Microsoft's Smoked by Windows Phone challenge accused of bending the rules

Don't colour us surprised if this is true to some extent as it's a simple marketing stunt that involves cash, but reports are coming in that the Smoked by Windows Phone challenges are sometimes rigged, or those who actually beat Microsoft's OS were denied their win / prize. Not only are relatively large sums of money involved, but Microsoft recently bumped the stakes to include a limited edition PC worth $1,000.

According to Sahas Katta, from Skatter Tech, he was wrongfully robbed of his glory (and brand-spanking new PC) by a Microsoft employee who refused to accept that his Android handset won. Katta went along to the Santa Clara Microsoft Store to give the challenge a go after hearing about the stakes increase. Using an Android handset with widgets galore to combat the Windows Phone live tiles, Katta felt prepared for the task that would be presented to him by the employee. 

"The Microsoft Store employee I was up against then explained the selected challenge. Her exact words were the following: 'bring up the weather of two different cities.' The one who could do that first would win. I felt like I struck gold since I knew I already had two weather widgets on my home screen: one for my current location (San Jose, CA) and another for Berkeley, CA.After a three-second count down, I hit the power button on my phone and said 'DONE!' out loud. I had disabled the lock screen entirely, which is a rather awesome out-of-the-box feature of Android that takes you straight to the home screen with a single push of the power button. I didn’t even need to touch the screen, since the two weather widgets were already there."

According to Katta, having won the challenge by a mere few seconds, the employee turned around to say that Windows Phone won because "it displays the weather right there." Confusing indeed since that's exactly what the Android widgets did as well - they both displayed the weather 'right there'. After speaking to a manager and receiving bizarre reasons as to why he lost, Katta left the Microsoft Store empty handed. 

All we'll say is: it's not the first time a company has had problems with a marketing stunt, so we shouldn't be surprised if - in this case - the Smoked by Windows Phone challenge differs between employees, or is judged slightly differently. Though I would like to add that the manager should have handled the situation more professionally, if what Katta reported on had actually occurred. (And this is a big "if" as we're just taking their word).

Have you been to challenge Microsoft and Windows Phone in the challenges? If so, did you notice any cheating?

Source: Skatter Tech; thanks Sandy for the heads up!

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • His device was rooted no? both dev ices should not be rooted at all they should be out of the box type devices. he looked to give himslef an
  • He doesn't say it was rooted and I'm not sure by what mechanism rooting would have given him an advantage in this case?
  • Disabling the lock screen is a stock Android feature. From my stock, unrooted GN: What does Rooting a handset have to do with this? With no lock screen and two weather widgets, the guy simply won.
  • Honest question: Does every single iteration of Android has that feature? To disable the lock screen? Not to be a douche but if it's only on the more recent OS updates, then most Android users won't be able to win this challenge. After all, its a well known fact that 90% of Android handsets won't ever see the latest update. If any at all.
  • I can't vouch for every revision of Android but to get around disabling screen unlock, there is nothing stopping anybody installing Widget Locker and having two (or more) weather widgets on their lockscreen.
    I have a funny feeling the weather challenge of "smoked by Windows Phone" will be dropped shortly.
  • That's cool that you can do that but it's not an "out of the box" feature thus is against the rules to begin with. In fact, there is an app currently in beta that allows you to do the same thing on WP: See pic:
  • Windows Phones cannot display weather live tiles out of the box either, you have to install a weather app. Does that make the entire challenge invalid?
    Read the contest rules, there is no 'out of the box' funcationality stipulation.
  • use bing and pin.
  • Depends on the phone... My HTC HD7 has HTC Hub (displays weather in a double-wide live tile) installed and pinned by default "out of the box". Technically it's an app, but it's preinstalled. I think showing the weather is a lame challenge anyway; It's like racing to display the time. Taking a photo and uploading to FB is a better display of the phones features, and easier to win haha
  • I think this campaign is a clever marketing tool.  It reminds me of the blind tastings between coke and pepsi in the 90's.  Most of these common actions are faster oh windows phones and most non users did know that.
