With Microsoft surrendering the smart phone market to Android and iPhone, many Windows phone fans have turned the angst up to 11 and are wondering whether they should abandon the platform. Here are a few things to think about first.
As with the recent discussion about Surface 3, Surface Pro 3 and a presumed Surface Pro 4, this one is a personal decision, and I can certainly understand why even long-time Windows phone fans would be giving up hope given the news this past week. But from what I can see, there’s no reason for a knee-jerk move to Android or iOS, not yet. And despite the market share woes, Windows phones will be with us for some time to come.
A few thoughts.
Microsoft has committed to making smart phones. “I am committed to our first-party devices including phones,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote in his email to employees this past week. Yes, the firm no longer believes it can make money on smart phones, but it will continue to push its platform and its own phones.
Fewer models. One of my big complaints—and growing dissatisfactions—with Microsoft’s phone business this past year isn’t its over-hyped focus on the low-end—the firm has released a number of wonderful mid-range devices, too, including the Lumia 73x, 830 and 640 XL. It’s that it simply makes too many often-indistinguishable phone models. Microsoft has committed to trimming the number of models it sells. Finally. “We will run a more effective phone portfolio, with better products and speed to market,” Nadella wrote.
A more focused phone effort. Related to the last point, Microsoft will now focus its efforts on only three core markets: business customers, value phone buyers, and Windows fans. The latter group will be treated to “flagship devices they’ll love.” Not “a flagship device.” Multiple flagships.
Windows 10 is coming. There have been various rumors about what a Windows 10 Mobile-based Lumia (or Surface phone) flagship might look like, but you can expect higher-end processors, more RAM, more storage, higher-resolution screens, PureView-class cameras that are at least on par with those in the Lumia 1520, Icon and 930), and Windows 10-specific capabilities like Windows Hello sign-in.
Microsoft is going to try (again) to grow the ecosystem. Last year, Microsoft made Windows Phone OS available for free to handset makers, and while a number of them signed up, none have shipped any successful devices. Nadella says that Microsoft is no longer going to “grow a standalone phone business”—that’s where he conceded the market to Android and iPhone, by the way—but will instead initiate a new “strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem.” This is the vaguest of Nadella’s statements/promises, however. And there is no word on exactly how Microsoft plans to improve matters here.
There is no risk to using a Windows phone. “In the longer term, Microsoft devices will spark innovation, create new categories and generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly,” Nadella wrote. “Our reinvention will be centered on creating mobility of experiences across the entire device family including phones.” For you, this means that a short-term investment in a Windows phone won’t lead to a dead-end: if Microsoft does give up Windows phones, or if you do decide to later adopt Android or iPhone, all of your data and important Microsoft experiences will be there waiting for. That is, there’s no risk to using a Windows phone today at all.
The competition can only get better. While the latest releases of Android and iOS have improved matters greatly, I still feel—as do many Windows phone fans, I bet—that Microsoft’s platform is superior in many ways and preferable overall. But the competition will continue to improve and a year or two from now, they will perhaps offer a more compelling user experience that even Windows phone users can appreciate.
So what am I doing?
I’m sticking with Windows phone, of course. I love Windows phone, and I miss it when I pick up an iPhone or Android handset. For now, that means sticking with the current-generation flagships, such as they are—Lumia 930 or Lumia 1520, in my case—and looking forward to whatever flagship devices Microsoft ships this fall. And while I’m not as certain about Windows 10 Mobile on phones as I am about Windows 10 on PCs, that new system is getting better all the time now as well. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before I make the major leap of installing this system on my daily-use handset(s).
Should you stick with Windows Phone? That’s a personal decision, and one that should not be made lightly, and not because I or someone like me told you to do or not to do so. You may be driven by other factors—perhaps your wireless contract is up, for example, and your carrier doesn’t even offer a compelling Windows phone option—but be sure to make your decision with all the facts. Things aren’t going well, but this isn’t the end of the world. And Windows phones are not disappearing, not yet.