Case study: AT&T retail still downplaying Windows Phone

It's a well known fact that retailers are a bit prone to downplaying Windows Phone in favor of other mobile OS's, especially Android. We also know we're preaching to the choir about this since it seems most of you have legit stories of the same nature when walking into any of the big carrier's stores.

Still, it's also a bit fun to drive the point home, especially in audio format.

The embedded audio clip above comes from the fine chaps at the Windows Phone Dev Podcast, Ryan and Travis Lowdermilk, who recently called up a certain retailer to ask about "smartphones". The goal was to act like a customer who is unfamiliar with the genre, leaving the talking up to the agent to see where they go when given a long leash. No less than three times was this representative given an opportunity to mention Windows Phone or say anything positive and while we won't ruin it for you, lets just say it's what you might have expected after all those other stories you've heard.


Now perhaps this was just an isolated case or the next customer she helped she gushed enthusiastically about Windows Phone, but we're guessing probably not. Needless to say, Microsoft and Windows Phone still have an image and message problem. But between Mango, Nokia and we think the HTC Titan launch on AT&T, perhaps some karma will be coming to our beleaguered OS. Fingers crossed.

Listen to the entire episode of the Windows Phone Dev Podcast right here. And make sure to tune in weekly to the live show as it'll give you a different perspective on the Windows Phone developer life.


Reader comments

Case study: AT&T retail still downplaying Windows Phone


Screw you carriers......dont even know anything about the damn windows phone i called tmobile today and they told me o well your windows phone should have an app kill application.......everyone i talk to about my windows phone says whaaaat?? thats pretty sick oo thats cool man that sounds really awesome but when the carriers talk about them ur like wtf? gimme an apple...... TRAIN UR DARN EMPLOYEES ON ALL OF THE PRODUCTS YOU SELL......... WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?

So, so sad......really proves a point that you can work for these companies and all a person really needs is just to have a pulse.  It literally sounds like a F*&$ing chimpanzee that is given a banana and is just there to push buttons.  This woman has no idea about the operating system, the network, or the actual hardware.  It's so unfortunate that all someone has to is say "LTE" and people are on board. 
I completely understand that Android basically rules the world right now but I had so many die hard android drone friends look at my Windows Phone this evening that were captivated by it.   If Windows phone legitametly had a chance marketing-wise I think it would make a major impact on the mobile market. 

You're being unfair. Android current offerings are clearly superior. Guys, I love Windows Phone, but come on, you're day dreaming if you think the Focus is competitive with the newests Androids and the iPhone (THE SOFTWARE IS*, the hardware is not even close).
* Not the market, because it's way behind, and in all seriousness the only good plaform for gaming is iOS.

@ augstofrete The Focus? Look if you're going to troll, at least learn what's what. The Focus S just came out and is the same hardware as the freaking Galaxy SII. The Focus Flash is also a Super AMOLED device that has received great reviews.

Furthermore, they're launching the HTC Titan with an 8MP camera, 1.5GHz CPU, front-facing camera and a massive 4.7" Super LCD screen this weekend.

So what the hell are you talking about again? Galaxy SII is good enough for Android but not makes Windows Phone uncompetitive? Get the fu...

Would be a great response if it were true. The Focus S is still just a single core device (while the Galaxy S II is dual core). Not that Windows needs a dual core... I have a Focus and love it. I would only upgrade to a newer Windows phone for better camera and faster Internet.

Windows phones are heavily coded for hardware acceleration (graphics processing unit) more so than other handset makers. All next gen windows phones have a newer GPU and even the 1ghz radar outperforms the previous generation phones by 30% HTC titan in some benchmarks %60, so there isn't a need for dual core processors, it's a waste and power drain. When you have an OS designed to have most of the heavy loading on the GPU..

