I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up

I’ve been using a Windows Phone since Windows Phone 7 shipped, and for many years before that (with the exception on 1 year on the iPhone 3GS) I used Windows Mobile.  Indeed my history with Microsoft’s mobile offerings goes back to the original Handheld PC followed by a number of Pocket PCs.  So for the last few years, with the occasional complaint , I’ve worked around Windows Phone’s so-called App Gap.  It hasn’t been pleasant.  And now I have hit an app requirement that doesn’t appear to have a workaround.  One that might drive me to Android, if not back to an iPhone.

There is no Windows Phone application for the Honeywell Total Connect 2.0 security system.  There is one for the iPhone, Android, and (get this) Blackberry.  The website requires Apple QuickTime, so that isn’t an answer.  In fact if you go to the website with WP8.1 it thinks you are on a Blackberry and tells you to download the Blackberry app!

There is a third party app.  Many users report trouble getting it to work, and even those who rate it highly say it has very limited function.  Basically you can arm or disarm.  But that isn’t the only reason I need to access my system, so the app (even if it works) is inadequate.  Further, it costs $2.99 and there is no trial.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered downloading it, but I wanted to see for myself.  So now I’m down $2.99.  The app works, but won’t do what I need.  So I’m S O L.

Of course moving off Windows Phone would bring other benefits, like being able to control my SONOS  (another case of inadequate third-party apps not really filling the gap) or sync my Fitbit without using my wife’s iPhone.  Or actually get a smartwatch.  Or run a dozen or more other apps where I’ve resigned myself to struggling with a website for the last few years.

Of course some of these things are coming to Windows Phone.  Eventually.  Maybe.  I mean, Uber finally made it this week.  Finally.  Are the other things imminent?  Who knows.  They could appear next month, or I could get someone pregnant and see my child graduate high school first.  Someone said that to me recently and I thought they were joking, now I’m not so sure.

So I’ve finally fallen into the app gap.  And as long as I stay on Windows Phone it seems I can’t get up.  I’m done fighting, tomorrow I’ll probably get a Samsung Galaxy S 5.  Lemming seems like a fine label to wear right now.


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54 Responses to I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up

  1. Hi Hal, if you’re going to jump to Android, don’t get the Samsung Galaxy S5! I’d recommend either the LG G3 or the HTC One (M8). Here’s my ranking of flagship phones: http://cornerplay.com/2014/06/08/flagship-phone-recommendation/

    • halberenson says:

      Thanks for the great comparison article!

      My main reason for leaning S5 is to go for broadest app availability, broadest compatibility with smartwatches, earliest (other than Nexus) access to upgrades, etc. Do you think there is any substantial difference on these characteristics between the G3 and S5?

      • Hi Hal, other than a Google Play edition of the phone (where you can get the quickest OS update), the other variables aren’t meaningful IMO. Samsung does have its own exclusive apps, but none of them are worth downloading. Samsung’s Tizen-based wearables (Gear 2, Gear Fit) only work with Samsung phones, but they’re also not very good devices. If you must buy a Samsung smartwatch, it should be the Gear Live based on Android Wear – all flagship Android phones will be able to work with it. (People are saying wait for the Moto 360 which is expected to be much better.) So if the biggest factor is whether you want a Google Play edition, you may want to consider the HTC One. HTC has been quite good about OS updates for the One so far, so even if you get the normal version it would still be a sound choice. Bottom line, if you go Android I’d still recommend either the LG G3 or the HTC One. =)

  2. dave says:

    Sony Z series phones look very good too. 🙂

  3. Winski says:

    Wait a few weeks and step back across the terminator and to the bright side ….. IPhone 6 soon with IOS 8… The NEW Microsoft announced yesterday that there will be only ONE Windows platform…. When THAT happens – you are done…

    • smallmountain says:

      Highly misunderstood announcement. There will still be multiple manifestations of Windows tuned for the devices they run on, just with more in common. Doesn’t mean it won’t be a disaster, and I don’t see in the least how it helps Windows Phone grow in market share.

