Let me be clear, I want Windows Phone 8. And OEMs have introduced some pretty compelling phones with it this fall. But I think I’m going to keep my new device lust in check. At least I’m going to try.
My long-term plan has been to upgrade phones every year. One year I’ll get one at a low price with the two-year commitment, the next I’ll pay full no-commitment pricing. My first Windows Phone 7 device, that I paid no-commitment pricing for, was the Samsung Focus. When Windows Phone 7.5 devices first appeared I decided to wait to see what Nokia would bring to the table, so next up was the Nokia Lumia 900 with a two-year commitment. My next device is going to be another full price no commitment purchase, so I need to be a bit on the picky side. If I want WP8 and I think there are compelling phones out there, why aren’t I rushing to get one? Some of the reasons are uniquely personal while others relate to general faults in the way Microsoft and device manufacturers have handled things.
The first factor of course is that by waiting for the Lumia 900 I put myself off schedule. I have another 18 months to go on my plan commitment. 18 months is pretty much a lifetime in the smartphone world. If I spend good money now then I (in theory at least) will miss not only this coming spring’s refinements to the current WP8 generation but the entire new generation likely coming a year from now. I really don’t mind skipping one update cycle, but two? That’s going to be hard. If I wait for this spring I should, at a minimum, be able to get an upgraded version of the devices that were just introduced. And perhaps there will be a totally new compelling option to consider.
A second factor is that Microsoft’s developer strategy for Windows Phone 8 means I won’t be missing that much over the next six months. By delaying general availability of the WP8 SDK it means that the bulk of developers didn’t get started working on WP8 apps until the beginning of November. By the end of this week the U.S. enters the fall holiday season as people start to travel for Thanksgiving. In the U.S., at least, developer productivity nosedives for a little over a month from Thanksgiving through New Years Day. That means we can expect only a trickle of apps that fully exploit new WP8 capabilities between now and mid-January, or later. It won’t be a rushing stream until late Winter nor a flood until Spring. In other words, the apps that would make an immediate WP8 upgrade “necessary” just aren’t there.
Third, I honestly can’t decide between the available options right now. I like where Nokia has been going, and I really like my Lumia 900 (though its camera, one of the reasons I bought it, didn’t live up to expectations). The Lumia 920 has a tremendous amount of candy I really want. On the other hand the HTC 8x has most of that candy in a much more pocketable form. What should be the deciding factor is the 920’s camera. Nokia is supposed to be blowing away the competition on the camera front, but in real life the story is too nuanced to make a compelling case. Software improvements may yet elevate the 920 well above the crowd, but until that is proven to be the case it adds to my questions about making an 18 month commitment to this device. Altogether this lack of a clear winner amongst Windows Phones makes my delaying a purchase a little easier.
Fourth, Microsoft’s handling of the upgradability of existing devices, and particularly the Lumia 900, has left me with a healthy dose of mistrust. Nokia’s own ad campaign, claiming that all smartphones before the Lumia 900 were just a beta test and the 900 was the real deal, is a perfect example. Huh? It turns out that the 900 was itself was part of the beta test. And Nokia and Microsoft knew that, and promoted the 900 as the real deal flagship Windows Phone offering, just weeks before they revealed it was dead-end.
Forget the technical aspects, I understand why Microsoft might have found it undesirable to bring the Windows 8 kernel to the older hardware, Microsoft has messed up the marketing side. Where is information about Windows Phone 7.8, and why oh why not have called it Windows Phone 8 Entry (or Basic or something to indicate it was a subset)? Calling the WP7 upgrade WP8 Entry, particularly as new low-end phones running it are being introduced concurrently with true WP8 devices, would have taken out the emotional sting. Revealing more details on the release, even under the WP7.8 banner, would have made owner like me feel Microsoft was more committed to taking care of its Windows Phone customers.
On its own I’d be sufficiently over the bungling of the WP7 to WP8 transition for it not to matter. But when combined with where I am in my contract, the lack of compelling new apps, and the lack of a clear winner amongst the devices striving to be the WP8 flagship it makes waiting six months to move to WP8 not just tolerable but perhaps desirable. Because there is an elephant in the room.
Is Microsoft doing a Surface Phone? On the one hand I’ve argued that they are unlikely to introduce their own phone unless (and until) they determine that the device makers, including Nokia, aren’t getting the job done. Or moreover, that a totally new mobile phone strategy is required. But it could be that Microsoft has decided it will introduce a “North Star” device in every category. In which case it is entirely possible that it let the OEM device makers have the glory for this fall’s major product wave, but it will take center stage with its own device as part of the spring refresh. That’s extremely speculative on my part, but it adds some spice to my thinking about waiting.
There it is, my thinking on why I shouldn’t, and probably won’t, rush out to buy one of this fall’s Windows Phone 8 devices. Waiting for the spring refresh won’t turn out to be much of a burden, keeps me on my one device per year schedule, and might even reveal more desirable options than exist today.
Should you wait? I think that heavily depends on what type of user you are and where you are in your own adoption cycle. My situation is mostly one shared with those who purchased the generation 2.5 Windows Phone devices (that is, the spring 2012 introductions). Still living on a first generation WP7 device? Past the two-year commitment mark? Not a Windows Phone user at all but looking to make a switch? Happy to live with whatever you buy today for the life of a contract? Then by all means go ahead and get one of the new Windows Phone 8 devices! They, and WP8 itself, look awesome. I just won’t be joining you for a few months.