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Thoughts on Windows Phone, Two Years Later (Video)

by Brandon Miniman on November 13, 2012 9:15 AM

It’s been a while since I’ve spent some serious time with Windows Phone. Back in 2010, I used the Samsung Focus as my daily driver for many months. I loved the speed and fluidity of Windows Phone. It was a refreshing change from the rather boring iOS experience, and it felt more cohesive and fluid than the (at the time) still-inconsistent and laggy Android. It also brought a truly fresh approach to the world of smartphones: this idea that you should spend less time diving in and out of apps, and more time just glancing at live information on your homescreen. In fact, Microsoft put forth a pretty successful ad campaign showing the negative consequences of our modern smartphone culture where everyone is so focused on their phones, and that Windows Phone offers a departure from this reality by offering something different. It’s too bad Microsoft didn’t keep this campaign running, because it really made sense.

While Windows Phone 7 was indeed refreshing and new at the time, it had some huge flaws. Because it was rushed, it shipped without copy/paste or fast app switching. Not only that, but the app story was pretty poor: most major apps were accounted for, but the vast majority of second and third tier apps were nowhere to be found. Of course, as with any new platform, it was only a matter of waiting until developers would make apps for the new platform. If Windows Phone was good, and it was, then people would buy and developers would want to develop apps. So the waiting began.

Now that two years have gone by, it’s time to take a fresh look at Windows Phone and see how it’s doing. And over the last week, after using an iPhone 5 for a while and a Galaxy S III before that, I’ve been using the Windows Phone 8x by HTC (which we recently reviewed).

I was excited to see Windows Phone finally be graced with a high resolution display, but then again, all high end phones these days have high DPI screens. I was also excited to see if Windows Phone 8 would feel faster running on a dual-core CPU, and while I did notice a speed increase in the browser, the OS had a similar level of performance to what I experienced on the Samsung Focus two years ago. And that’s not a bad thing: Windows Phone has always been well-tuned for speed. It’s a snappy operating system, no doubt.

Then I witnessed a handful of niceties that Microsoft has added to the mix: customizable live tiles which help to deliver on the promise of making Windows Phone the most personalized mobile operating system; an improved lock screen experience; camera lenses (which are a lot of fun); improvements to the various hubs; new cloud services to help better integrate Windows Phone with Windows, and so forth. While none of these features were especially unique or amazing, taken collectively, they help to make the Windows Phone experience more complete than ever before.

And then, I checked out the app situation. The situation has indeed improved from where it was two years ago, but unfortunately, not by enough. As you can see in the video, we were left wondering why there is still no SpeedTest.net, Chrome, Google Voice, Hulu, or even Spotify available in the Windows Phone store. It’s possible that some of these app developers are working on Windows Phone 8-optimized apps, but frankly, I’m tired of waiting.

And so my opinion of Windows Phone is nearly identical to what it was two years ago: Windows Phone is a terrific, unique, and satisfying platform, but the app selection is just not good enough to be competitive with Android iOS. For some, like me, this might be a deal-breaker (and who knows, maybe in six months with the success of Windows 8 and a trickle down boost in sales for Windows Phone, this will be a different story).

There’s a lot of outstanding hardware (like the Lumia 920, Samsung ATIV S, and others) on the way out. If you can get past the app situation, now is a pretty good time to jump onto Windows Phone.

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