We’ve all seen the commercials for the new Windows Phones: people running into each, ignoring their kids, alienating their dates, endangering pedestrians, spurning their spouses’ advances, and generally making fools of themselves using their phones when that’s the last thing they should be doing. A few incredulous witnesses to this drop their jaws and reprimand the phone-obsessed people, “Really?” Edward Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King accents the antics, and at the end, an announcer remarks, “We need a phone to save us from our phones.”
Windows Phones are supposed to be the phones that save us from our phones.
An Unlikely Hero…
Considering Microsoft’s dilatory presence in the technology race (they’re only now releasing a mobile phone platform—really?) it seems like they are an unlikely candidate to be the one to save us from our phone addictions. If they come in at all, they come late, and release sub-par products that most consumers, technophiles or not, are greatly disappointed with. Most people are still cringing from Windows Vista.
All their history aside, however, Microsoft has actually released a product that is unique and powerful enough to at least be a contender with the other firmly established platforms, namely Android phones.
What is most striking about the Windows Phone OS is the interface, which is both elegant and fast. Microsoft really strove with Windows Phone 7 to depart from the standard phone interface, and the result is an intuitive, attractive alternative to the multiple home-screen interfaces so common on other operating systems.
And Windows Phone 7 actually performs extremely well, too; it is at least on par with the impeccable iOS of the iPhone, which is saying quite a lot. The touch screens are far more responsive than most Android phones, and there is only negligible lag when performing demanding tasks.
…Who is Unlikely to Win
Where Windows Phones fall short, however is in app variety, quality, and functionality. For whatever reason, apps just don’t work as well on Windows Phones as they do on other platforms. Not only that, the apps often lack simple features that are standard on other platforms, making the transition to a Windows Phone all the more difficult. Furthermore, multitasking is an embarrassment on Windows Phones at in their current software generation
Most of the problems with Windows Phones are software problems, which is a fortunate place to have shortcomings, because developers can keep tabs on user feedback and immediately get to work improving the software. In fact, Microsoft has an update for Windows Phone users planned for sometime in late 2011, codenamed “Mango,” which reportedly will address many of the issues the phones had upon their initial release.
But Not For Lack of Trying
As implied earlier, Windows Phone probably won’t come out on top of the smartphone race—at least not in the immediate future—but it won’t be because the phones themselves are inadequate or lesser than the competition. Windows Phones have their even spread of pros and cons, with many features that are cooler, faster, and more attractive than other phones; the real problem is that they are coming into the game so late that many consumers don’t even know (or aren’t interested to know) that there is such a thing as a Windows Phone.
It would be great to see what Microsoft could do with a dedicated following of Windows Phone users, and I for one would love to see them come back and beat Apple in the long run, but unless they quickly adapt to the current technology and give people a reason to want a Windows Phone, it is unlikely that this champion of a platform will rescue the damsels and slay the Android and Apple dragons.