WhartonBrooks should target Windows phone USERS with Cerulean Moment — not fans

Before the announcement, there had been a high degree of anticipation, excitement, and skepticism about the device that was shrouded in secrecy.

Anyone following the response of the Windows phone community since the Moment's big reveal knows that the phone has been generally poorly received. Granted, we're only a week in, and WhartonBrooks has about a month left to garner support for its Indiegogo campaign. Still, at just 2 percent of its goal, 87 backers and $23,101 of a $1.1 million goal at the time of this writing, the progress to date is discouraging.

So, what happened? I think there are two points that many people can agree upon. Expectations within the Windows phone fan community were set very high by WhartonBrooks's marketing language, which included statements like:

The innovations we are bringing to our devices will be the most disruptive since the advent of the smartphone in 2000.

This statement was, in the minds of the Windows phone fan community, combined with a promise of a device for the fans. Together this built huge expectations within a community that has endured seven years of disappointment with an ever-shifting platform and lack of brag-worthy flagships. Ultimately many Windows phone fans, WhartonBrooks's stated target audience, expected more than a midrange smartphone.

Is WhartonBrooks targeting Windows phone fans or Windows phone users?

To add a little clarity to what I believe is contributing to the backlash from the Windows phone fan community, I submit that there is a difference between Windows phone fans and Windows phone users. Windows phone fans are the enthusiasts or loyalists.

This group is characterized by a passion for the platform, usually has an affinity for tech, has a proactive desire to seek out news and engage with others about the platform, and it possesses greater knowledge about the platform. Most fans (though there are exceptions) usually want a device with the highest specs available, and the most advanced features on a smartphone that optimally represents the platform.

Windows phone users are usually typical smartphone users that have no real passion for or specialized knowledge about the platform. This group is more or less satisfied with the basic features a smartphone provides and feels no real commitment to Windows or any other mobile platform. Most people in this group are likely smartphone users that purchased a low-end Windows phone motivated by the device's affordability rather than the OS it was running. This analysis is borne out in the data.

There's a difference between Windows phone fans and Windows fans.

Historically, low-end and midrange Windows phones, like the ever-popular Lumia 520, are the phones that sustained Windows on phone. High-end devices like the Lumia 950XL, 950, 1520, 1020 or even the 920 sold in such low numbers they did little to impact the platform's market presence. The above Sway gives a snapshot of this reality as reflected in the past.

Now if one were to follow the messaging from WhartonBrooks via its podcast, my exclusive interviews or even the video above, one can clearly see that WhartonBrooks CEO Greg Murphy sees his potential target market as the millions of Windows phone users not the subset of that group, the Windows phone fans. I shared this thought with Murphy a few days ago, and he agrees.

So where does WhartonBrooks go from here?

Clearly, this first smartphone from WhartonBrooks is indisputably not the high-end phone many (but not all) enthusiasts want. This small Connecticut-based company with limited resources could not build that type of device on its first run. A future high-end device that matches what loyalist fans want may be in the future if this first device succeeds, however.

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The Continuum-enabled Moment's mid-range specifications of a 1280 x 720 5-inch display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB expandable storage, 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera, 617 Qualcomm processor, $299 price tag and complementary streaming stick characterize it more as a device Windows phone users might find appealing. Again many, not all, fans or enthusiasts find these specs to be below the cutting-edge standards that subset of the Windows phone using community wants.

So how does WhartonBrooks get this midrange phone (that is known to the enthusiast community who avidly follows Windows phone news) in front of Windows phone users who have no idea it exists. These cost-motivated users (in most cases) usually walk into a store looking for an affordable device or visit online retailers searching for the same and leave with what they can afford. Such purchasing behavior neither leads to an allegiance to the current platform in use nor to Indiegogo sites (or company websites) where one would find a Cerulean Moment.

The long-term effects of Microsofts low-end push

Taking a moment to fine tune the Moment's target market

WhartonBrooks needs to capture a portion of these low- to midrange Windows phone users before they all switch to other more affordable and highly-competitive options on Android. The data proves that low-end purchasers are more inclined to switch after all.

The advantage that WhartonBrooks has is that low- or mid-range Windows phone users are familiar with the Windows phone OS. If the company can "get out in front" of these users and pitch the Moment, with the benefit of Continuum and the free streaming stick it may succeed. The low and midrange devices most of these Windows phone users own don't have Continuum, after all. The Moment would be an upgrade.

WhartonBrooks will need more marketing help from Microsoft than a tweet of its announcement from the @MicrosoftOEM Twitter account to pull this off though.

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What can Microsoft do to help put these affordable devices in front of the market that is most likely to buy them?

Managing community response and expectations

Murphy has been busy engaging the Windows phone community in comments on articles and on social media since his announcement of the Moment. Those efforts have included expressions of gratitude for support, solicitations for support and the expected damage control from the fallout from the disappointed enthusiast subset of the Windows phone community who expected more.