    • halberenson says:

      While the platform is clearly converging, though there will be SKU/experience differences, it will be another couple of years before that can have a dramatic impact on app availability. Already the ability to write Windows Universal Apps is helping, and I think it will help a lot over the next 12 months. But it will have a bigger impact on eliminating the gap between apps only on WP and apps only on Metro/Modern for tablets than on quickly attracting totally new apps. Those seem like they will continue to trickle out.

  4. gg says:

    Android? Really? If you are really looking for a phone after Windows Phone, I will suggest you go for iPhone. Android UX will frustrate you.

    • txabi4 says:

      Credit where it’s due though. As much as I dislike Android (lasted 5 months with a Nexus 4 before selling it and going back to WP8) it has come very far in recent years UX wise and the new material design principles hold strong promise.

    • halberenson says:

      iOS frustrates me 🙂

      Actually, if I’m going to do a platform switch I want (a) new and different and (b) wide variety of hardware implementations. I’m a fairly frequent switcher, a year is about as much as I can go without getting a new phone and I’ve done it more frequently. So the iOS ecosystem has a lot of appeal on some fronts, but I’ve been there and done that. I might as well go with something I have almost no experience with and where the pace of innovation is higher.

  5. JohnP says:

    It gets annoying after awhile using WP and having to deal with the app gap. I’ve learned that and moved on awhile back. Nothing against WP, it’s just that I the mobile boat has sailed too far from the coast for MS to catch up.

    I honestly don’t know what Microsoft could do really in the near future to improve WP’s market. I my own opinion, MS should just buy Xamarin out right and move back to their root as a primary software company. Hardware is not Microsoft’s battle anymore. But in software, there are plenty of opportunities.

    Imagine a future where MS Adam powers Siri on iOS and Cortana is present on Android. I think this future is very viable and likely the outcome when MS have to evaluate its roll in the tech landscape in the very near future, and I mean in a couple of years.

  6. codekaizen says:

    Much as how a lot of Windows’ permanence comes from an enormous install base of “2nd tier” and bespoke applications; so iOS and Android have it on the mobile side. These not-quite-mainstream and niche apps have next to no presence in the WP ecosystem, and that is what grates on users over time. I appreciate that apologists cheer that mainstream app parity now exists, but worry that this will be considered “mission accomplished” when in fact there is a long way to go, and it’s all on this not-quite-mainstream level. Why can’t I see any MS efforts to court developers on this level like I did with the mainstream?

    • txabi4 says:

      Agreed. I cannot understand how anybody is developing anything for BB10, much less why they would choose to invest resources there instead of WP.

    • halberenson says:

      While those efforts are there, that’s a much harder audience to address because of the vastness of audience vs. cost. No one wants to invest time and effort on WP unless it makes financial sense. And in markets like the U.S., where WP is low single digits, it just about never makes sense. So even if Microsoft throws money at getting an app ported/rewritten the developer pretty much abandons it. Microsoft would have to fund ongoing development, which it could never justify financially. And so, particularly in the U.S., we are stuck with developers waiting for volumes to pick up before committing to the platform and buyers waiting for developers to commit to the platform. And Microsoft hasn’t found the secret sauce for breaking the deadlock. The enterprise might have done it, had they really targeted the enterprise a couple of years ago. But that tactic seems less and less likely to work as Apple and Google target it as well.

      The PC market never supported more than two players, and then just barely. Why does everyone think that the phone market can support three healthy players? It is possible that it can’t. Just as developers abandoned the Mac at one point, why does anyone think a rational developer would devote their time and money to developing for Windows Phone? Many have done it in anticipation of WP sales taking off, but how long will they continue to do it on faith?

      • nwolke says:

        Well, then it just becomes a circular problem. Not many people will want to get a WP, even if they are interested in it’s OS, because of the app gap. But the app gap won’t get filled unless people use WP as the dev’s behind many of these apps won’t make it until the market share grows.. So at what point does this circle start to shrink and become a line of progress? Who needs to relent first?
        The lack of market share was one of the reasons why Mint.com didn’t make their app for a long time. But the complaints/requests and growth (and probably a gentle harassment from MS itself) got it made.
        Sometimes, though, the perception and general negative attitude towards MS has many developers actively refusing to make an app. For some apps, especially games where a majority of the code can be reused, there is little to no excuse to port that app, especially when its a greater revenue stream.
        We’re here. We want to spend money on good apps. Why not make them? Then more people will either pick up a WP or stay with it instead of abandoning.