It's amazing that when you go into a store like I did Sprint a couple days ago asking about WP, The lady asked me why do I want a WP? I told her to tell me why she thinks WP is not a good selection and she refered to WM6.5. This is sad as I told the Sprint employee that WP is not WM6.5. She could not elaborate any further so the saying is Practice what you Preach? Not at Sprint........

I love my WP but come on, they named it "Windows Phone", are people really surprised that people still think of Windows Mobile when they hear the name? They couldn't have come up with a more generic name if they tried!

@Daniel Rubino It's not the same hardware. Only the screen and the design of the chassis are equal. Both the CPU and the GPU are a joke conpared to the dual core A9 1.2 GHz affair of the SGS II and its Mali-400 GPU.

Windows Phone is really behind the curve. For instance, gaming wise it is miles behind IOS and Android, amd part of this is because of lackluster hardware.

Also, the SGS II was launched centuries ago. The new wave of Android devices now come with 720p screens, look at the HTC Resound or Galaxy Nexus, so not even the screen is competitive. Also, the new Android phones are LTE. Regarding the iPhone it has a dual core A9 at 800 MHz and the best GPU on any smartphone. Not to mention the retina display is only bested by the Resound and matched by the Nexus.

I think it was plenty fair, especially with the new WPs already launched. They are not moto razr, but they can certainly compete with the GSII.
The rep was also given a clear opportunity to, at the very least, mention WPs when asked about sending excel files.
She failed miserably. Plain and simple.

I made a long post about the hardware crap somewhere here but I will just do a digest version. Hardware is only one part of what makes a phone great. You don't need dual or quad-core processors to compete. If the OS does not requrie it, WHO CARES. Android fanbots opps I mean fanboys will as you specs first especially processor. Well maybe its because the OS needs it because its so bloated and inefficient? Sorry, I make no apologies that the current crop of Windows Phones don't have mulit-core processors. Apple finally jumped on the dual-core bandwagon with the 4S. Windows Phone 7 and Blackberrys due fine with their single-core processors. The only drawback I can think of is gaming, I'm not a gamer so I'll let those in the know comment. Seriously, quit worrying about the number of cores, look at the overall experience, it's all good.

It may not be fair but just listen to any carrier commercial and all you hear is 4G this and now dual-core that. Marketing people use simple bullet points, and "well it has a better UI design than the other OSes" doesn't fit into a nice simple bullet point.
Face it, WP is still playing catch-up with hardware, and admitting it is a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

Sry the Dell Venue Pro screms Galaxy 2, iphone 4/4s, blackberries, and any other ones out there. Simply georgous!

You're wrong. I'm sorry. You clearly don't understand a shit about hardware or software development. There's a lot of common day task that are hilariously slow compared to devices with faster processors, including basic stuff, like web rendering. There's not a single argument against better hardware, you're merely defending it because your favorite platform is lackluster on this department. That's it.

I really like Windows Phone 7, hell, I've for one device that I don't even use as my daily phone just because I like it (Omnia 7), but I wouldn't there to recommend to any friend of mine a WP7 device over an Android or iOD device, at least not yet.

Messed up! I think it´s microsoft´s fault in some ways. They should create some kind of program that is aimed at making those sales representatives more knowledgable about WP7. I mean think about it, even if you don´t like an os or a specific phone but if you know about it and a customer specifically asks you for information about it, you will tell him what you know. It´s your job. So I think that Microsoft should really tryna get these people to familiarize themselves with the os.

Microsoft does have a program in place called "Expert Zone." It offers store employees training as well as the opportunity to get MS products at a reduced price and also even win some cool stuff. The problem is that the employees of these stores aren't always interested in what they're selling. And that's my experience. A lot of these stores are looking for someone who can sell stuff and not someone who loves the product. Right now, it's showing.

this is good news for me.  wp7 samsungs are gonna go on 0.01 cent deal on black friday.  get your fucking shitty iphones and androids. 