In my first exclusive interview with Murphy last October, he shared how Windows 10 Mobile, and what it brings to the table with Continuum, was part of his vision of the disruptive technologies the company was bringing to the table. Here is an excerpt from the response he gave when I asked about those "disruptive technologies" in that first interview:

We can't reveal too much here, but let's talk philosophy. Our story begins with our first smartphone; there are important aspects we need to bring with our first entry – light, thin, highly portable, and beautiful smartphone. It has to be a smartphone that people want….We have important smartphone-centric technologies in the works, but also we believe that the broader opportunity is how the smartphone can be the one device for all your computing needs.People on other platforms don't know about Window 10 Mobile and the disruptions that it brings – the break from current thinking to create a new path. We explored some of that path and envisioned a whole new suite of opportunities that no other platform is capable of. It is the future.Others want you to buy a separate computer for every function – we think people are not that rich and to be honest wasteful. A CPU for your phone, tablet, laptop, streaming stick, and desktop, really? That does not seem futuristic; it seems more profit driven to me. We think the screen goes into ubiquity, and the pocket computing device becomes the hub for your digital life. Now that, we think is disruptive.

Clearly, Windows 10 Mobile and the opportunity it brings are what Murphy envisioned as part of that "disruptive technologies" description. He conceded that he could not reveal his entire vision in that regard and continued that same restraint in our most recent interview, as you can see in the following video.

Will WhartonBrooks hit its mark?

The Cerulean Moment is not the high-end device that many enthusiasts were expecting, though I did reveal last year that it would likely be a midranger.

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Will WhartonBrooks hit its crowdfunding mark? Time will tell. One thing is certain, though: the Windows phone enthusiast community wants to see the success of the platform they love. So as a vocal community with a passion for the platform, though this phone may not be for you, perhaps there is something you could do to help WhartonBrooks make it visible to the folks who may want it.

Are you up for the challenge?

