8 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Windows Phone
It's becoming increasingly difficult to recommend that anyone buy a Windows Phone.
According to IDC, Microsoft's platform commanded just a 2.7% share of the worldwide smartphone market in the first three months of 2015. Android and iOS are the runaway winners, and that seems to have been confirmed by the recent news that Microsoft will shed 7,800 jobs in the company's phone division, leading many to wonder whether the OS' days are numbered.
That said, Microsoft isn't throwing in the towel and abandoning its smartphone platform just yet. Windows 10 is around the corner, and it will be accompanied by Windows 10 phones; but if you're considering buying a Windows Phone right now, there are plenty of reasons to think twice. Here are eight things you need to know.
Microsoft May Abandon, Which Means No Support for the OS and Apps
There's a very real risk that Microsoft is sliding towards abandoning its phone platform altogether. It won't happen overnight, but the impact of such a move would be devastating. Even the news about recent lay-offs will have an impact on the wider ecosystem of app developers and service providers working with Windows Phone. They aren't going to continue to update — and in some cases support — the platform if it's perceived to be a lost cause, which may be the way some feel already.
However, Your Data Might Be Usable on Other Platforms
The good news is that Microsoft is working towards expanding its ecosystem onto other platforms. Realistically, it's easy to use Microsoft services on Android or iOS, so if you do have to jump ship from Windows, it shouldn't be a terrible wrench to shift your data.
But Your Phone Will Be Worthless
While you might be able to salvage your data if Microsoft abandons the OS, the same can't be said for your investments in the platform, like your device, accessories, and apps. Not only does that stuff become useless to you, but it will also be hard to sell the hardware and recoup any of your investment if the platform dies.
There's Already a Lack of Apps...
In the race for mobile platform supremacy, Windows Phone has always lagged behind Android and iOS. There are well over a million apps and games in both Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store. The last confirmed count for Windows Phone was 300,000. Microsoft now says there are 585,000 apps in the Windows and Windows Phone Store combined. It's not just about the numbers, though, it's about the big name omissions and the relatively poor quality of what's there.
...Many of Which Are Merely Adapted for Windows Phone
Very few, if any, apps were designed for Windows Phone first. The quality on iOS is higher and the prices on Android tend to be lower. If you had to pick just one reason why Windows Phone has failed, it would be apps. If you really love your apps and games, don't buy a Windows Phone.
There's Poor App Support
It's not just the fact that there are fewer apps for Windows Phone, or even that they're poorer quality, it's also the lack of support. Apps in the Windows Phone Store are updated less regularly. Many of them have never been updated. It simply isn't worth the effort for app developers to keep improving their wares on Windows Phone when sales figures and revenue remain so low. Even some of the big name apps on Windows Phone lack features that are present in their Android and iOS counterparts.
Few Hardware Choices
It was recently revealed by AdDuplex that Microsoft makes 97% of the Windows Phone devices on the market. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, has made it clear that the firm will make far fewer handsets in the future, which is partly what the lay-offs are about. There's no real incentive for other manufacturers to pick the Windows platform. Even when Microsoft started waiving licensing fees, there was no noticeable uptake in hardware. That means your choice of phone is going to be very limited.
You could argue the same about iOS, but Apple's track record in making desirable smartphones speaks for itself. Hardware design has never been Microsoft's strong suit. One of the biggest problems for the platform is that it has never had a stunning flagship to go head-to-head with the latest iPhone or Galaxy S from Samsung. It could prove tough to find a phone you really like that runs Windows.
You Should Wait for Windows Phone 10 Before Buying
When Microsoft rebooted Windows Phone and went from WP7 to WP8, it didn't allow owners of WP7 devices to upgrade. It seems to have learned from that failure, and intends to push updates to Windows 10 directly to users with WP8 or 8.1 devices, but in some cases the carriers are going to make this difficult to do or delay it. If you're thinking about going for a Windows Phone, it would be prudent to wait until Windows 10 is released, check out the reviews, the available hardware, and the general reaction. If you buy now, you may be stuck on an older version of the platform.
One of the main potential advantages of Windows 10 is this idea that it will be easy for developers of Windows apps to make their software run on Windows Phone as well, but there's a good chance you'll need decent hardware to take advantage. Will a mid-range WP8 device be able to handle it? Possibly not. The smart move is to wait and see what Windows 10 brings. You have to look before you leap, and leaping right now is putting a lot of blind faith in Microsoft.
Readers, are any of your devout Windows Phone fans? Would you recommend the OS and ecosystem? Share your thoughts in the comments below!