That's what I say! However, I think WP needs to get into double-digit market share at some point. Otherwise we won't even have penny phones to choose from anymore...

microsoft will do just fine with  slow crawl to the top.  the xbox started out that way and now its better than sony.  theyre backed by gaming divisions, entertainment and most importantly the PC, so theyre not going to end up like Palm or blackberry.

I have been talking to AT&T representatives all night, and I have realized that they are not only misinformed about WP but about every other OS. Today I heard one guy go on and on about the dual core 1ghz processor and 5mp ffc with 4g iphone 4s (all wrong) and 4 in screen on the Galaxy S II (wrong again) And how the only difference between the Focus and Focus S have only one difference and that is the Software. Today I realized that even though we are all incredibly biased, we are all better cell phone representatives than they are. So, everyone. The iPhone seems to be sold off of false promises, and Android and WP7 are being shot down by lies. Plus has anyone noticed that you can not right a review about the iPhone on AT&T's website? We should bring this up more to the representatives. Because they don't seem to notice it either.

I actually had an ok experience at an ATT store yesterday. I went in to I could see the phones up close. I went to the Samsung table and started playing with the focus flash. The store associate walked up to me and lead me to the windows phone table and said "all the windows phone are lined up here." I started looking at the focus s and he said a new HTC with an ever bigger screen is coming out soon." Then I asked him when I'd be eligible to upgrade my phone. I thanked him for showing me the phones and walked out with a generally ok experience.

That's a good point. A lot of representatives have no idea about the phones they sell, but they know which ones will give them a good commission and which ones they use personally. Every once in a while there's a good rep who knows about phones that aren't the iPhone. I told my dad to go into an AT&T store a couple months ago because he wanted to get into the smartphone game. I told him to play with the iPhone and the WP7 handsets. He actually came out with the LG Optimus. I figured for sure the sales rep would've pushed the fruit, but it sounded like he/she was pretty knowledgeable about other platforms.
Sometimes you get lucky and have a good rep.

While I certainly give MS props for making a clean, tight OS the rest of the hardware is not keeping up.  For example, let's run a HTC Titan at 4.7", WVGA (800x480) against the Galaxy Nexus (4.65", 1280x720 HD display).  Also the limited memory of all the WP7 phones saying we can rely on the cloud (when all the carriers are going to tiered data).  Or how about that Focus S (4.3" Super Amoled 800x480) against the HTC Rezound (1280x720 HD and LTE).  Low storage and lower res displays is something really noticeable on side by side comparisons.  And there are NO COMPETITIVE phones on Verizon (Largest carrier in the US).  The next WP7 phone better have LTE or it's not going to sell, period.  Verizon is actually getting their LTE rollout faster than they thought and pretty soon all their phones will be LTE (including the next release of the iPhone).  The 2nd gen LTE phones are going to be killer in all price ranges and Verizon will have practically their entire network covered by LTE by end of 2013.  Also, they're saying they're going to have Voice over LTE soon.  And while people complain about two much choice in Android I don't think there is any such thing.

Sure, to us, Windows Phones may not be up to the bleeding edge with their specs, but you have to realize not every person that walks into a carrier is as knowledgable or passionate about hardware. I know a girl that just upgraded to some Android phone because the associate just told her to get it.
Case in point, the people I know that have the Trophy on Verizon absolutely LOVE it. Would it be my WP7 of choice? No, but that doesn't make the phone inherently bad. I do think that the OEMs need to put some oomph in their hardware, but you talk to the average user and they probably don't care about resolution or processors, let alone know what any of it means.

A friend of mine was in a Rogers store yesterday and was told that Windows Phone sucks. He was told he couldn't't buy the Focus despite it being in the display. It seems none of the sales people actually know anything about WP7 :(

I live in the UK and it's the exact same problem. It's actually the main reason why I refuse to work in retail because so many sales reps everywhere you go are dishonest or highly ignorant and just want to hit their targets so they gain more commision.

When this occured last year I could totally understand because the OS and the hardware was not that great, but now there is no excuse.

