Windows Phone: The passionless platform

Windows Phone: The passionless platform

Summary: I like Windows Phone as it is a solid smartphone platform that works well. It just doesn't excite me like other platforms, and that's a problem.

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This week I've spent a lot of time in phone stores playing with Windows Phone devices. This effort has reinforced my impressions of Windows Phone: it's a solid smartphone platform with lots to offer. I like playing with Windows Phones, but something keeps nagging at the back of my mind that it could be better. I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me for a while, but after careful thought I realized that Windows Phone just doesn't excite me like other smartphone platforms.

It's not the hardware, I find most smartphones today to be comparable on the hardware side. Most current phones have good hardware that performs well, and these Windows Phones are no exception. The problem I have is the software, specifically the user interface with its lack of pizzazz.

I am a mobile enthusiast of the first order, I like phones, tablets, laptops, you name it and they get my motor running. I can pick up just about any device and get excited about something no matter what it is.

Take Android for instance. No matter what hardware a phone uses, Android as a platform stimulates the geek in me when I use one. I attribute that to the ability to customize every aspect of operation, especially the user interface.

The multiple home screens with folders and widgets let me make any Android phone feel like it was made special for me. In just a few moments with an Android phone I can make it look, feel, and operate just like I want. That makes using one a real joy, and a constant source of excitement about the phone.

Even iOS gets me excited using the iPhone. It's not as customizable as Android by any means, but the ability to organize apps into meaningful folders works well for me. I put favorite apps into the dock making them always one tap away, and I like that. Like Android, the concise multi-page home screens lets me organize everything just like I want, and that makes it a joy to use.

That doesn't happen to me using a Windows Phone. The home screen looks polished, don't get me wrong. I can drag the tiles around to any order I want, but it doesn't feel personal. Perhaps it is the constant scrolling of the home screen to find that particular tile I need. Multiple pages would work better than a long screen with constant scrolling. No matter what I do with a Windows Phone home screen, it is still boring. More accurately, it doesn't invoke that geeky passion the other platforms do through use.

Windows Phone is a rare beast in that it works well, has great potential, but still doesn't get my geek juices flowing when I use it. It's like Windows on the desktop, it gets the job done but that's about it. Maybe this is just me, but I don't think so. A couple of my non-techie friends own Windows Phones and when I ask them how they like it they usually respond with a "it's OK" or something similar. No excitement like I usually get from other platform users.

This could spell trouble for Windows 8 with the Metro interface. The more I use Windows 8 the more I feel the same as I do Windows Phone. It works fine but doesn't float my boat. The Metro interface looks fine, but it doesn't excite me in any way. Maybe this will change with time, I feel strange having no passion using a gadget. A passionless platform is foreign to me and I don't like the feeling, or lack of it.

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Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos

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142 comments
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  • I???ve spent a lot of time in phone stores playing with Windows Phone devices

    this is the problem, you won't get the full effect until you have your own device with all of you accounts in it, i am a huge tech geek and i love getting that techie vibe but i want my phone to be easy and intuitive. once you have your social networks and various e-mails in it you will see the difference
    dirtybirdphoenix
    • RE

      I have to agree with this comment. By the time by 3GS died, I was tired of iOS. I was debating between Android and Windows Phone and ended up with an HTC Android device because it seemed more interesting. After having email randomly stop syncing, a camera that couldn't focus, and having to restart it everyday or having the phone freeze I figured I had a bad device. It wan't until I talked to my friend who also had Android that it wasn't the phone at fault. Their comments surprised me when they said I shouldn't use Android for anything "mission critical." I ended up buying a Windows Phone at full price for this mistake.

      After playing and customizing my Windows Phone, it has grown on my a lot. Even for my mindless websurfing while watching TV, I've abandoned the iPad in favor of my phone.