Follow the story

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

188 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! As we can see the Cerulean Moment was not received by the Windows fan base as well one would have hoped. As I put fort in this piece believe that was due to expectations set with marketing language like "disruptive" technologies and a promise of a phone for the fans. Like all of you I wondered about those "disruptive technolgy" statements and when I asked about them six months ago I shared Greg Murphy's response. We learned then that he was referring in part to what Windows 10 Mobile and Continuum bring to the table. (There is another application of the phone that he has not yet publically disclosed). Sadly the clarity Greg shared in that article last Oct was not as widely broadcast (or remembered) as the bold "unexplained" claims the initial "disruptive technologies" language put forth. We also knew, based on information I shared last year that the device would be midrange. Again that information was not as widely disseminated or remembered as the passions of many flagship-starved fans were stirred more by, "a phone for the fans" language. I think Greg can continue a mission to target the fans, but given the distinctoin between Windows phone fans and users and their (generally speaking) different appetites, I think he should alter his language to better reflect his target and remove any confusion. With this first device, I think he should definitely highlight a focus on Windows phone users (not omitting fans that want the Moment of course) and if this succeeds, a high-end phone for the fans can be brought to market. Those are my thoughts.What about you. How can WhartonBrooks reach those Windows phone user who were motivated more by affordability than platfrom, particularly when there are affordable Android options. LET'S TALK!!!
  • Please stop writing articles about this topic and this company. Let it go.
  • Hey Arnold you don't have to click on them. :-)
  • Nah man not enough. You are an excellent writer as well, Don't waste your time with those bozos.
  • Thanks man but I think it's a unique story worth following. Succeed or fail(though I have no personal investment in the company I sincerely hope it succeeds for what another OEM brings the platform🙂) this is an industry first and I think there's value in chronicling the journey: the vision, execution, ups and downs, reaction and ultimately the results.
  • Good on you Jason.
  • Lighten up.
  • Jason,  I'm glad you're writing about them. Even if they stumble at the start, your giving them the benefit of your spotlight gives them the best shot, which in turn is good for all of us who use Windows Phones. I'm on Verizon, so sadly not a possible customer for them. But if they expand their market to include us, I'll buy some for family members just to support them. And if it weren't for you, I wouldn't even know about them.
  • If this enthusiastic, determined little startup somehow meets its Indiegogo target, I think a U.S. CDMA version of its Cerulean Moment would actually be a more practical and realistic goal for its second model. Those fans are truly starved for ANY Windows phone. If those two models succeed against all odds, WhartonBrooks will then be in a better position to build a more aspirational device with higher specs.
  • Easy answer, leave CDMA :) But seriously, CDMA is inferior to GSM. And Verizon is just greedy. I do not understand people that swear by Verizon (same as I don't understand people that say Apple is the god of technology).
  • That's not an option for some of us. I'd gladly change carriers for access to better Windows Phones and I have when I lived in places where it didn't matter. Where I live in the Granite State, Verizon is the only carrier that provides coverage anywhere within miles of my house (except for other CDMA carriers who roam on Verizon like Sprint and US Cellular). Verizon has vastly better coverage than any other carrier across most of Norther New England, though I think AT&T might have the edge in some parts of Vermont. I even tried to switch to AT&T when the Lumia 1020 came out -- I wanted that phone with the super camera. After 1 day, I had to return it because on all of the roads I drive that have perfect coverage with Verizon had zero (not a weak signal -- literally zero coverage, "No Signal") with AT&T.
  • Fair enough. You might give att another shot since they are always improving their network reach. The only place that I have found so far that doesn't work is a cave lol. Anyways, I'm probably biased because I despise Verizon, they remind me too much of Apple.
  • @Summer_Moon, I'll probably try again this fall. I think the last check I did was about 1.5 years ago -- definitely again since buying the 1020, but sadly no change. If you look at their coverage map, they show strong coverage in areas where there's none. In talking with them about that, it sounded like a strange court or contractual settlement with Verizon -- AT&T left NH and Verizon left parts of VT. I'm not sure that's true (people in stores rarely know what's actually going on), but it could explain why their coverage maps of NH look decent, even though they have no coverage through large swaths of the state. In any case, their deceptive maps make it impossible to tell without actually trying a phone. Fortunately, I keep reminding them how I got burned before, so they let me borrow a phone to drive around and test. The moment it works, I'd switch -- I agree with you on the technology (the physics of TDMA, which backs GSM, is superior to CDMA -- aside from the greater options for international roaming, it's better at handling multiple concurrent cell phones per tower without signal degradation), but because both are good enough that users can rarely tell the difference and much more important to me, I'd switch for the phone selections. I'd be using an Elite X3 right now if I were with AT&T and I'd buy Cerulean Moments for my family members.
  • "Easy answer, leave CDMA :)"
    Yes, I did just that a year ago when I left Sprint and moved to AT'&'T's network (via Cricket) in order to get the Lumia 950 (which, thanks to W10M updates, is even more awesome now than it was back then). However, I agree everyone should check coverage in their area before locking in. Worked out great for me.
  • I'm a HP Elite x3 owner (and I have never owned a low end or midrange smartphone I've always had iPhones, Android flagships or Lumia flagship devices) I expect more of a smartphone then the Wharton Brooks Cerulean Moment provides but I can appreciate the important role this company could eventually play within the Windows 10 ecosystem and I enjoy and encourage Windows Central and and Jason Ward to keep providing initiatives like this with all the coverage they can give to it. I hope Gregory Murphy succeeds with Wharton Brooks as that would only be good for the platform, though I myself (as a high end user and owner of a HP Elite x3) would never back the company with my own money.
  • You had phones other than Windows Phones ? I can only pity you 😁
  • Like many people I started with an iPhone, went Android for that bigger screen but eventually got intrigued by Nokia's bright and colorful Lumia's and Windows Phone OS, loved the platform ever since!
  • Hi Michael! u can help at least with 10 $ for help the company, u never know in a future they can give to u a flagships  
  • I personally never like to spend money on crowd funding. Give me a percentage of the business and a share of the profits and I might invest in a good business but I've never got the attraction with pre-ordering an item that far in advance and without a guarantee it will release etc.
  • Folks, literally every man-made thing that we love started as nothing more than a gleam in someone's eye. Even though I love my Lumina 950 and plan to keep it as long as possible, I pledged to get a Cerulean Moment as a backup device, to support my platform of choice and to be a part of history. Nothing to lose since you get all your money back if the Indiegogo campaign goal isn't reached.
  • I thought Indiegogo was one that did not give your money back? Or is that kickstarter?
  • I dug deep into the Indiegogo support site looking for this info and finally found that they have both options. Whoever starts the campaign decides up front which type of funding they want which cannot be changed later. IMO, WhartonBrooks showed their good faith intentions by choosing fixed funding which means return all funds if the fixed goal is not met. You can see the funding type on their Indiegogo Cerulean Moment page. You can probably find the reference more quickly than I did by searching for "fixed funding".
  • Problem is at this point, only the fans are left. Additionally, with rumours (reported here) that RS3 this autumn will see dev on W10M ceasing, I would have to agree with arnoldandino and say its time to stop writing articles on this firm. Until we know what the future holds for the platform I dont think you should be promoting a device that could potentially have development ceased in a matter of months, that is doing a disservice to fans AND users.
  • Where did you hear that rumor about dev on W10M ceasing after redstone 3???? have not heard that one yet, And I am hoping that is bogus.
  • It has been around for a month or two. According to the rumor, RS3 will be the last update for WM and it will be in maintenance mode through 2018. Dan Rubino also mentioned this rumor in his piece from earlier today and said it is getting stronger.
  • Not to mention the device is old equipement....waste of money...there are better devices out there for cheaper.  or a small amount more.  They are dead in the water anyways...their indiegogo is going to fail.  
  • Rumors...rumors..... argh those damn RUMORS... that's all it is folks! Don't get your panties in a twist!!
  • It has now been mentioned and strengthened by Rubino himself. It does make sense though. Why keep W10M when WoA is ready?
  • Because a lot of things you do with Mobile are helpful for Windows on ARM. Full Windows 10 on ARM still needs a mobile component, especially in devices like the HP Elite x3 or a Surface Phone, so why not develop that continuously? Besides low end hardware still needs that Mobile component as it is not powerful enough to run full Windows software and likely doesn't support the continuum feature.
  • I'm just reminding you that the Surface phone is a rumour since 2012 :)