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Microsoft Teams gets trashed by Wirecutter, highlights lingering issues with consumer push

Microsoft Teams Iphone 2021 Cortana
Microsoft Teams Iphone 2021 Cortana (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The New York Times-owned Wirecutter recently did a roundup of best team messaging apps. It is thoroughly written and backed by some extensive testing of 11 services, whittled down to 5, and evaluated by six users as to which was preferable. The review criteria included setup (security, control), message threading, search quality, file sharing, mobile and desktop app support, and ease of making video calls.

I do not find it surprising Slack is rated as the best and Microsoft Teams fell under "like it or hate it." Indeed, the inside joke about Microsoft Teams is so many people use it because they are forced to by their employer, not out of some preferred user choice.

The critiques are valid. Teams is "a nightmare to set up," the piece notes. Compared to Slack or Google Chat, it is slow and not as "pleasant to use." Wirecutter rightly points out that Microsoft's app only makes sense if your org is already using Microsoft 365, which is why Teams is so popular – it is bootstrapped into services that companies rely on regularly and the subject of a complaint from Slack to the EU.

My prediction, unfortunately, is that Microsoft Teams for personal use will fade into neglect.

All of this highlights a more significant problem that Microsoft has: the new Microsoft Teams for personal use is not particularly good either. A few of us have tried it at Windows Central, and no one has managed to get it into their family workflow – that's anecdotal, but also telling. But maybe it's just us.

It continues a tradition where Microsoft manages to dominate in the business space but fails when it comes to consumer services. The messaging is not there, and the value-add is unclear compared to more specific services like Google Chat or Discord, not to mention regular chat apps.

Microsoft Teams for personal use feels like an afterthought instead of something built for families from the ground up. It's Teams for work, neutered. Sure, the ability to share a managed calendar and OneDrive space for your family is pleasant, and power users will appreciate some of the more advanced work-like features, but it's all a bit underwhelming.

Teams' target demographic for personal use seems to be people who must use the service for work who also want to use it for home life as a convenience. I get it, but I am not sure that is a large cohort of users. I sympathize with families being forced to use Teams by that one over-enthusiastic IT parent who insists on it.

What's the game plan to get non-existing users to adopt Teams for personal use? I don't know.

Microsoft Teams Android Install Store

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

My prediction, unfortunately, is that Microsoft Teams for personal use will get a few features added on before fading into obscurity. The market will continue to coalesce around Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp for cross-platform mobile chatting and, increasingly, video calls. Microsoft's GroupMe is a longshot for visibility, but I'm still glad to see it evolve into something more. Skype will continue to truck along as everyone's fallback VOIP app.

Small orgs and schools will jump between Slack and Google while gamers will stick with Discord. Google will keep trying to make something consumers want before renaming it for the hundredth time.

I have no idea if Microsoft plans to integrate Teams into Windows 10 (and Windows 10X) more deeply. Without a natural extension of the service or any clear benefits over competitors besides being tied to Office 365, Microsoft Teams for personal use seems destined to be another half-hearted attempt at convincing people to use Microsoft outside of their job.

So far, Microsoft has not had a good track record there. Let's see if that can change.

Do you use Microsoft Teams for personal use? Let me know below why you do (or don't) and what Microsoft can do to make it worthy to be considered on of the best Windows 10 apps.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