        • halberenson says:

          It costs money to make the app, even with a lot of code reuse. It takes money to promote and, most importantly, support the app. And then all you get is crap when one platform lags the other, for example. United put their app on WP8 and then did a redesign for iOS and Android that still hasn’t come to WP. And the WP8 app is buggy on WP8.1, very buggy in a couple of critical ways in fact. So now instead of being thrilled that United has an app for WP I’m getting kind of angry about how crappy it is. So if you are United are you wondering if it was worth putting the app on WP in the first place? Lots of companies, and startups in particular, have to decide “put more energy into improving the iOS and Android apps, or put that effort into a WP app”. It’s a simple ROI decision, with very little reason for the developer prop up WP unless there is a good chance at achieving a better ROI than putting the effort into more popular platforms.

    • RayW says:

      This is true. I see a lot of advertisements of all kinds and below it, it reads “Get our App” and it lists iOS and Android. Hardly, if ever, does it show Window Phone. Most of these apps I wouldn’t want anyway, but the exclusion of a WP listing is glaring to me and speaks volumes of it’s state.
      I love the WP OS. I think the design is perfect for phones and tablets, but the “app gap” and some of the “half-baked” features and apps that just never seem to finish has me starting to question if I should go back to Android. I just want WP to succeed, but I’m getting tired of the time/expense/promises. I just want my phone to work so I can move on and not think about this anymore.

  7. SpragueD says:

    “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…”, etc. After 2 WinPhones (Samsung Focus, Nokia 928) I’m also jumping. My next will be one of the large iPhones. As an indie enterprise dev I’ve been hoping Microsoft would put the pieces together, but I can’t wait anymore. My new bet is Microsoft services delivered to Apple clients. That should work.

  8. smallmountain says:

    Can’t blame you. Microsoft has failed to drive market share of Windows Phone and ipso facto the app gap is not closing nearly fast enough. I am on my 3rd Windows Phone, but I, too, am losing patience. Microsoft has shown again and again and again that they have no idea how to market products to consumers. Xbox used to be the exception, but they even screwed that up with the Xbox One. Windows Phone is such a great O/S, but it is going to die.

    • RayW says:

      I’m on my third WP, too. I love the OS, but It is very frustrating when you’re always told the new update will make things better (in 6, 9 or 12 months) only to find out when it gets here that it’s still lacking, so just wait for the next update. And on it goes.
      I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with this either. I don’t have much experience with iPhones and I’m not sure I’d be gaining enough to justify the price so I’ll probably move back to Android and keep my MS services. It would be nice to have the apps that everyone else has that I know will never come to WP like my local bank.

      • halberenson says:

        I’ve been using WP8.1 for months now, with little in the way I feel I’m missing from the platform itself. Other than the apps, of course.

  9. wingnut says:

    I’m also a early WP7 adopter and couldn’t be more unsatisfied. I even gave up spending time in the WP Marketplace (aka app store). Unfortunate for them, losing 2 users.

    No plans to go back.

    • david says:

      Like you I was an early adopter and have been completely betrayed by Microsoft. I was a Microsoft guy, but now I must admit there is nothing like the IPhone.

  10. joelmartin says:

    I bought a Lumia 1020 a year ago based on hype after years of being on iOS. I like the hardware, but the cliched lack of apps is killing me. Even when an app exists, it is inferior and not updated. I will be getting the next iPhone.

  11. Bob - Former DECie says:

    I’m assuming the security system is for your home. What made you go with the Honeywell solution? I’m asking because I’m having a house built and will have it pre-wired for a security system, but don’t know which system, if any, I’ll end up buying. Thanks.

    • halberenson says:

      When we built our house a decade ago the builder hooked us up with a local alarm company. We like them, and this is an upgrade we just did. In fact our basic panel hasn’t changed. So, I can’t say we did a comparison shopping job. We just went to them and said we want x, y, and z functionality and they proposed an upgrade.

