Why I probably won’t buy a Windows Phone 8 device this fall

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.

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13 Responses to Why I probably won’t buy a Windows Phone 8 device this fall

  1. Bob - former DECie says:

    I have a 3+ year old WinMo phone and its battery is very close to being useless. That, along with my phone’s many shortcomings such as being effectively useless to view pictures sent to it, means I’m ready to buy a Windows Phone 8 asap. As an aside, whenever I receive a picture on my WinMo phone, I send it to my wife’s N900, and ask her to show it to me after we get home from work, etc.

    I purchased a new Nokia 920 from AT&T over the weekend and my experience with it so far has not been the best. AT&T, Microsoft, and Nokia all share the blame for this.

    Saturday, prior to going to the AT&T store, I copied all my contacts from my current phone to the SIM so AT&T could copy them to my new SIM. I had also checked online at the AT&T site to see if there was anything special I needed to know. The web site was offering a free wireless charger with the purchase of the phone. Since I was considering buying one, the fact that it was going to be free was great news. I also saw that if I selected a yellow phone, that it would be shipping on 11/12. There was no mention of any special shipping date for the other colors.

    I went to the AT&T store and saw a Windows Phone 8 and Nokia 920 advertisement covering about 1/3 of one of the walls. It was the largest advertisement of any phone in the store. A greeter met me just inside the door and asked me how they could help me. I told her I was interested in the Windows Phone 8. She asked my name, entered it into what looked like a Samsung tablet, and told me that there was only one person ahead of me and that someone would be with me shortly. When it was my turn, I told the salesman I was looking for a Windows Phone 8 and he asked what color I wanted. I told him I would like to see a blue and a yellow one. He went back to the stock room to get the phones. When he came back he apologized to me and said that they only had black ones in stock. I asked him when they expected to get other colors and he said he hoped in the next few weeks. I had heard that the phones can be hard to hold because of the shape and finish and decided I probably would need to get a case, so the color really didn’t matter. I told him I’d take a black one.

    As the salesman was going through the process to add the phone to my account, he said he hoped these phones sold well because he felt that Microsoft had finally come up with a good phone O/S. I told him I agreed and pulled the SIM out of my current phone so he could copy my contacts to the new phone SIM. He called the sales manager over to approve the free wireless charger and was about to take the two SIMs to the SIM copying machine when the sales manager said it wouldn’t work because the software on the SIM copying machine hadn’t been upgraded to handle Windows Phone 8 yet. He said I’d have to go to the Microsoft Phone Store and download a free app that would use Bluetooth to copy my contacts from my old phone to the new phone. Of course, to get the app from the store, I’d have to first set up for a Microsoft account. I told him I’d do that when I got home. While I was waiting to complete the transaction, another salesman came by and saw the phone and said he had sold three of them that day and the sales manager said he had sold two. This was my salesman’s first sale of a Windows Phone 8.

    When I got home, my wife and I started comparing it to her Lumia 900. Without a case, the 920 is slightly larger than the 900 and weighs about the same as the 900 with a case. It is, as I had heard, slippery to hold. After that I decided to connect it to our wireless router so I could start doing things without eating up my data plan. I have a 62 character WPA2 key, so I had my wife read it off to me while I entered it. As I got about half of the key entered, the phone said the connection timed out. After repeating this several times, I got most of the key entered and the phone said I had entered an incorrect password. This was strange since I had not finished entering it. After a few more attempts and getting the incorrect password error message, I gave up. I didn’t have this problem with the 900, so I decided to do a bing search and see if I could find a limitation on the length of the key. I couldn’t find anything.

    When we went to bed, I turned the phone off and put it on the charger to charge overnight. I noticed that when I plugged it in, it didn’t turn itself on like the 900. In the morning I unplugged the phone from the charger, turned the phone on, and it had not charged the phone at all. I shut down the phone and plugged the charger into the phone and noticed the plug seemed to be very loose in the socket. I jiggled it and the phone started itself up. OK, obviously there is a problem with the phone. I packed it up and got to the AT&T store shortly after it opened on Sunday afternoon. They verified that indeed the phone was not charging, apologized, got a new phone, verified it would charge, and sent me on my way.

    Now that I had a properly working phone, I decided to set up my Microsoft account. According to the information on WindowsPhone.com, I can set up an Outlook account as my Microsoft account. I went to Outlook.com and said I wanted to create an account. I started reading all the terms and conditions. Let me get this straight, if my wife and I go to Italy and take pictures of the famous artwork and statues and my phone is set to auto save my photos to my SkyDrive account, I’m violating the TOS against semi-nudity or nudity? Or if I send an email from my phone to someone asking about ammunition I’m violating the TOS against facilitating the sale of firearms or ammunition? In addition, I have to give up my right to participate in any class action lawsuit against Microsoft. Being forced into binding arbitration is bad enough, but giving up my right to participate in a class action lawsuit? Is Microsoft trying to gain back its Evil Empire of 1990’s reputation?