49 Comments
  • I tried to use it several times and failed miserably. You know they lack vision for the product because it's name, frankly. It's called 'Teams Personal'. Lol
  • Kros, Teams was built for the enterprise first. They placed most of their coding time to build the app to compete for the enterprise and build out the infrastructure. They did not build Teams to compete for the consumer and the pro user/Family setting. Do I think Microsoft will slowly improve Teams to compete for the consumer? Sure, but it is not a priority today. Maybe after the summer. But I have not looked at the roadmap to tell us where they are headed. Maybe Daniel should have looked at the road map first before commenting about a NY Times article. Teams was introduced in early 2017 while slack was introduced in August 2013 based on a freemium business model. These products came from two different directions and I would guess the impact of Covid has changed the market dynamics. Is Teams important to O365 users and the enterprise? Yes. Will Teams and O365 add market share? Yes. Will this give MSFT more resources to expand the reach of Teams? Sure. Patience. MSFT did not really throw the wolves at the development of Teams until 12 months ago and they have brought Teams miles from where it was.
  • I've tried to use the personal teams and it just was a disaster, le Sigh. Also, just buy discord already.
  • We use Teams Personal (or whatever it's called ATM) in my family, but mainly because I didn't want to move to another megacorp besides Microsoft when abandoning Skype (yeah, we didn't get notifications reliably either; unfortunately some seem to have similar issues with Teams too, although I never had this problem). It's not great, really. I second the case for MS to buy Discord, or make a clear vision for Teams Personal, as there really is minimal incentive to use it (especially the awful desktop client, the mobile version is good, if not especially feature-packed).
  • Daniel just described you :D - "I sympathize with families being forced to use Teams by that one over-enthusiastic IT parent who insists on it."
  • Discord sucks. There is a reason why only 12 million people use Discord. It's just a dressed up irc program.
  • The New York Times-owned Wirecutter recently did a roundup of best messaging apps. There's your first problem. Teams is not a messaging app. It is a full featured Enterprise collaboration framework. As far as it working for personal, no, IMHO. I'm not a Team. My Family is sort of a Team, but the product is called Teams, plural, for a reason. It is designed for multiple teams to interact internally and with other teams, within and outside the organization. It's a combination of Skype (for Business), Sharepoint, Office 365, with some CRM and other stuff thrown in. If MS made something called 'Family' based on it that actually made group messaging, shared calendar, shared files, cross platform, based on Teams, they might have something. Something like a Teams environment might be useful for a Scout Troop, or a youth sports team, but I don't see Teams personal is really set up for that sort of environment.
  • That's not my problem. I feel you should actually read the review as they put it up against Slack, Google Chat, Discord, and others, not against Signal, WhatsApp, or Telegram.
    As far as it working for personal, no, IMHO. I'm not a Team ... If MS made something called 'Family' based on it ...
    Microsoft literally has a version called "Teams for personal use." It was announced back in November and is aimed at keeping in touch with "friends and family." I feel you just breezed through this and gave me your hot take without keeping up with the details I presented.
  • I believe Microsoft is just protecting the flanks from competitors peaking off users. But who knows. So, I think it's a good move strategically. I also believe it too soon to say for sure. Teams is powerful, as I understand it. Isn't Teams an entirely different animal, as Sven points out, integrating Microsoft service, Office, etc. etc. that a meer consumer messaging or video app? (Maybe too powerful for families.) But yea, they have the potential to perform well, but isn't there yet. Hope springs eternal. Lastly, I trust Microsoft to have superior privacy, security and stability. Mostly because they are enterprise, and big companies can demand such things and get it. And they can monitor, and know what the app is doing. Consumers have no such power. 2¢
  • Maybe someone doesn't agree with you, and you cannot accept that.
  • Oops. The Earth is flat. For all those who don't agree. I don't care. I'm not accepting your wrongness. :)
  • "Teams is not a messaging app. It is a full featured Enterprise collaboration framework. " The personal version isn't any of this. You're comparing a different version of the product.
  • I think it really depends a lot on use case and is pretty subjective. I run a small business. Grew up on google docs and macs. Wasn't really familiar with Microsoft Office products as much. Our company used gsuite and slack and we moved over to teams on a trial and loved it so much we moved our whole small business to office365. It's totally been our gateway into all things Microsoft. Got a windows computer, starting reading this site. Looking at switching my company to Windows 10x when it comes out. We loved teams soooo much better than slack. I feel like slack is made if you work in the tech field but teams is so useful in small business context. Anyway, lots of people love teams, that NY times reviewer seems very subjective. I wish sometimes they would talk to real use cases.
  • That's still the business version which is popular. This is about the consumer version.
  • Teams for school and work is pretty good. Only gripe I have is 'performance'. It's not a lightweight app at all, can be clunky in performance. It may be because of the Electron framework. But in terms of features and functionality, it's actually very robust.
