The death of the Windows Phone is often attributed to Android’s market dominance. But is that really true?
*cue dramatic music*
I’ve had my fair share of phones. My favoured OS had always been Android but when the Lumia 800 came out in 2011, I decided to take the plunge. The phone itself had a great build. My previous handset was a Nexus One which had been my favourite phone at the time. The trackball was a nice quirk and an overall improvement on the abominable HTC Wildfire.
With a new OS came new adjustments. The Lumia 800 was one of the first Nokia Windows phones. It was Ballmer’s attempt at carving a way through the market, dominated by Android and iOS. The partnership with Nokia was a logical move. Windows needed a manufacturer with a strong history in the market and Nokia needed an opportunity to rejuvenate itself after a string of poor Symbian-based phones.
The basics were done well on the 800. It came with an 8-megapixel rear camera, autofocus Carl Zeiss optics, and 720p video capture. The battery life was great (even greater considering I didn’t use it for much as I’ll explain later.) The internal storage was also a bonus at 16GB – more than I had any use for besides storing loads of music and photos. But that’s where the pleasantries ended.
Coming into the mobile party late without bringing any refreshments meant they had to fashion things together quickly or find themselves ostracised. Many Android/iOS apps weren’t transferrable to Windows Phone and the alternatives weren’t all that great. The Foursquare substitute was alright but not a patch on the original. The games – which should have been top-notch given Microsoft’s stature in that market – were lacking in quality and diversity.
Then the annoying bombshell. The phone I had taken out on a 24-month contract wasn’t compatible with the new OS upgrade a year later. It came with 7.5 but apart from a minor iteration to 7.8 (which just copied the cosmetic changes from 8) the train stopped there. I was stuck with a phone I didn’t like anymore with no way of changing. The advantage of an Android was the possibility of using a mod like Cyanogen. Ironically, the Lumia 800 shared something with the iPhone in that regard.
The better apps never came. By Autumn 2012, WP8 was released in competition with Android’s Jelly Bean 4.2 and iOS 6. Who am I kidding, there was no competition. Microsoft did little to put up a fight against the Big Two. With a mediocre app selection, the gulf between them grew larger. Q1 2013 saw their market share increase and cement their place as the third-largest mobile operating system by usage ahead of Blackberry. But a year later, it had dropped by 2.7%. I had already changed my phone by then.
It was another example of a major corporation looking at the market and assuming their clout could get them in and keep them stable. They were Microsoft. They owned the personal computer market. Why couldn’t they make it with mobiles?
They neither had the customisation nor the style to compete. The minimal OS design was quaint but nothing to write home about. The app situation was the real killer. The problem with the statement “Android killed Windows Phone” is it gives the notion WP was a threat at all. Android concentrated on improving their product with each iteration. So did iOS. WP didn’t and died of dehydration.
Had they focussed on improving their computer OS’s (because nobody has really liked or cared about any since XP), they might not have wasted so much time and money. But I did have some fond memories. Zune was a great alternative to iTunes and I enjoyed listening to music on the Lumia 800. And it took great photos. Just a shame there wasn’t anything more.