    Then there’s the code scanner app from AT&T that’s included with the phone. Its TOS indicate they can use any all personal information they have about me in any way they wish, including disclosing it to third parties when I use the app. Really? So if I’m in Costco and scan a Q-code for a product, AT&T is going to sell the information that at a certain date and time, I was in Costco and scanned a Q-code for a particular product? Really AT&T? The fact that I signed a 2-year agreement to get a discount on the phone, isn’t enough, so you’ll sell my personal info to the highest bidder?

    So to summarize,

    Nokia gets thumbs up for:
    A very nice looking phone.
    It can charge using any Qi standard compliant wireless charger.
    It has NFC.

    Nokia gets thumbs down for:
    A phone that is so slippery that I’m going to have to buy a case for it.
    It doesn’t have any kind of SD slot.
    Their contract manufacturer in China producing a phone that got through QA without being able to charge.
    Not having all color phones available at launch.

    AT&T gets thumbs up for:
    The $99.99 price of the 920. I was interested in looking at the HTC 8X when it comes out, but I don’t see what would make it worth $199.99.
    The free wireless charger with the purchase of the 920. Hopefully it won’t take them 6 months to ship it to me.
    Making the exchange of the defective phone a simple process.

    AT&T gets thumbs down for:
    Not disclosing in the advertising or on the web site that not all color phones are available at launch.
    Automatically including apps on the phone whose TOS force me to give up all my privacy rights when I use the apps.
    Not being able to clone the contacts from my current SIM to my new SIM at launch.

    Microsoft gets thumbs up for:
    Windows Phone UI
    Windows Phone 8 features.

    Microsoft gets thumbs down for:
    Messing up the Wifi WPA2 key entry in Windows Phone 8 when it worked just fine in Windows Phone 7.5.
    The TOS for a Microsoft account.

    I already like the phone and am glad I waited rather than getting a N900. I hope I feel that way at the end of my 2 year contract.

    • dave says:

      Transferring contacts from winmo to a Nokia winpho is easy – use the Nokia Contacts Share app and establish a Bluetooth connection between the two phones. This is how I successfully move 1000+ contacts, many with multiple phone and email address.

      unlike winmo devices, winpho devices like to stay on during recharge. I have problems when I recharge with the power off.

      welcome to windows phone. You’ll find it is quite different from windows mobile. Mostly better, but it will force you to find new habits to replace old winmo processes.

  2. Atique says:

    I bought a Windows Phone. Among the troubles I faced hardest was one that I had lost many of contacts I setup previously using live account and manually editing many of them. It all happened just because I changed my SIM card. My phone is HTC Mozart 7. I felt cool with this phone despite the shortage of free apps on marketplace.

    Yet, most frustrating is that this phone will not get WP8 update.

  3. Andrey says:

    It was impossible to call the upgrade “Windows 8 Entry” or anything else with “Windows 8″ since people would cry loud it is a blatant lie since it cannot be “Windows 8″ without the kernel. “7.8” points to Windows 8 as much as it is possible.

  4. charles says:

    Good read, and I also enjoyed Bob’s reply. I waited and got a Lumia 900 so I have to wait until next summer for any upgrade. Whilst the phone is grand I an sorry they the 920 came out so soon cause now I have to wait.

    That’s ok, I’ll survive. Look forward to getting the 7.8 upgrade.

    I was a die hard iPhone user up until iPhone 4. That was when I had enough of the poor phone quality. A phone should always be a top notch phone first then my personal computing device after. The Nokia definitely brought that experience I was looking for. And I think the 900 camera is much better than that of the iPhone 4s and many devices, especially night shots.

    Since I have to wait until June I’ll probably wait until the next wave of devices comes in.

  5. rjgood says:

    As for the low number of apps…I actually use, at most, 5 apps. My kids will play any fun game out there…whereas there are thousands. The number of apps is irrelevant in my life.

  6. dave says:

    There’s nothing nothing wrong with waiting for the next phone cycle. Certainly the Nokia 900 is a good device, and I think many people will be pleasantly surprised at how many nice updates arrive with the 7.8 upgrade.

    One thing to be aware of is that many people with 900s report that when the make a point to ask about it , they are being given 920 devices for $250 as an early upgrade.

    WP7 apps work on the 920, land the number of WP8 apps seems to be growing nicely.

  7. Not happy with my WP7, I think it’s probably more like an “alpha version.” I often loose GPS signal when I using driving directions which is annoying since I always hear a voice say “Unable to connect.” Furthermore, when I open up maps, it usually jumps across the globe before hopping back to my real location. I usually. Never had this problem with Android or IOS.

    One of most annoying “Feature” of WP7 is that the search button is always in your way, and you usually end up hitting it and switching to Bing a couple of times a day. Terrible!

    Device: T-Mobile HD7.

  8. You guys are all sad sobs. Just get an Android phone and all your problems will be solved.

  9. conanon says:

    Microsoft does not need a hero phone for phones. They can’t beat Nokia for starters. It takes time to build a phone but Lumia 900 was rushed, everyone knows that. look how fast they have been striding forward. First, with Lumia 920. Then, the next-rumoured camera of Pureview 808. They have the technology; the only thing they need is the time to integrate it. How could Microsoft possibly compete with Nokia? They are down but they have shown they still are the world-class phone manufacturer with the chops to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with Apple.

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