I'm a tech geek. I'm also a Windows phone enthusiast. That is not to say things about Android and iOS don't appeal to me. I like tech.
The only barrier between me and buying devices on other platforms is money. So I stick with my favorite one: Windows Mobile. As a fan of the platform I have been quite vocal over the years singing its praises (and lamenting some losses).
As a result, I have been successful with encouraging about fifteen people within my circle of friends and family to give Windows Phone a whirl. My wife is one of those people. As a successor to her Samsung Focus, in 2012, I bought her a Lumia 920. She wanted that phone just about as badly as most Windows Phone fans did at the time. That device was replaced with a Lumia 640 XL when the 920's screen was shattered as a result of an unfortunate drop.
Of the fifteen people I won to the platform, accidents with devices, changes in service plans and simple preference have led about eight of those people to Android and at least one to the iPhone. My wife, who prefers Windows phone, loves the Live Tiles, enjoys Microsoft services and is both a Windows phone and Microsoft fan, may be the next to defect. She wants an Android phone!
When I asked, she shared several reasons with me regarding her decision. Some of these reasons echo what many of you have experienced. As a Windows phone enthusiast, a writer for one of the most popular Microsoft focused sites and one of the most publically optimistic analysts of Microsoft's strategies I now share with you why my wife is getting fed up with Windows Phone and Microsoft.
Jason, there's no app for that
Social media and the comment sections of articles are not the only places where I hear about the app gap between Microsoft's and its rival's ecosystems. My wife (and my own mind) remind me of the numeric and quality disparities between these platforms often. In fact, my wife and I often discuss the glaring absence of Windows phone from among the App and Play Store labels when users are encouraged to download the app for an advertised product or service.
Of course, we understand that low Windows phone market share has a detrimental effect on developer support, but as I acknowledged in "The untold app gap story" series, there are times when the app gap just hits home. Now of course, as I asserted in that series, most of the time and for the average user, the impact is minimal. But when it does hit, it is admittedly a disappointment. This occasional collision with the app gap is where my wife, who loves the platform, is beginning to lose patience.
She shared that she has no adequate or available app for her freelance job, banking, pharmacy, or money management. Apps like Wyzant and Mint (which were discontinued) are simply not available on Windows phone. As a result, she has to use her Android tablet to get certain things done. Sadly, the lack of these apps in my wife's case, and some of yours, is a direct contrast to Microsoft's broad mission, to help people, at least in this respect, "to do more."
Though the Windows Store is seeing growth many developers are still hesitant to develop for the platform.
Of course, Microsoft is limited in their ability to bring apps to the platform. Though Redmond is working hard to bring apps to the Windows Store, developers have a choice of where they will invest their time and money. And though we've seen growing investment's in Windows from the likes of Bank of America, Facebook, Spotify and many other big and not so big names, it is clear that many developers are still hesitant to develop for the platform.
Sadly my wife's concerns don't end there. In addition to the effect of missing apps, she is also frustrated by the mobile web that is often a substitute for apps. In part three of "The untold app gap story" I shared data reflecting that the mobile web, for all smartphone users regardless of what platform they use, is engaged at much higher rates than mobile apps.
For my wife, the need for this deference to the web, when an app exists on other platforms and not Windows, however, is yet another point of frustration. She articulates it this way:
"When I go online on my phone, and it says "download app for iOS or Android," it's frustrating so then I have to use web-based viewing and everything messes up."
Of course, there are many Windows phone users with similar stories.
The app gap mind trap
Allow me a moment to share an anecdotal story of the effect, on a user's mind, of missing apps from the Windows Mobile platform. The fact that many apps are missing is so common that it affects how even I perceive app availability. Consider this:
I recently borrowed a Roku Stick from my sister. With the Stick, she also gave me the remote which had a broken directional button. She gave me a tip on how to operate the broken remote then shared that I could just download the Roku app and use my phone as a remote instead. My response? I reminded her that I have a Windows phone, and there probably wasn't a Roku app for the platform. "Oh yeah," she replied.
Missing apps are so common on Windows Mobile that it affects how even I perceive app availability.
I went home, hooked up the Roku and told my wife about the remote and my sister's advice about an app. I proceeded to clumsily navigate through the Roku UI as I fumbled with the broken remote. In the meantime, my wife was standing to the side fiddling with her phone. Suddenly the Roku began doing things that I was not commanding it to do via the broken remote. How?
Well, my wife had quietly downloaded the Roku app for Windows phone and was happily controlling the device. I had pessimistically assumed the app did not exist and, therefore, didn't bother searching for it in the Windows Store. Of course, I later visited the Store and found that not only was there an official Roku app but third-party Roku remote apps were there as well.
Sadly, my wife shared that she also sometimes assumes that there is no app for a particular service in the Windows Store. She put it this way,
"…when I try to search for one, it's normally not there, or there's some weird version [instead]."
The fact that many infrequently engaged apps beyond most of the big name and highly engaged apps like Facebook are absent from the platform subtly caused me to have a lower expectation of the Windows Store than I should have had. I wonder how many of us one-percenters sadly forego searching the Windows Store for an app for that same reason.
On the outside looking in
My wife has six sisters. Needless to say, this lively crew did quite a bit together while growing up. I've often heard stories of how they made up games, sung songs and did all the crazy things sisters do. Since I've started hanging around the family, I encouraged five of those sisters (not counting my wife) to purchase Windows phones.
With so many of us on the platform, we've used the now defunct Rooms function to plan an event, share ideas and family photos, and just be a family. The "girls" even set up their own Room, cutting me, the guy who introduced them to the platform, out of the picture. It was all good. They were enjoying themselves and the platform. That is until a couple of mishaps with shattered screens, and lack of Windows phones on Verizon forced a couple of them to Android.