      I'll admit that the other platforms have the initial wow factor like my friend who recently got a Galaxy Nexus, but after playing with it for 5 minutes and getting the polite message saying that the keyboard had crashed, I'm quite happy with my Windows Phone.
      hiawatha98
      • i am with you bro

        I used to have an android phone. it was a pain. it was a battery hog. it used to freeze all the time. i hated it when it did that when i was on a call. the reason I went with android was because of tech writers like this one. it was a pain from the beginning. the apps get installed on the phone memory. i had to move them manually to the SD card. some apps did not allow moving the apps to the SD card. slowly you will be out of phone memory. Soon i was at a state where i could not install any new apps. i had to remove the apps that were installed on the main memory and then install the apps i want to. then i move the newly installed app to the SD card if it allows. if not then i have to decide which app i want. this was a pain. i wonder if author calls this having lot of passion.

        finally I decided to buy a new phone. This time i ignored all the tech writers and went with windows phone 7. its absolutely beautiful. i haven't restarted it since i got it. the battery lasts long long time. the information is updated all the time on the live tiles. I love the people hub, messaging hub. everything is properly arranged. the apps r beautiful on WP7. i love grouping emails accounts. most of all i don't have issues with installing apps. as an end user i don't care where they get installed. All i care is the apps to get installed so i can use them. WP7 and iphone gives me this peace of mind. unlike iphone, the icons aka live tiles are lively.
        liberalrepublican
    • In principle I agree

      But I have used several evaluation Windows Phones for weeks at a time and that lack of passion was the same. Maybe it's just me, as I said.
      JamesKendrick
      • I'm really confused

        and I don't mean this to be insulting. I don't see how you can find the iPhone interface "exciting". Folders excite you? A grid of icons excites you? However a page full of bright, colorful interactive tiles giving you tons of moving information in a fluid interface you find "boring"? I really, really don't understand the logic behind that statement.

        My wife likes her iPhone but the last word I would ever use to describe it is exciting.

        I do get your points on Android. The problem for me was the lack of stability. But the world is a better place because of choices and we're all entitled to our opinion. As long as we don't end up with a single platform we all benefit.

        Full disclosure: I own a Windows Phone and I absolutely love it. And I love the fact I've only rebooted it during updates in the last 6 months, which amounted to two occassions. To me that's the most important feature of all.
        LiquidLearner
      • Using a phone is not just the UI

        It's the entire experience. That's what I like about other platforms, and find lacking in Windows Phone. As I've said, it could just be me.
        JamesKendrick
      • It is you...

        Get one and really use it and you'll find that it leaves iOS and Driod looking like DOS...
        EDzdnet
      • Get your wife to buy you a nice high end Nokia WP for Christmas this year

        Hopefully by then WP8 will be out. Not sure when you last did your longer term (week?) evaluation but I'd suggest another round if it wasn't recently. There is lots of super cool stuff recently added. Did you try out local scout? Remember WP7 was a catch up os when it first came out. Since then has achieved parity and surpassed ios/android in many areas, end to end scenario ux particularly. I bet the WP8 update brings a *LOT* more and is a huge advancement in many areas where now instead of catch up they will be widening their lead.
        Johnny Vegas
      • Stability

        I actually didn't even realize this until I read LiquidLearner's comment but I've had a WP device for a few months now and I haven't rebooted it.

        Not once.

        I started it up the day I got it and it's still chugging along just fine. And I'm not someone who just opens the people hub every once and a while and calls it good; I am constantly installing, removing and running all sorts of crazy applications. Coming from someone that used an iPhone 3G for 2 years and a Samsung Galaxy S for another year and a half, that blows my mind as rebooting was a part of life on both of those phones (the Android much more often than the 3GS, however).

        I just became even more impressed with WP7.5 stability.

        To relate this all back to your point, I'm not someone who normally stays passionate about a platform; I'm someone who gets passionate over something new. When my upgrade rolls around, I don't want a slightly faster version of my old phone with a few new OS features. I want to experiment and try something new (hence every smartphone I have owned having come from a different OS lineage) so we'll see how I feel about WP in another year.

        EDIT: Fixed some grammar problems.
        chrisknight32
      • It's not the same thing

        You probably evaluated the phone by spending some time with while still using another device as your primar phone. It's not the same thing as actually using a phone.
        Ransh
      • Yes it's your problem James

        The phone is better than Apple or Android. What you are suffering from is cognitive dissonance.
        tonymcs1
    • RE: Playing with it in the store?