  • That's still the business version which is popular. This is about the consumer version that's intended to replace iMessage, WhatsApp, Zoom and the like.
  • I dont use it for personal use and probably wouldnt. Its hard getting everyone in a family/friends group on board into downloading and using a specific app.
    This is why iMessage and SMS are so popular. Now that RCS is becoming more adopted among Android and carriers if Apple would integrate that into iMessage then it would kill most 3rd party messaging apps. As for video I talked my family into using Marco Polo. Its best feature is the ability to make videos and watch them on your own time. Its very hard to coordinate schedules and Marco Polo is a great way to solve that issue but still get "face time" with your family/friends. As for the enterprise we use Teams and love it. Yeah it had some growing pains but now Teams is awesome and superior to Slack IMO.
  • I don't think so. WhatsApp is used by 2 billion people, much higher than iMessage numbers globally. Zoom managed it despite being a very small company. Agreed on the business front. Slack is dead. Teams is Outlook for the 2020s.
  • Team Personal doesn't even have Teams. It's just a basic chat app. I couldn't see any benefit to use it over the apps I already use. People now live in Teams for work, they're not going to want to continue to live in Teams after work too. Microsoft has always been terrible at consumer products other than Xbox. Let's face it Facebook, Google and Apple are largely where people are at in the consumer space.
  • If they made the calendar and tasks actually work with microsoft own email services at least then I would use it. I can't make a Calendar event for my family and have that sync with any other calendar. The task system is useless for a team or family.
  • The fact that Teams Personal only works on mobile defeats the purpose. If I can't message via my laptop, then why not just use SMS? The fact that Microsoft refuses to allow you to use Teams Personal outside of iOS and Android means it has no actual use. Furthermore, when using it in conjunction with a corporate Teams account, switching back and forth is incredibly annoying.
  • It works on web and desktop now
  • I most have missed that. Though it looks like I can’t add my personal account on my laptop because I already have a work account added. I assume companies can block the ability to add a personal account.
  • You just need to logout and log back in.
  • ...but that Wirecutter article specifically mentions messaging apps for the workplace, the first paragraph makes that fairly obvious. They weren't (or shouldn't have been) talking about the personal version of Teams. I don't disagree with your article, but I do think the Wirecutter article is misguided by not delving into the O365 collaboration features of Teams.
  • Yea. Apples and oranges.
  • You pay in data what you get for free. Hipaa, PII, tax, health, credit cards, phone numbers never send through any messenger without a contract. Microsoft has revenue to keep your data better protected. Not saying they won’t use your data. But they won’t leak data like Facebook has. But if you are diligent, slack is a phenomenal app. Or if you pay for privacy, it is absolutely worth the price. Free + security, I would go with teams over slack. But sms text beats either.
  • I haven't tried Teams Personal yet... However, I personally really like Teams and started using it because of work. I think the issue is Microsoft puts Teams best features behind the paywall. Teams is such a fast growing platform and they keep announcing new features that are only available if you get a business package. Our company uses the free version of Teams which is plenty good enough for our business. But the free version of Teams pales compared to the paid version. Once they get away from Electron performance should improve at least from a memory standpoint. Remember, Electron apps are basically Chromium browsers wrapped up to look like an app. And we all know how Chromium browsers soak up RAM like there's no tomorrow. They're closer to a native app than something like a PWA so you can utilize the hardware more and do more things in general because of that.
  • What consumer push? No one has heard of it...
  • I was a fan of MS and apple basher.
    I had been using pocket pc and leter went through all windows phone till it's demise with lumia
    I switched over to iOS, extremely happy. Currently i've both iphone and samsung galaxy note 9 (not really use it that much).
    Have surface pro... but it doesn't serve my purpose, the instant on iPad pro and extremely smooth interface can't be matched with any windows OS.
    For desktop, my next one would be Mac.. already decided. windows headphone was very comfy, but now where near Sony's headphone ( I own both) in terms quality of sound and NC. my next home theater would be based on Apple homepod (currently sonos) Cortana .. sad story (supposed to be at the top) Hololens is promising, but i'm predicting Apple will bring out much better quality and integration. So, no thank you. Not stepping into MS system anymore, I'm phasing out!
  • I loved PocketPC.
  • Couldn't agree with everything in this article more. I 'get' the idea of Teams Personal, but from the somewhat confusing branding (not many people consider their families or friends a 'Team', to the half-hearted/complete mess of an App on the phone and desktop it's just...so Microsoft. Like Dan says, some of the features like the shared Calendar and OneDrive are actually good ones, but implemented so badly. I found it rather strange that while it has some Outlook Calendar integration, and even To-Do, that neither look or work in a lot of ways like the standalone Apps themselves. It's typical Microsoft, a good idea (in theory) married to bad design and a half-hearted approach. So when no one uses because it sucks, Microsoft promptly points at 'low usage' numbers to then cancel it. Maybe if you made a great experience from the start, people would use these things Microsoft. Do things properly, or don't do them at all.
