Editors Note: This article was written by Scott Knoblock one of my followers on Twitter. We were having a discussion about Windows mobile and the recent news about the Lumia line at Microsoft likely being discontinued. I asked him if he would like to express his views on the entire Windows mobile arc of existence and he kindly agreed. I have not edited this article extensively because I want it to really capture the perspective of a fan of the platform because these same things are happening to fans of Windows mobile all around the world.
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a Microsoft fan to the bone. I have always enjoyed using Windows desktops/laptops and software. Personally, I am always trying to root for them in my own little way, hoping they kick Apple and especially Google hardware and software offerings to the curb. I have a Microsoft Surface 2 (dreaming of owning a Surface Pro 4). I had a Microsoft Band 1, and now have a Microsoft Band 2 on my wrist. I make use of all the Microsoft software they have to offer, that being Office, Skype, OneDrive, Outlook, Bing, MSN, Groove Music, etc. etc…. I then also try to be as fluent as I can in learning their software (how it works, tips and tricks, know as many keyboard shortcuts as possible….). I call myself an “advanced home user.” I am not an IT expert, I do not have a degree (at all… sad face; well I do have an AA “General Studies” at least) of a technology sort. I think I just know my way well around Windows for the most part. But I have never learned to code, I do not know how to build a network, I do not know the ins and outs of many C: prompt commands. I do enjoy following all the latest technology news. I keep abreast of what new updates to OS’s are out there, and what new hardware offerings are coming. I try to learn all the tips and tricks of the smartphone I have that others, every-day casual users, might not really think of learning, or wanting to know of. I do consider myself a power-user of mobile devices, at the least.
I have been using Microsoft’s offerings of mobile devices and technology since as far as I can remember, 1997. I can think back to when I had that laptop-sized HP Jornada, I believe with an 11-inch screen, that ran Windows CE. I have had HP Pocket PCs and iPaqs running Windows CE 5.0. I used a HTC Touch Pro, HTC Touch Pro 2 with its TouchFLO interface in front of Windows Phone 6.x. I remember getting so frustrated with my HTC Touch Pro 2, and how laggy, unresponsive, and slow it was. I remember thinking back then, “goodness Microsoft sucks!” Why aren’t they doing anything like iPhone? Yet I did not waver from Microsoft Windows Mobile. Then came Windows Phone 7. I was hooked and excited. I thought it was fresh, totally different, and very sleek. Live Tiles made sense to me. I liked that Microsoft made a point of getting away from icons, how Android and iOS were the same in that respect. I really liked the “Smoked by Windows Phone” campaign concept Ben Rudolph had going, and how he highlighted how Windows Phone would get things done faster and more straightforward on a phone. My first experience with Windows Phone was with an HTC Arrive, for about two years, and then a HTC 8XT. As you might notice, all HTC phone devices, all Sprint devices. I have been with Sprint since 1997, they are the only carrier I have ever subscribed to and thus I have never switched carriers. Consider me a very brand-loyal person. When I pick a brand, until they really rub me the wrong way, I try to stick with them. This includes Microsoft. So, about a year ago, I got myself a Lumia 635 on Sprint. I thought it was a ever-so-slight step back in specs from my HTC 8XT, but I wanted to be as pure Microsoft as I could. Anyway, I thought Windows Phone 7 was neat. I thought Windows Phone 8 was even better, a continual step in the right direction. Windows 10 Mobile…. not so good.
Despite Microsoft’s miniscule fraction of the mobile market, I actually felt special being part of that fraction. At one time, everybody had a Blackberry. Now, everybody has an iPhone. Everybody else has an Android. All this time, I had Windows Phone and, aside from not having a bigger screen to work with, I did not mind one bit. I enjoyed using it. I felt my little special for being different. Heck, for about a year now, I have been tethering an older iPod Touch to my Lumia 635, and my app gap was now at least covered, while still sticking with Windows Phone. Forward to today, and Windows 10 Mobile is an afterthought, for now.
Here is my list of what I believe is completely messed up with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. Each of my points are very common-knowledge to somebody who follows Windows Mobile, nothing new or anything of a ground-breaking complaint. However, with as pro-Microsoft as I may be, these problems are just there, and I wish Microsoft would just fix them:
- No one flagship device, spread across all carriers, and worldwide. Think iPhone. All Apple does is just that: iPhone. There is the slight variant of a “+”, and they tried a “c”. They have the SE, but even that is flagship specs inside. But through all this, they did not waver into a dozen different incarnations (520, 620, 720, etc. etc…). I guess the only downside to doing this is you would be somewhat skimming the 3rd party hardware makers of WM (HP, Acer, etc…). People would want that pure flagship, and skip over the 3rd parties. Still, what iPhone does in respect to its hardware offerings, just works! They give you the best of what they got, and nothing else. I can see the argument of this not catering to the low-range and mid-range, cheaper smartphone users. Yet, who is #1? And who isn’t buying the high-end iPhone anyway?
- In some ways, Windows 7.x and Windows 8.x actually were better than Windows 10.x. It seems with Windows 10 Mobile, a few things look a little worse visually than before, and some things are just flat out backwards to me. I can understand them wanting to have aesthetically similar visuals of Windows 10 across desktop, tablet, and smartphone. I’m all for it. However, on Windows 10 Mobile, some layouts and visuals are just not as good as it used to be. From a functional standpoint, they have taken away features unique to Windows Phone. For example, they have just about taken away all the true value of the People Hub and Picture Hub (are they even there anymore, any hubs at all? do they still call it that?).