      I agree wholeheartedly. Until you actually have a Windows Phone and load it with your own data, you can never get a good feel for it. I've been a smartphone user since the early days of the Handspring phones, and nothing compares to Windows Phone. It's spectacular.
      strangis
    • The power of click-baiting!

      This article certainly stirred up a hornet's nest of MS trolls!

      I particularly like how so many of them consider James to be wrong, simply because he disagrees with their opinions, but congratulate each other for being right. NB: opinions are [i]NOT[/i] facts!

      Guys, if you are not being paid by Microsoft to write this sycophantic drivel, then you need to get a life.
      rahbm
      • Hmm, I seem to have hit a nerve!

        With the usual suspects posting negative votes.
        I think they need to get laid, or get a life, or both.
        rahbm
  • Spend couple of weeks with the phone rather than few minutes at the store.

    I use Windows phone Mango and apart from trying iPhone & Android phone in stores, i also played with friends phones (with their permission).

    I felt sliding across pages to reach an app in both iOS & Android very inconvenient. I am more comfortable using first alphabet search in Windows phone where you select an alphabet and it shows all the apps starting with that alphabet. One can also slide down to find the app if you don't remember the name of app.

    I am quite active with social networking and find People hub very convenient to get all the social news and other information in a single pace. Same about the picture hub. I feel it is brilliant to have so much of information at the same place in a small screen device.

    I would recommend you to use a WP7 phone for couple of weeks and then blog how is your experience compared to iPhone & Android.
    satish_appasani
    • Funny

      It's funny, that sliding sideways between pages is exciting, but sliding up and down is boring. I don't get it. I've been using WP7 since before the actual release and I love it. I've had the chance to play around with an Android phone for the past few weeks, and it feels old, like Windows Mobile 6.5. I cannot see why anyone would choose icons that tell you virtually nothing over live tiles that tell me immediately what is going on.
      AudeKhatru
      • On sliding

        So sliding horizontally is wrong, but sliding vertically is right? Especially when you have no indication how far you have to slide?

        Great logic!

        Someone tells you they are not excited by something, and you all go hint him he doesn't understand. He doesn't need to understand --- it is not necessary the same thing to excite all people.
        danbi
    • Spend couple of weeks with the phone rather than few minutes at the store.

      I couldn't agree with you more. You have to use the phone not tinker with it. I think the Metro interface is slick, responsive and easy to use. The people hub and groups with live tiles give me my information fast and easily with little need to fool around the apps themselves. I like to get what I need without fumbling around and to me WP7 is the perfect OS for me. Never mind the fact that I've never had to cycle the device outside of the updates. How many Android owners can say that? Use the phone for a few weeks and monitor your efficiency...I bet you will see a difference with Windows Phone.
      Rob.sharp
      • Everyone saying you have to 'use the phone' rather than 'fiddle' with it...

        Well, please - tell me.. For people who DON'T own Windows Phones, and don't worship what MS leaves in the toilet, how will they get a notion that "This phone is what I WANT" - if the only way to fall in love with the phone, is to use it for an extended period of time.

        I truly, truly believe that people who aren't snagged by 'fiddling' in the store - probably won't buy the phone, unless they were GOING IN SPECIFICALLY TO BUY THAT PHONE. In other words, it won't nab casual shoppers who aren't looking specifically to get a Windows device.
        Cory Crenshaw
  • It's not fun...

    Leave it to Microsoft to bridge the corporate divide of boardroom presentations and casual Fridays. That is where Windows Phone fits in. It's not a cool diversion from business like iOS and in a ultra techy way Android, it's a nice suit with ties (tiles) you change. James, if there was no Android this would be the phone sucking the last air out of Blackberry. It has not illusions of iOS celebration and pomp any more than any Windows OS has since 1995. Also, we've seen tiles on ZUNE for years and (yawn) its not a big deal. What $MS should focus on is new business Apps and bringing XBox to mobile devices. But I suspect they are out of ideas.
    gospellife