According to my wife, app gap frustrations such as user-to-user services and multiplayer gaming may have affected others to defect. As a result, my wife reports that only two of her sisters still use Windows phone.
Only two of my wife's sisters still use Windows phone.
This shift of my wife's siblings to other platforms has affected how they had come to communicate when the bulk of them were using the same platform. For my wife this "being on the other platform" frustration is further compounded by the fact that much of the smartphone using population plays games that are not available on Windows phone. Here it is in her own words:
I get sent interactive game playing requests all the time, but Windows phone doesn't have much of that either, so once again I'm back on my android tablet.
I'm not much of a mobile gamer. But millions of people are. My wife included. Much of the time when I see her playing a game, it is on her Samsung tablet, rather than her Lumia 640 XL. The barrier to some of the social aspects of mobile gaming is certainly one of the detriments that some users have shared as a concern in regards to Window phone. And as we see here, these concerns are echoed in my own home.
That said Microsoft is evolving gaming on Windows 10 in a big way as it expands its Xbox platform and more. Will the Universal Windows Platform position Windows 10 Mobile to`reap the benefits of Xbox and Windows as successful platforms for gaming? Time will tell.
Problems with perception
My wife likes tech and, though not a techie, she is tech savvy. Of course, she is married to a tech writer that produces long-form analysis about Microsoft's strategy; she reads virtually everything I write and often endures my "talking shop." As a result of her own tech interests and "osmosis", if you will, she is more aware of the tech industry and the challenges Microsoft faces and opportunities available to the company than the average smartphone user.
That said, Microsoft has long been recognized as a company that offers products and services that help individuals and businesses be productive. Satya Nadella put it this way as he broadened that view of productivity in his 2014 Bold Ambition and Our Core memo:
We will shift the meaning of productivity beyond solely producing something to include empowering people with new insights. We will build tools to be more predictive, personal and helpful.
It is a shame that Microsoft's dependence on developer support in a world where mobile apps, for now, are central to personal computing's position on the smartphone has not yielded the results necessary to perpetuate that view of productivity in all areas. My wife shared the following assessment about Microsoft and productivity:
Not being able to use popular financial applications like Mint...and any others that have recently formed, especially for business and personal financing, decreases my view of Microsoft as the supreme productivity competitor.
Furthermore, Cortana, Microsoft's productivity-enhancing personal digital assistant, which is still evolving into that revolutionary AI Microsoft envisions, has also been a disappointment to my wife:
Even Cortana could have a better knowledge base, or better connection to apps so that she can help input information…
Both of these views by a user that is closer to a typical user than an enthusiast are indicative that the productivity message Microsoft wants consumers to receive about the company is, at least in this area, hitting a wall. This is unfortunate.
The Mrs. on Microsoft's marketing
This leads me to my wife's views on Microsoft and marketing. As a Microsoft fan, it bugs her (and me) to see Apple, Android and Samsung ads flashed across the television screen while there is a conspicuous lack of alluring marketing of certain Microsoft products to challenge them.
We do understand that Microsoft is not actively advertising Windows phone to consumers due to the developing app ecosystem and maturing OS. However, it is "painful" to watch emotionally appealing iPhone ads and visually enticing Samsung ads that we know consumers are seduced by or are salivating over, while Windows Phone has a decreasing presence in the collective consciousness.
Still, my wife (and of course I) remains hopeful. She expressed:
Because of market share, app developers could care less about windows phone, I'm soooo hoping that a new Windows 10 phone changes all of that because I use everything Microsoft for productivity.
Of course, the synergy of many factors, including but not limited to the success of the app Bridges, the appeal of the cross-development of apps/bots using Microsoft's app development tools (Xamarin), as well as a category-defining new "phone" that manufacturers can emulate and that appeals to the masses would be needed to get more developers on board.
My wife who often defers to her Android tablet when her Lumia 640 XL won't suffice, is hopeful of a positive outcome. She shared that she "wants everything on one device so that she won't have to use a different source." Of course, this desire is in line with Nadella's, one device for multiple scenarios, vision for Continuum enabled Windows phones.
If she doesn't stay
Of course, Microsoft has populated both iOS and Android with the Microsoft services my wife loves to use. So if she does indeed get an Android phone, she will, naturally, get all of the apps missing from the Windows platform. And though she will miss Live Tiles and hates the static grid of icons characteristic to the iPhone and many Android phones, she will get the ability to personalize fonts which she loves to do on her Samsung tablet. She will also, in effect have a "Microsoft phone" as the Microsoft services that she wants to use, and to which she will default, will be the "soul of the machine".
Of course, I would be sad to see her go. But I am a tech geek. I own an Android tablet, a PC, a Windows 10 laptop, a 7-inch Windows 8 tablet, a Windows 10 2-in-1 and have both an active Lumia 1020 and 1520. So having another gadget in the house, in truth, would be fun.
Of course, I would be sad to see her go.
That said, both my Lumia's 1020 and 1520 are out of contract, and well, I'm due for two upgrades. And as I shared above, I'm a tech geek, and the only barrier between me owning a broad range of tech representative of various platforms is money. My 1520 is my primary device, and hopefully the Surface "phone" (ultra-mobile PC), will be its successor. If not, some high-end Windows phone, an HP Elite X3 perhaps, will be. But what's a tech geek to do with his second line? Hmmmmm.
Well, after Eve ate the forbidden fruit, she gave to her husband, and he ate too.
I'm just saying.