    However, having a contest to promote an operating system should INCLUDE apps because they are an integral part in why people use smart phones.  It is rare to find an individual who use their phone exactly the way it comes "out of the box."
  • Not surprised.  Most of the videos, ben the pc guy says to do something.  Well of course since he knows what wp7 can and cannot do.
    For example, find a 4 star chinese restaurant, he is able to do that using local scout...If the contestant can actually determine the task, simply asking "find a 4 star vietnamese or thai restaurant, wp7 would lose. 
    I understand the contest is being able to do basic things really fast, but in reality, it lags in a lot of basic features....
  • Well I guess that is much like Apple advetising what they do best, or Google showing what is great about Android. As for the contestant choosing the task. That would kind of be like Wheel of Fortune were the contestant picks the hidden phase and then Pat would have to guess it? I don't think it works that way.... If MS is putting up the $$$, I think they have to right to choose the task. Not sure how I fell on this. On one hand the person did win, but I can understand that the 'spirit' of the contest suppost to be. Perhaps they need to stick to only features that come standard on the phone?
  • Have ever tried to add a location found in your scouts to your contacts? Sadly you can't. I really feel Microsoft fill the holes in the OS before Apollo comes out.
  • I just add them to my favorites.  I actually prefer it that way because I don't like to clutter my contacts with arbitrary items.  I could of course see the need to add them to your contacts if you're using multiple devices since those favorites don't sync with with you Bing My Places.  Baby steps...
  • There's an app to do that...
  • Simple app called Add to Contacts. Install/purchase it then when you find your contact in Local Scout, swipe over to apps and select Add to Contacts. It then adds to your people hub. I use it and love it.
  • "If the contestant can actually determine the task, simply asking "find a 4 star vietnamese or thai restaurant, wp7 would lose." Actually, local scout does have filters for cuisines based on the types of foods in the neighborhood you're in (  If there aren't any, you can always just search for that specifically (as the challenger is likely to do) and it will show you the results in the same UI with star ratings. 
  • You tell em Edwin! :)
  • The smoked by windows phone campaign was fun while it lasted but Microsoft is taking too serious now.
  • I agree. They should have quit while they were ahead. Now they're dragging it on while the novelty has worn out.
  • I agree with you guys it's an old thing and now those got smoked and watched the one who got smoked knows the way to cheat. The person/persons at the Windows store should have indicated that you can't use widgets. Android can't win without having to use the widget. I know I used to owned a samsung vibrant and it comes with a lot of headache's.
  • But you should be able to use widgets, which is an out of the box feature.  As you said, people know how to prepare now.  I'm sure Microsoft knows this and they should have been prepared and when they actually lose, just give the damn laptops away, they have a limit of 10 giveaways and only a hand full of stores.
  • Why can't a person with Android use widgets? It's a key feature of Android. Should the person with a Windows Phone be disqualified for using live tiles or the People hub?
  • This task was really stupid. My old Palm Pre could display the weather for two cities right on the lock screen. By that standard my Pre could "smoke" most phones on the market.
    If anything the task should have been to bring up weather for two specific cities of the reps choosing.
  • I have the weather for two cities on my WP. The store clerk could have done that also and called it a draw.
  • I hit up the challenge in Scottsdale yesterday. My wife had problems with her HD7 that T-Mobile was refusing to fix so we bought a cheap android off Craigslist and lost easily. The associate I talked to said no one had won yet in the store. I didn't notice any "cheating" but i did see there were some very unhappy comments on the Microsoft Store Facebook page
  • Not to surprised by this when it 1st got done at CES wpcentral said it was cool but couldn't last cause people would just come up with ways to beat the system before walking in
  •   i understand how the guy feels ,but hey he knew that he wasnt going to win so he "had disabled the lock screen entirely" i call that cheating. and you dont "Win Ben Stein's Money". blog about it !   