  • I think they should just focus on adding features to Group Me instead of Teams. I love Teams, find Teams Personal to be useless. Microsoft has far too many messaging systems right now. Skype, Group Me, Teams.
  • Can you tell me exactly why you love Teams, cause I feel frustrated by it almost daily. What am I doing wrong?
  • I've tried Teams for personal and it's simply an uncomfortable experience.
    For consumers to join video calls, webinars, etc. it's great because it doesn't bother you with installing software and the UX is great. But that's about it. My issue is this:
    1. Teams is built for 'team' collaboration at work. But when all the 'team' stuff is stripped out, the UX is just blah and empty.
    2. The branding doesn't really fit consumers, unless you're targeting group collaboration audience specificatly instead of a communication app like Skype.
    3. Skype is better for consumers IMO, because it's simple, and has all the collaboration features most consumers need already. But the brand has been long tarnished for not keeping up. So they're kind of stuff between a rock and a hard place. They would really have to push hard and bring confidence to users and convincing reasons to get people to switch back, and I really wish they did invest in that because it's already integrated in Windows and most people already have an account with their MS account.
    4. Part of me feels if Microsoft really wants to stir the competition, they should rebrand Skype back to MSN Messenger or Windows Live Messenger. There's so many memes of people having nostalgia for it, and the marketing could easily play on that. EVERYONE had it when I was back in college, and it was actually fun to use... it lost out when they didn't have a proper mobile presence.
    5. If they're planning on keeping both Teams personal and Skype for different audiences, then I feel that Teams needs a smaller and smaller and more simple UX on desktop (they kind of did that on mobile, but it's not enough).
  • I agree with Daniel. Teams is way less impressive than folks here want to admit. I like Excel, Powerpoint, Word and the web version of outlook. Every other piece of enterprise software Microsoft makes/made sucks. I can't tell you the frustrations I have had with the non-web version of outlook over the years. Sharepoint in a hot piece of garbage, skype blows and now teams is new and is already a confusing bloated mess. I look forward to the day that Microsoft builds a new piece of enterprise software that stands on its own feet without being propped up by a 30 year old Office suite that people like, but are more or less still trapped in. When Microsoft comes around peddling Teams it hard to say no then spend money on Slack. I am not sure its anti-trust, but it sucks for everyone not named Microsoft.
  • I wish I could but it still tells me I'm not allowed unless I have a work account...
  • Microsoft builds software primarily for the enterprise. Thus, the software must meet compliance requirements. What does this mean? In simple terms, the lawyers working for the company must be able to respond to discovery requests in a civil or criminal proceeding. In the old days, this was accomplished by looking through filing cabinets and taking depositions. But with email and now chat/video conferencing, the ability of a plaintiff to access far more data has expanded greatly. So, software packages like Teams, OneDrive, Office 365 must track data in far more detail. Detail a consumer would never need. I also don't know how this would impact how an enterprise-level data maintenance protocol is impacted by a consumer-level user. Further, one year ago, Teams was really a small product line for Microsoft. A year later it is much more important with a lot of users. I would assume most of the available manpower is dedicated to meeting the requirements of the enterprise customers. Will they upgrade the consumer version of Teams? Yes, but in time.
  • I've been dealing with MS since the early to mid 90s when Windows 3.0 was king, and back then they had great leadership and people who knew how to think outside of the box, but every since Steve ballmer took the helm, everything seems to have gone down hill on a steady decline. I'm retired military and I've been working in the IT field for the military for going on 12 years now, and the sad truth is that the military can't keep up with all of Microsoft's changes due to the extensive testing required to ensure compatibility with all the systems that they are required to use on a daily basis. That's why we're always several years behind the curve on updates to the OS. We only get a newer update when MS announces end of support for the life cycle of the version of the OS that we're using. The one thing that they did get right, which at the time, I didn't agree with is that they did standardize on the GoogleHTML engine for the new Edge browser which we'll be getting by the EOM since its life cycle has finally reached the end of support. Now as far as Teams is concerned, we can only use it through a contract provided by Lockheed Martin, and there are severe limitations between working from home and being on the military's Enterprise Domain. We're not allowed to have cameras on our work computers let alone even be able to have our personal cell phones in our office; we have Edward Snowden to thank for that security lockdown! I personally don't think MS cares about anything that they can't monetize, because of course, they are a Fortune 500 company. So if they can't please the stock holders, then it's an absolute no go. Usability seems to be an after thought, and don't get me started on the Feedback Hub, because there's absolutely no feedback because it's all one way communication.
