Kah Leong writes:
Steve must be horrified to read the title of this article. Having started the latest AAWP Insight #188 with my tweet and appealing for an article, he must be muttering to himself "This is how that guy, Kah Leong, rewards me for the reading his tweet on the podcast!" In fact, I have been mulling over this article for the past few weeks. It’s just that work has been busy and I had no time to sit down to flesh it out. The latest Insight and name-check prods me into action, so here goes!
More than two years ago, I penned the article 'Goodbye, beloved Symbian... Hello, Windows Phone!' (). In the article, I mentioned at that time Android did not have the sufficient pull factor for me to switch to it from Symbian. The combination of Nokia hardware and Microsoft software proved enticing enough for me to jump to Windows Phone. Now 2 years on, what has made me switch mobile OS again?
Push vs pull
It is not the pull factor of Android that prompted the switch. Not the promise of a gazillion apps or the lure of the biggest mobile OS in town. Having spent the last four years on two mobile OSes that are miniscule in market share and number of apps (not that the Windows Store is devoid of apps but I think we can agree that the breadth of apps is seriously lacking), those are not the major concerns for me. The truth is that the push factor has become larger and larger.
The earlier USPs of Windows Phone have dropped away one by one:
- Here Maps – yes, Steve, I hear your cries that Microsoft Maps is just as good or even better. Putting aside the updated mapping data and info, I’m sure many out there still regard Here as king.
- Camera – yes, there goes Steve again! I know 950/XL is your darling but I think you would also agree that the gap now is razor-thin. It’s more of a preference. I’m sure Samsung and LG are on par with the 950/XL in many cases. My Lumia 1520 is no slouch either but 'excellent smartphone camera' is no longer a term reserved for Lumias.
- Build quality – My 1520 is built impeccably despite the polycarbonate. Despite one cracked screen, it has soldiered on gamely in the last 2 years. My son’s 535 has just seen the ghost despite being only 1 year old. The 950 and 950XL are just not in the same league in terms of build.
- Software – while W10M is now stable and looks more modern and matured, it seems to have lost its initial freshness and charm. I can’t really put my finger on it but W10M is not that much different from the other two mobile OS – pull-down notifications, hamburger menus, etc. Live Tiles is the saving grace of W10M – some didn’t like the constant animating tiles but I like the way it presents pertinent info smartly and quickly.
- Services – while I can understand Satya Nadella’s strategy of offering Microsoft services on other platforms, the company after all has software and services in its DNA. What does it say about its commitment to its own mobile platform that there is nothing unique on W10M – no extra features, or more pretty or easier to use, W10M didn’t get it first, etc. So what it is so special about Windows 10 Mobile then?
Besides the disappearing USPs, W10M suffers from other pains too:
- Hardware – it’s difficult to find! Microsoft is not helping when it still lists the Lumia 950 at S$898 and 950XL at S$998 (roughly half those numbers to get the pound equivalent). The Galaxy S6 can be had for S$698, so go figure… And the quality of Microsoft-made Lumias are just a disappointment, to say the least, in my opinion.
- Accessories – because Microsoft now refuses to be in the consumer market, where can I get my covers, cases and batteries? I ordered my Lumia 1520 case directly from a China manufacturer. I use a tempered screen protector for my screen as I have cracked it once, and again I have to really look through an online seller’s catalogue to make sure I get the right one.
I am sure readers agree that while a Lumia has given many hours of joy, there have also been many times that you would like to fling your Lumia against the wall out of hair-tearing frustration.
I do love the many things that my Lumia 1520 offers:
- Monstrous screen that is a joy for media consumption. It is also really readable in bright sunlight.
- The heft and solid feel of the build.
- The Live tiles and Start screen customisability
- Photographic prowess
- Beautiful and useful 3rd-party apps – 6tag, Podcast Lounge, Aeries, Poki, Feedlab etc. Thanks to all the developers for helping the users to stay connected to many services and being productive.
Alas the time has come. I have pre-ordered a black Galaxy Note 7 with my operator but I’m keeping my 1520. The latter will no longer be my daily driver – it has started to show some signs of age and it’s no longer rock solid in daily functionality. At times, it will connect a call but neither party can hear each other. I just need to restart my phone more times now. The question I asked myself is should I continue with Windows 10 Mobile hardware?
After some hard-heading thinking with reasons that you can read from above (but those are certainly not exhaustive), I decided that the time has come to go Android. This is definitely not about the app gap. Having spent 2 years on Symbian and another 2 years on Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile, the gazillion apps on the Play Store are not a big pull factor.
The Note 7 is a pretty easy pick for me. No, Chinese manufacturers do not appeal to me, despite the lower price. And Nexus is hard to purchase over here – anyway, the 6P is a Huawei product and that is not for me. The Note 7’s 5.7” screen is not too much of a compromise, size wise, and the IP68 rating is a strong plus.
I will still continue to keep an eye on W10M development as I can still see the unfulfilled potential that it has. The Insiders Programme has been a fantastic ride and it has generally always been, even on 'Fast Ring'. Even Google has jumped onto the bandwagon with this public testing idea. However, Windows 10 Mobile is still playing catch-up to Android and iOS in some ways.
As I asked in the tweet that Steve used in the Insight podcast, can Windows 10 Mobile still thrive without the recognition that being in the consumer markets would bring? Is Microsoft hoping that by wrapping up the enterprise market, it could then open up the consumer market again? I am not so optimistic. While the HP Elite X3 looks like a great device, I am not sure many consumers would find it a sexy smartphone to flaunt to their friends. In addition, Microsoft has no killer USP as of now. I can find Cortana and Office on Android and iOS and they work just as well.
With both Android and iOS inching onto enterprise turf, the focus on the enterprise market may turn out to be a decision that Microsoft rues.