  • Is "starting from a lock state" stated in the rule? If yes, then he didn't comply the rule since he in fact started from merely a screen-off state. If no, then I think Microsoft should surrend the money and fix the rule.
    Losing is no big deal. Ben the PC guy did lose one time, I remember, but the whole idea is still a success.
    Well, I think it's another reason to officially support the lock screen live tile which is currently only a homebrew function.
  • When I took the challenge the employee asked if I had a password, and was going to tell me to turn it off but I already was ready...
  • Cry me a river
  • That's like having a message already typed in to send via Facebook/Twitter and just pushing send. WP can have two live tiles setup with weather in two cities amd win just as fast, so this wise guy proved nothing.
  • If you read the original article carefully, the WP did have two live tiles set up with two cities.  The Android user also had two widgets set up with two different cities.  The ONLY difference was the lock screen.  Using logic, having to remove a lock screen manual will ALWAYS take longer than simply turning on your phone's screen.
    He obviously diabled it to give himself an advantage in a "speed test"...... but it was a windows phone set challenge of every day tasks.  The challegne did it's purpose to market the efficiency of MOST tasks on windows phone.  That is A LOT more valuable than a 1000.00 laptop.
  • Get over it dude
  • Dude disabled his lock screen also sounds like he new the task he was going to perform that means he read the rules sounds to me like everything was premeditated. There is nothing worse than opponents playing unfairly for crying out loud loose with some dignity if your going to cheat.
  • grow up RICH EDMONDS and DANIEL RUBINO ..... GROW UP!!!!!!!!
    if you don't like MS campaigns go and make an android website! of course sometimes there will be lies! everyone does that! but who are you supossely windows phone fans to put your weapons against windows phone? you wpcentral guys are such a looser guys!
  • ...what??
  • lol wut
  • Is it Halloween?
  • Where the hell did that come from? Lol.
  • Dude. Being a true fan doesn't mean being a fanboy and celebrating everything they do and condemming everything that opposes them.
    It means celebrating the things they do and also calling them out on their crap.
    The fans are who they are going to listen to the most, the ones that know them. If something seems unfair against them are they going to turn to the iSheep and ask if they did something wrong? No, they'll turn to us.
    If this guy honestly didn't cheat (rematch?) then yes, they should give him his prize. If he did, then we call him a liar.
  • Maybe winners should be decided after 2 out of 3 wins.
    Android is highly customizable by geeks, but not so much that three random tasks could be won - right?
    BTW - if everything happened as the person stated I would have given him the computer.
    That manager is now going to be reprimanded for creating a PR nightmare.
  • Ha, this is funny.  This poor guy got screwed.  FYI disabling of lock screen is easy and incredibly handy OUT OF THE BOX feature for andriod ICS.  Why do we even need lock screens?  My phone doesn't turn itself on in my pocket...hence its a common adjustment.  This guy got smoked and lost out on a nice laptop.  Marketing stunt?  Hell he didn't even have to root or anything to beat
  • This is yet another feature Microsoft had on their previous mobile platform since 2003 but then didn't implement in WP.
  • and it should be impletemented in future verisons....
  • WindowsPhone needs start screen disabling. It should be my choice to use it or not.
  • Unpin all your tiles. What an ignorant statement but of course you don't surprise me at all.
  • I think the person did it wrong. Cuz when I went into the store to do it, they said that I had to display the weather from the city I live in (won't say where) and Seattle. So they actually told me which cities to display so that I won't be able to have it pre loaded in my phone. So if the store clerk would have stated it correctly then windows phone would have won. Cuz the guy would have had to actually go into the weather app instead of just using the widget he had. But that being said, if the store clerk did say that then the guy actually did win. Idk which word to believe though
  • If the second city is random, wouldn't you need to adjust the weather tile as well?