Microsoft said they would be working with HTC to train sales staff and improve the in-store experience. Have they already started?

In Europe Nokia's marketing strategy is said to be working nicely so maybe one of the reasons sales reps are downplaying Windows Phones is because Android, iPhones and BB are being pushed more.

I just replaced my Captivate android with a Focus Flash WP7....first the ATT guy had a baffled look on his face when I said that I wanted a WP7 phone to replace my current android because android is annoying me. But then just before he rang up my purchase, he made one attempt to steer me to an android for the same price.

I just laughed in amazement and said NO I am not interested in another android because android makes me crazy!

ps - they didn't have one WP7 phone on display, i had to ask if they had any!

I am getting sick of some of the hardware arguments... Screen resolution, ok, sure. I'd love to be able to watch the 720p video I record on my HD7 IN 720p on my HD7. But all this no Dual-Core crap? WP OS doesn't NEED dual core to run just as smoothly if not more so than android or ios because it's programmed more efficiently. You don't need a laptop with 8gb of RAM if the only online game you play is Farmville! Why would I want some over locked chip draining my battery with unused power and no discernable boost in performance?! Also, for the record, LTE support would be nice for those who have coverage, (I don't) but I think it's wise to hold off in favor of more power-efficient solutions for the sake of user experience, which is WP7s greatest asset. Let's face it: WP7s strongest potential market is 1st-time smartphone buyers. When I got my HD7 (1st smartphone) I was SHOCKED by how quickly I could burn thru my battery, until a BB owner told my my phone lasts more than twice as long as his.

I feel the same way. I was showing my phone compared to my coworker's Evo, and he remarked how Android would be that smooth on the better hardware like my phone. He was shocked to find out that hardware-wise, our phones are nearly identical and yet mine performed so much better than his.

One of us with some free time should walk into Best Buy wearing a blue shirt, hang out in the mobile phone dept, and start fielding questions from the masses.

If the employees would use the phone for 2 weeks they would understand why we love the phone. It is the experience... I just bought an Xbox and when the dashboard update comes out I will be set... Who would have thought Microsoft would come up with a beautiful system...

As a former member of the Palm Pre user community, I'm used to this kind of issue. Back when the Pre was a legitimate smartphone, I would wow people with its amazing multitasking, but they had never heard of it. That was due to a combination of poor/no marketing and poor brand awareness by sales representatives. This seems to be the same problem. I have seen a bunch of ads for the Radar on TMobile the last few weeks, but that's it. I definitely won't be going into a Sprint store any time soon, so I don't know what their reps are like anymore.
However, we need to keep in mind that a lot of these reps are younger kids who are not planning on making a career of this. They may not be that invested in learning the phones and operating systems, so they go with what they've sold in the past and what people seem to be asking for. Not to mention these kids get paid commission. I don't know what Microsoft pays, but I've heard that the iPhone and Android phones have a pretty good commission.
Seems like it boils down to better training. You can't make the salespeople want to do a better job, but you can give them the tools and hope they do.

hahahah this is the funniest thing ever! i always wanted to do something like this at a local rogers store here in canada. i doubt they've heard of windows phone at all

I think she knew about them but has been given a prime directive to push LTE, even though its not available in all areas yet, just like every other carrier does....evo4g first day owner here. If WP7 had a LTE phone she would be pushing that as well. I want a WP7 phone so bad I can taste it but what holds me back is...STORAGE!
I have 20gb of music now on my Zune and even if I went through and tried to wittle it down i figured I would have no room left for apps. Plus I'm on Sprint with unlimited data, which I dont think will be there when they release thier new LTE service.
One thing I find very hilarious is that on ATT website they say iphone 4s is 4g but she said it was only 3g....so stupid.
And before you go into the cloud arguement vs storage let me remind you that i listen to music in gym where signal is bad and if i had a samsung focus s i wouldnt be able to use cloud because of data costs. So, if I get a SFS on ATT it has to be for apps only really which sucks ass. MS has forgotten about all the Zuners who use thier service and have a library they want to take with them.