  • It's the branding. Microsoft Teams as a brand invokes thought processes and mentality associated to work. Even more so that many people are being forced to use Teams due to covid-19. Therefore it's effectively impossible to dissociate from that mentality and relax into personal mindset / personal space and when using the app / service for personal use. I'd rather Microsoft rebrand Microsoft Teams for Personal Use to “Rooms”. Plus the name 'Microsoft Teams for Personal Use' shows that marketing lacks creativity when it comes to the consumer space. Heck, a group of children would have come up with a better name. I now work at a college and I can categorically say anyone who suggested the name 'Microsoft Teams For Personal Use' wouldn't even get a passing grade for the branding module. Not to mention they'd be laughed out the room lol... Anyway now that this is now a app for personal use, I'm going to try out the service. As I don't mind teams for work.
  • Agreed on the work association. People like using Teams at work though, its very useful and efficient. You aren't going to get people to use it at home though. Google, Facebook and Apple dominate here. Likewise Google is s small player compared to Microsoft, Apple even more so and Facebook non-existent at work.
  • Mindset is key to marketing.
  • Ding, ding, ding, ding.... Microsoft is so caught up into itself it can't figure out that using the same name for work items turn people off. I've been saying this for years! I remember when Windows Phone came out a co-worker saw me using my phone and she was like that looks awesome. When she asked what kind of phone did I have I said, it's a Windows Phone. She replied, "oh one of those. I can't use that because it sounds like too much of a work device." Microsoft thinks business people don't have a real life. When not working they don't want to think about work. Love the name ROOMS. Brings me back to the wonderful Windows Phone days.
  • @Whodaboss Indeed Microsoft is too far caught in itself. Not to mention during the self inflicted wounds from the firing spree and retrenchment from the consumer space is still coming back to haunt them.
    Although "Rooms" is some what a bland name, however it's vague enough to allow people who are not familiar to Windows Phones to associate whatever they want with it. Personally, I loved the Rooms feature as well along with the Windows Live Messenger integration in Windows Phone. Especially since back then Windows messenger was still being bundled with Windows 7 and since most people used Windows Live Messenger. It was less of a hassle to get people to use Windows Messenger after using the passport service to associate custom domain emails with Windows Live. So much potential squandered.... lol... 🤦‍♂️
  • This has been the issue with MSFT for the longest time. They have been such an enterprise centric company that they would almost have to re-create themselves. Think back to Apple in the 2000's. They completely changed their approach to consumer centric with the iPod, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and eventually the iPhone. While most people on a corporate level were still using Blackberries, they were coming home to use the iPhone. It was a rebranding that established Apple as the premier consumer tech company. Google capitalizing on that model, simply provided more resources at a cheaper price and created Android. Microsoft already being super invested in software design for many companies (The US Government pretty much runs on Microsoft's Office suite) has attempted to semi-evolve, but unfortunately never quite took a full frontal approach consistently. Whether is was Zune, choose your iteration of Windows Phone, Groove, MSFT Band, or Cortana as an IA, they seemed to never fully embrace the consumer perspective. Surface worked because it was one of the few projects that continued to evolve into something that people wanted. I'm actually surprised Bing is still a thing, though it's been my primary search engine for the past 10 years. Teams for personal use, Skype, and Groupe Me all have great aspects, but MSFT needs to find a way to merge all their goodness while striping the badness into one messaging app. Group Me is already utilized on college campuses and in a lot of government agencies. I think MSFT should focus on that. Hangouts, Instagram, and Whatsapp are easier and more convenient but there's always the issue of data sharing when dealing with Google, and Facebook. Microsoft could use that narrative to push their messaging app if they were centrally focused on it. I just don't think they are, nor will they ever be.
  • On the flipside Apple has always sucked at enterprise. Outside of the creative space, which is sizeable but only one segment, Apple basically doesn't exist. Microsoft needs to get better at consumer, Apple at enterprise (if they're even interested).
  • Bing is a thing because it's the best. I'm not sure why people have bought into this idea that google is better. I have friends who research stuff all the time and say they can't find the right solution and my reply is "did you Bing it?" Then voila. I found what I was looking for. We've been so conditioned to think that Google is somehow better. It's not, at least to me.
  • Teams uses Active Directory (and AAD). In an Enterprise environment that fact alone is why it dominates.
    Slack can't survive in the long run.
  • They should have built Teams for personal use just like how "Rooms" use to work on Windows Phone and just add video. For any "Room" you created you could have text, send emails, add stuff to all groups members calendar. The only thing it was missing was video chat. It was seamless and fast. At the time I had different "Rooms" for certain friends and family members. That was awesome. I use Teams for Personal Use and yes, it seems like an afterthought. There's nothing special about it. For the life of me is everyone in Microsoft a Yes Ma'am, Yes Sir kind of person? Doesn't anyone ever stand up and say some of these ideas are crap? Do they push out by whatever some one top person says? That's what it seems like when they produce these half baked programs. Oh well.