  • I'll be honest, watching the videos was what led me to getting the Titan in the 1st place. There are two forces st work here. If you go to Slickdeals (my fave deal site) people are more often than not saying, this rules as I can get a WP7 phone for free for my piece of crap device. From that perspective, Microsoft should just make a line at each store with Want to Trade Your Device for WP7? Don't bother with the challenge as people are bringing barely working crap anyway. Imagine the commercial: My LG Optimus V with Android 2.2 somehow, unbelievably, got smoked by a Windows phone! Chuckle. The pitch should be: Microsoft rocks as they let me trade in my old Droid or whatever which will never get another update" (lol) for a hot new device. (For example: Apple never gave me a trade in...") The other force at work is the people that are genuinely proud of their device. Have a spinning wheel pick the challenge at random. If they win, they win. Its ok! They are less likely to "convert" if they lose, but will have good feelings toward MSFT if they are rewarded with something after a contest held in good fun. Imo, the stats are most likely padded by the "need a trade in" crowd. It might be a fun(ny) exercise to have a barrel in the store saying "Look what people traded to get a Windows phone." The one that wins here is Tmobile, as they will get a ton of business for their $30 prepaid plan.
  • I like the idea of a barrel of old phones. The smoked by windows phone though is a good marketing ploy but no reason why they could not do both. Lets face it making this phone attractive to your Pay as you Go customer or countries that do not subsidise phones to the degree seen in the UK for example sounds like a good one.
  • Typical. The MS marketing department manage to destroy everything. What did they think that it was impossible to beat the challenge?
  • Yes the action of one MS store employee, that we dont even know for a fact is wrong, represents the entire MS marketing team.
  • Nokia lumia 900 is looking cool
  • Win or loose, it doesn't change the fact that Windows Phone is able to bring up weather of cities in less than a second. And a split second delay is nothing! How much more effecient do we expect from our smartphone?
  • First of all the task was silly, second of all as far as I know you cannot disable the lock screen on my Android as an OS feature, I need to install an app for that. He should have revealed this to the rep and the MS rep could have handled it more professionaly.
  • Thank you. So far the only people I've heard say that Android has that feature are people with Galaxy Nexsus's. If that is a feature of high end Android devices running the latest and greatest then fine, good for that particular device. However, as an OS, it is far from a win for Android as most devices will never get updated. Come to think of it, all this has done is bring to light how horrible the Android update situation is for it's devices.
  • But this was not a WP vs Android OS competition.
    MS invited people to compete against them with the peoples own Android-phones. And I cant see anywhere in the rules where it says that you cant bring a high end Android with you? Or that you cant shut off the lock screen? Or dont use widgets?
    If it was WP against Android MS would have had some pre choosen Android models in the store that the competitior had to use.
    MS wanted to point out that "everything you do with your phone we can do quicker".
    Well this guy could obviously display the weather in two cities faster then MS, because he had customized his Android phone to do that, but in the end it was nothing more then luck that he had two weather widgets.
    Sometimes you win all because of luck, so just give him the computer.
  • This Saha(?) guy blogging about it makes him look petty, making a mountain out of a mole hill. But also the manager of the store should have settled it in a way that would've kept an over emotional contestant happy. Too much drama, yo. :/
  • U Mad MS? Seriously though something like this was bound to happen, Microsoft have over played the whole smoked by windows phone campaign. They could of handled this situation better though, if everything said was TRUE.
  • Pre-install 2 widgets = Pre-pined 2 tiles on Windows Phone. Fair enough.
    But Sahas have preprepared one extra step to disable the lock screen.
    The question is not WP can or cannot disable its lock screen, but an extra job was done prior to the begining of the competition, deliberately.
    How to call this a fair win?
    So far we have only heard Sahas's side of the story. How about hearing it again from another party?
  • It's easy to call it a fair win, if that's how he uses the the phone, then that's the end of it.
  • So who is the one who change the rule here? It can be a win but definitely not a fair one.
  • It could be classed as a win, but we all know Android users don't fill up their home screen with widgets (for everyday use), as it would bog the device down.
  • Ok, I did some more tests and on my tablet you can disable the lock screen completely in Android 4.0 ICS out-of-the-box. You cannot do this on Windows Phone but for a fair contest this guy should have atleast informed the rep. The closest thing to this out-of-the-box in Windows Phone 7 is to have a transparent wallpaper. This would not require a swipe-up but a tap which will reveal the tiles hidden behind it. If the rep has done that it would have been very very close.