Also, the Sammy focus s is listed as a 4g device as well...

Exactly. That's pretty much the gist of what I came by to say.
I'm not refuting that WP7 gets less than a fair shake generally at these carrier stores (personal experience), but this particular call, I think this lady probably had a memo passed on to her to just push LTE like mad. And I think the fact that she shied away from even mentioning the iPhone kind of makes the point.
She also probably didn't know much about the WP7 phone and figured this guy was totally new so she went ahead and mentioned the big three before being cajoled into mentioning WP7 phones, that is sad though.
About the storage space, I'm with you 100%. I hate it moreso because it's one thing that MS has no restrictions on, going up, that is. The resolution and single core CPU, well, that's a WP7 restriction for now, and I really don't give half a rat's ass about the cores since MS kept their priorities straight and made the system optimized to the point more power isn't required, I'd rather have the battery life over bragging rights.
But the storage thing. WTH? Yeah, cloud this and cloud that. The cloud is a viable solution hence the people that are ok with that should go for it, why the hell can't they have a second SKU for at least their top of the line models with double the current 16GB max? People who want it will pony up the cash, make the difference enough to cover extra costs in manufacturing, stocking etc etc, at least give people the option.
WP7 is the current alternative for dedicated Zune players. Make it so. I'd love to see a Zune inspired WP7 set for the audiophiles, 32 and 64GB, distinction based on better audio processing and premium earbuds packed in, with a trial subscription to ZuneHD. Heck, let the hardware design pay homage to the Zune HD, which to this day, to my eyes, looks crazy gorgeous.
Get Nokia on it yesterday.

Did anybody else catch the part where she begins to say that Windows Phones aren't really smartphones? Maybe she was going to finish it with good or popular, but the question was asking if they were smartphones.

This is an isolated case, people are starting to notice windowsphone, a smart person knows what they want so be it...if they know about windowsphone they will be windowsphone customers!! i was at a tmo store 2 weeks ago, played with the radar I changed the settings on it, I changed the wallpaper on it.. I came back 2 days the settings is still the same in the Radar...so that shows u how one store employees dont know nothing about this phone,maybe don't even care.

Same thing in Canada. Thursday night a Bell rep told me without a doubt in her tiny little mind that HTC were no longer going to make Windows 7 phones. They were concentrating EXCLUSIVELY on Android handsets.

The bias comes in, I think, from lack of demand for the phone. We all know that the phone is great, but when 8 out 10 customers come in asking for Android and iPhone - well that's what the salesperson learns to talk about. There is obvious bias on the end of the salespeople - especially when a noob comes in asking for a smartphone and is steered automatically to the fragmented Android or iPhone. I just hope that some great advertising comes out and  that it brings our phone into some sort of demand that forces the salespeople to be educated about the product.

Last Wednesday i walked into an AT&T store because i wanted to check out the Focus S & Flash. I had to actually do a 720 just to find the little section dedicated to WP7, and immediately wasn't happy with that. However, the store rep who came up to me asked me if i was interested in purchasing a WP7...i mentioned to him i was just checking out the new hardware, and was waiting for this Sunday. He then mentioned that he knew i was waiting for the TITAN, and also mentioned that he personally owns a Focus S (which he showed me).
I feel as though WP7 needs a lot more "attention" from their premier carrier...the rep seemed knowledgable (which was good), but the hardware itself inside the retailer wasn't getting any acknowledgment at all, no "pop". My rep experience was most likely an isolated incident, so i'm not going to expect that all the time...but what i would expect from AT&T is to show a little more (or at least an even amount of) attention towards WP7. I love WP7 (current HTC Surround owner), i owned every iPhone all the way up to the iPhone 4...and after only having it for 2 months, i quickly switched to WP7, and have been hooked ever since.
Now i find myself counting down the hours until i rush to the AT&T store tomorrow morning to buy my TITAN :-)

