Last week (ironically at a Microsoft event) I broke my Google Nexus 5 Android phone so I have reverted to a previous device, my old Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7.1.
This experience has got me thinking about the current and future state of Windows Phone.
Windows Phone 7
First things first, going back to this phone hasn’t been that much of a hardship. The device still feels like a quality piece of hardware and has aged extremely well. The form factor is actually ideal and has made me question whether the modern ‘phablet’ era is perhaps just a phase and 5″ screens were the ideal. The screen is still lovely and the camera far superior to what I’d become used to on the Nexus5.
The Windows Phone OS itself still feels surprisingly modern (pun not intended), is still extremely fast and generally feels pretty slick. I was fortunately still able to find some of my old favourite apps (despite this version of the OS not really having much presence) so the interruption to my day-to-day usage wasn’t looking too rough… almost.
Unfortunately changes have since been made which means I can no longer connect my Google apps for business account. This means no email, no contacts and no calendar. These are some pretty major challenges to overcome even just for an interim.
Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone 8 was a nice evolution from 7, there were a few nice incremental updates and improvements to the platform and some nice hardware added at various key price points within the range. Market share grew as well between 7 and 8 but not as substantially as Microsoft would like I’m sure and seems to be dwindling after a quick search. Windows Phone may have taken the number 3 spot here in the UK, but they’re still a long, long, long way behind iPhone and Android. As such, Windows 10 feels a bit like last chance saloon for the Windows Phone derivative. It’d be a shame if that’s the case and I hope I’m wrong but that’s definitely how it feels from the outside.
Windows Phone 10
So, to come back to my original story and revelation as to the saviour of Windows Phone on Windows 10.
It has to be the browser.
The web browser on Windows Phone 10 must be by far the best browsing experience yet delivered on mobile. I would have no issues right now making use of the web-based versions of my day to day applications if I had access to a capable web browser. This mitigates the current “make-or-break by the success of our app store” bet everyone is riding. Even better, would be to welcome third party browsers to the platform too. Were Chrome available on Windows Phone 10 in the near future a potential huge market is opened up.
I’m not by any means saying an app store ecosystem isn’t desirable, I’d love to see a successful Windows Marketplace. But until that happens there seems little downside to treating the web (and it’s browsing tools) as a first class citizens on the platform. Android has somewhat managed this with Chrome but is plagued by it’s fragmentation issues, the browsing experience from one device to the other is not controlled or consistent thanks to the many mutilations of the OS and devices. Apple is certainly resistant to the evolution of the web, Safari has been touted as “the new IE” by many (we’ve certainly had our fair share of battles with it at Moov2 lately).
Enable users on their terms. This is the mantra that saw MS Office make it onto iPad and why Microsoft’s own open source projects are on Github instead of Codeplex. Some people at MS get it. I just hope they’re the ones behind Windows Phone 10.
Have an opinion? Feel free to tell me how wrong I am @DannyT