    The contest was about who can get the latest weather for two cities, and not about the lock screen. The test was flawed and MS is to blame, they should have done more research.
  • I agree. It's not about the lock screen. And I doubt there are people who actually disable the lock screen completely for daily use. But microsoft should just give him the prize. A win is a win.
  • Clearly a tie, since WP can do that as well.
  • yeah, if the WP had its screen unlocked too.
  • allso i was kind of hoping that this website will take up the ruls of the windows phone marketplace
    you see the ruls says that you can not publish and app or game beyound 125 megabytes
    splittercell is 164 megabytes and are not responsive with in 5 seconds from start allso sad in the ruls
    70% of all xbox live game dos NOT support MANGO or fast app swicth
    but thay contune to run on all devices, normal developers that have paid the 99 dollars
    are force to upgrade to mango, and the app and games will only run on mango
    if it not mango enable it will not show up in the marketplace
    but all xbox live games will show up
    microsoft are driving 2 frameworks for developerment
    i hope you will investigate this here at wpcentral
    this is not fair to small developers and startup comapnys
  • This sounds less like Microsoft "cheating" and more like some random employee out in the aether that got pissy when she lost.
  • Emm, it's really a silly challenge from Microsoft and the guy expecting to win that challenge should be ashamed.
    How can unlocking the screen and pre-displaying the weather tile/app be considered a challenge? It's not and it's ludicrous and should not be called an everyday task.
  • I personally think that if the guy won the challenge because we cant take him on anything more than his word, that he should get the laptop. Me being a windows phone user myself (proud lumia owner) i understand that to challenge android ios features with your own may come with a few battles lost, thats just something we have to accept. This employee obviously got heated after losing and came up with some bogus reason for not giving the guy what he won IF IT HAPPENED again no way to know for me at least. Windows phone is still an awesome operating system and superior to android and ios in every way but others will see it differently. The only thing i do have a problem with is that they should not be able to prepare, this guy obviously did his research on the challenge and did everything possible to give himself the edge because as far as i know nobody that i know that uses and android or an iphone disables lock screens, nor do they just randomly have to cities with weather displayed on their phones unless they travel alot! so i feel like he cheated not in the sense that he used something not allowed in the rules but because he deliberately prepared for the challenge. (IMO) most of the people Ben the PC challenged were using their devices the way they normally would and thats where this challenge is going wrong by blowing it up as a way to convert people, people are taking advantage to win free stuff.
  • Dude clearly should have said the name of two cities in different continents (or something) as it was, it was silly.
  • Was this an official competition? Did he miss out on winning it just have a grudge?
  • Say what you want, but this just caused a shitstorm of bad PR for MS and Windows Phone 7. And I can't blame the guy, he should have won after all.
  • Looks like the guys getting his laptop after all "@BenThePCGuy Hey @sahaskatta , @Microsoftstore & I want to make things right. So I've got a laptop & phone (& apology) for you. Email me!"
  • Accoding to the official rule, shouldn't he complete all 5 challenge scenarios with less time to win? I'm a little bit confused by the description.
    Of course, if he effectively won the 2nd challenge scenario ("Real-Time Information with Live Tiles" but was judged lost by Microsoft staff, he had enough reason to withdraw from the competition anyway since the judge was unfair.
    I think he deserves an apology and the prize not because he beats windows phone, but because he was mistreated by Microsoft staff.
    Losing in one challenge scenario by less than a second can be easily overcome in the following ones. The MS store shouldn't mind that much.
  • To be honest as soon as this became more than just a simple challenge and the rewards became great this was innevitable. It was obvious people were going to think of ways of defeating the basic challenges hell even writing an app to beat the challenges would not be impossible. Maybe the conditions need tightning as the purpose I thought was to demonstrate how many every day things the phone could do out the box without reverting to 3rd party apps or widgets.