I work for an AT&T authorized retailer and it took me three months to get our store turned around in terms of how they thought about Windows Phone. They just didn't know anything about them and the little they did know was WinMo. It's great because I think half of them are going to switch off of Android soon, now that the new WP's are out. And my regional sales manager asked me to put together a couple of quick trainings for our five other stores and now that I've made a believer out of him, he's helped push it back to our other stores.
I have a friend that works at a competing authorized retailer and I showed her a bunch of stuff about WP and she was really suprised at how much she didn't know or was misinformed about. I've heard MS is working on getting retail employees better educated on WP but it can't happen soon enough. It's hard to grow when 9 out of 10 or more sales people are trying to talk you out of it.

What bugs me the most is the misinformation about it. I don't know where people hear the things they hear. I have had salespeople tell me that I couldn't get email on a Windows phone, that I couldn't add music to it, that it couldn't browse the web, it was exactly the same as Windows Mobile, and that it would never have an app marketplace. I honestly don't know where salespeople had heard those things.

I went to an AT&T retail store at Ithaca, NY today.  To my surprise, there was no poster of any sort of Windows Phone.  I remember a year back at Pittsburgh they had a huge WP poster visible from outside.  I walked around a little while, and found a Focus S in the gaming phone section.  About the same time a store rep walked to me and asked whether I have any question.  Given their decoration, I decided to save my heartbreak and said I was only looking around.  Finally I found a Focus Flash and a Focus S right next to an iPhone 4 at the end of the store, and an empty slot apparently for Titan.  It's an interesting section, with a BlackBerry at the very left, then iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, then (supposedly) three Windows Phones. 

I was with Android since their launch on T-Mobile back in 2008 and I see a lot of what's going on now with Windows what happened with Android back then.  Android was almost nothing until Verizon came along with their Droid line then everyone and their mom wanted one.  I've been with Windows Phone for about a month now and I'm so glad I left Android.  There are so many problems with the Android OS, the uniformity of the OS (fragmentation and the manufactuer skins) and the accountability of the phones, just to name the two big ones I could think of. Unfortunately, Android is the big money maker now and the companies know that.  I schooled the AT&T sales rep on phones when I went to buy my Focus and he still tried to convince me to buy an Android phone.  that should just show you what they're being told to sale.  WP needs that big push Android got and hopefully the Nokia phones in 2012 will be that push it needs and hopefully AT&T will get behind them finally.  The AT&T store near my house only had the Focus when I switched and now, they don't even have anything Windows Phone related.  It's a great OS and the hardware, to me, is fantastic as well and Windows Phone will get the recognition it deserves when the time comes.

Interesting reading some of the comments and listening to the audio. Clearly the focus is on pushing technology in this case LTE for the carrier. This after all is not unexpected, disapointing yes but not unexpected. I suspect the answers where largely driven by what she needed to sell rather than what you wanted, again not unexpected but again disapointing.
The other interesting comments centre around hardware in particular it not being as new or as good as the Apple of Android phones. This is not unexpected and again disapointing.
Now I know that the hardware in the first gen and second gen phones is more than sufficient to drive the optimised Windows Phone OS, I also know that if you wanted to you can get most of the features of the modern Android. This is just like the days of pushing cpu cycles at people when it really did not matter and when people do this in my opinion they are no better than our AT&T rep.
Obviously the carriers need to promote but what is the incentive. I remember thinking I do not want a Blackberry for email I do not want to pay for it, show me a phone with Exchange Active sync... Again no incentive as the Blackberry earned the sales guy a good commision. Those days are gone but I remember them well. Currently LTE is where the money is for AT&T.
The story you most often here is when I show them my WP7 phone people are suprised and taken aback. Not by its hardware but by its functionality and ease of use. That is the message that needs to get out, word of mouth can sell so many but getting that message about how easy and simple the phone is to use to the masses is somehow being lost.