brand-new platform. The modern Windows Phone ecosystem is, if not shrinking, then at least growing in all the unexciting places. Without a true holiday flagship to give it a bombastic launch into 2015, it’s tough to get excited about Microsoft’s land of live tiles. So I’m using the lack of new hardware as an advantage. I’m sharpening my focus on the software to answer the question burning in many a contrarian mind: is Windows Phone still worth considering?
The hardware for this fact-finding mission is my trusty old Lumia 1020, purchased at full retail price from AT&T over a year ago and still reliably ticking along. I’ve stripped the Developers Preview to give myself the “bone-stock” retail experience, which means OS version 8.10.12393.890 paired with Lumia Cyan. The 1020 has also been wiped clean using the Lumia Recovery Tool and manually restored to eliminate any chance of importing bugs from a bad backup. Aside from the slightly dated hardware, this is as solid a Windows Phone experience as one could hope for. Yes, I considered switching to the One M8 for Windows for a more cutting-edge experience, but 1) we don’t have a Verizon demo SIM handy to test it with, and 2) there’s no way I’m shooting my holiday photos with anything less than a 41MP sensor. I didn’t spend all that money for nothing.
Also, I just miss my 1020. And I’m excited to come home.
So if you’ve been considering Windows Phone, considering leaving Windows Phone, or surprised Windows Phone is “still a thing,” drop me a line below and let me know what you’re hoping to learn from my week-plus of returning to my techno-roots. And keep in mind I’m hardly the first guy on the team to do this: the aforementioned Adam Lein returned to the Lumia 1020 not all that long ago when he decided it was the best smartphone around despite its age, and Adam Doud recently shared some thoughts from the other side of the argument, telling us why he’s still on sabbatical from Microsoft’s platform. Check those pieces out, then tune back in just before CES as I return with some conclusions from my quality time with Cortana!