- I was never given the chance to truly appreciate thee very best of Windows Mobile. Never. I never had my hands around any Lumia 900, 920,930, Icon, 1020, nor 950. The best that I could get was the mid-range. In other words, I never got to truly see Windows Mobile in all its glory, at its fullest potential, top of the line hardware specs, and then see if I still wanted to leave it. As mentioned in point 1, Microsoft needs JUST ONE flagship, and then spread it everywhere. Maybe this is within the carrier’s doing rather than Microsoft’s, with carriers being unfavorable towards Windows Phone offerings on their network. It’s a very bad lose/lose circle: carriers aren’t carrying Windows Mobile / Windows Mobile isn’t selling.
- My Lumia 635 is just barely, barely usable with Windows 10 Mobile. Sure I could recover back to Windows Phone 8.x and it would work a little better. However, I felt I was too invested in some of what Windows 10 Mobile had to offer to go back. I also, like other tech peeps, want the best and newest, and that would be Windows 10. At the same time, using Windows 10 Mobile was a constant struggle. CONSTANT. Use Facebook app, use it for a while then…… crash. Use Windows Central app…crash. Use Microsoft Edge browser…… crash. Of all things, with the persistent app gap Windows 10 Mobile is plagued with, the least Microsoft has got to get right is a working Edge browser, for that is all we are left with, being with no app available. And then, the worst part of my phone lately, Bing, aka my default hardware button search, does not even want to work properly. It crashes like 7 out of 10 times using it. Perhaps the limited 512 MB RAM is the culprit to this. Still, I could not get over how, of all things that would crash on Windows Mobile, Microsoft’s own apps weren’t even working on Windows 10 Mobile. How do they expect me to love them?
- Day after day, I could not stand the stories of such and such Microsoft app having a fresh new update….. on iOS!!! Or just as bad, a brand new app from Microsoft being introduced…. on iOS!!?!?! Or even Droid?!?! Microsoft is so @$$-backwards in that respect. How do you root for your team, when the managers of the team aren’t even supporting its own players? Microsoft is digging its own hole deeper into the grave with such moves. I understand you have to go where the users are, where the money is. Nobody is using Windows Mobile, so why develop for them? But you’re certainly not helping the situation either. This app method really gets to me.
- To go along with number 5 above, I also can’t stand reading and hearing about app updates being available for iOS and Droid. No Windows Mobile update in sight. Any and almost all major apps, they are updated on iOS first. Droid second. Windows Mobile… I don’t even think it could be placed 3rd. It is just distant, if at all for some apps.
- Along with 5 and 6 above, the app gap. ‘nuff said.
- The overall handling of Windows 10 Mobile rollout has been a disaster. It was not ready, and it still is just not prime-time ready. I read online story after story, tweets, and tidbits about the bugs with it. It came out as a very half-baked product. It has definitely gotten better over time, and I have (wavering) faith and confidence that it will only get better. As I said, I am Microsoft to the bone, and thus I am still rooting for it to continually improve. However, from the beginning, this W10M experience (of which I barely had) has been incredibly bad, and has been terribly executed. A lasting image: I remember when Microsoft, in all its glory, “pushed the button” that signaled the beginning of the Windows 10 Mobile rollout. On somebody’s Twitter account, I believe it was Joe Belfiore’s, a picture of champagne bottles. Then, a picture was posted of the big wigs, the people who were at the helm of the Windows 10 Mobile release, celebrating with the champagne, all in celebration of Windows 10 Mobile arriving. All I could think was, “Sure, be happy, congratulations. This is a milestone. Have a small gathering, pat each other on the backs and eat some cake and ice cream. But for crying out loud, BEAT DROID AND BEAT APPLE, MAKE A DENT IN THE SHARE OF MOBILE MARKETPLACE… MAKE THAT ACCOMPLISHMENT FIRST….. then and only then pop some champagne and really celebrate.”
I am now using an iPhone 6S Plus. And I really, really, really like it. Through iPhone’s 9 years of existence and evolution, this is my first iPhone ever. Have I really held out that long to get my hands on pure hardware goodness? It is great! Its OS is just smooth. The screen is nice and huge. No more freezes, no more crashes, no more errors. I have ALL the useful apps I need, that I NEVER had with Windows Mobile. Why would I go back now?
I have however even outfitted my iPhone with Microsoft apps, front and center. I use Outlook, Bing, OneDrive, OneNote, Microsoft Health, Groove, and MSN News, Sports, Weather. If it’s a Microsoft app, I’ll be using it first before the similar Apple apps. Despite now being on an iPhone, I am still trying to stay invested in all things Microsoft. Why? I don’t really know, I just am.
Despite all this complaining, despite me now liking my iPhone so much, the day I hear I have a chance to get my hands on the new Windows 10 (by then, maybe 11) Mobile Surface Phone, I will be seriously trying to get it. I want to believe that Microsoft will get it right, eventually. I want to have faith that they will emerge from this mess successfully. I believe in its UWP concept, the use of Continuum, and making all variants of Windows (desktop, tablet, mobile) as one. They have some great ideas. And then they have poor execution.
So now where do we stand? Apparently, there is hardly any marketing support for the 950/950XL “flagship”. I continually hear Lumia is not going to be made (at all?) for the remainder of 2016. Maybe they have a plan to kill the Lumia line altogether, and start everything with a new name. I think we are all back to square one, back to the drawing board. Again. As I so titled this rant, I have separated from Windows Mobile. This is not a divorce, it is a separation for now. I’ll come back, one day. Here’s hoping one day Windows 11 Mobile, with a stellar flagship Surface Phone that I CAN GET ON SPRINT, one day, gets it right.