      • Bob - Former DECie says:

        Thanks for the info. My family is not gone, whether it’s just out of town or out of the country, nearly as much as you are, so a security system is not as important to us, but with one very absent-minded family member, something that would detect no activity in the house and an unarmed system, and notify me so I could arm the system remotely would be helpful. I’d hate to have to carry two phones and pay for two plans to be able to do that, so I can understand you dumping WP.

    • dave says:

      Hal, your situation is exactly what I’ve been speaking to friends about for months. That is, noble ecosystems now need to extend to light bulbs! It sounds batty, but here you are about to make a shift because of this type of issue.

      Anyway, good luck with the transition. I suspect we might see a few new postings about the ups and downs of your migration.

  12. Brian says:

    If you want to write a snarky letter to Honeywell demanding a WP app, I’ll sign it. I have two of their $250 thermostats in my house. The thermostats are great (that’s why there are two of them, installed about 8 months apart), and the web site is usable from the phone, but having an app would be a lot better.

    • halberenson says:

      You think they will care? The two of us and the 20 other people who have this problem….

      • the fact is you should not have to, I mean the average person will just go to wallmart and buy a low end android phone and be done with it

      • Brian says:

        Well, two is greater than zero. And, I worked for nearly 10 years for a company that they bought (the same week I left) – they were even nice enough to vest my stock options early and buy them (which was a real nice surprise, I was quitting). I’m obviously a *very loyal* customer. 🙂

  13. jojo says:

    You could have just gotten an alarm system that does work with Windows Phone.

    • halberenson says:

      It was an existing system that I upgraded. Even on a new installation I would go with the system recommended by the professional installers, not base my decision on WP support.

  14. Kip Kniskern says:

    There just isn’t any way around the app gap, which is why I think the “run Android apps on Windows Phone” rumor makes a lot of sense. Even for apps MSFT paid to have ported, WP users will still be last in line for upgrades, new features, etc. A “best for Office, best security, best interface, and runs all your apps” position is the only thing that might be able to save Windows Phone. According to rumors, its on the way. We’ll see.

  15. Kevin Baker says:

    I really empathize with this. I’m on my third Windows Phone, and I absolutely love the OS and the hardware…but at the end of the day, app availability matters a lot. Even putting aside the (very real) problem of big-name WP apps that are practically abandoned (*cough*Kindle*cough*), checking off a “core” list of big-name apps isn’t enough. Most users will eventually run into a situation similar to yours. My electrical/gas utility doesn’t have a WP app. My bank doesn’t have a WP app. My cable company doesn’t have a WP app. The missed conveniences start to add up. It’s unfortunate, and it’s not really fair, but I’m increasingly unsure that MS will ever be able to overcome this hurdle…they may have just shown up too late to ever win this market.

    • dave says:

      I used wish for Windows Phone apps from the various utilities and vendors that I use in my life along the same lines as you describe.

      And then I keep reading how many ways mobile apps are less secure than one would hope for. This situation is symptomatic of all platforms, of course.

      So, now my bank has released a windows phone app and I don’t care to use it!

  16. I wrote my own post recently — http://aaronmhall.sharepoint.com/Pages/ThoughtsonWindowsPhone.aspx — in which I essentially say that there’s lots of “obvious” OS features they need to do, but MOSTLY I feel Windows Phone is FANTASTIC……. EXCEPT for the app gap. So in the end, I outline my thoughts on how to tackle it AND beat back the utter defeat that Apple and Microsoft might face against Google if things keep up the way they are.

  17. One option to consider in your scenario above is to ditch your Honeywell system for an Insteon setup (http://www.insteon.com/) – MUCH wider range of sensors and controllers and works well with Windows 8 & Windows Phone 🙂 Just ordered the “Business Starter” kit from Microsoft Store and will be spending some of this weekend setting it up 🙂

    • halberenson says:

      Let’s see, spend thousands of dollars to replace a security system I already have thousands of dollars in just so I can keep using Windows Phone? Does that really make sense?

  18. NC says:

    Very timely (for me). I am planning to switch. However, I am going with the Moto X or Nexus 5 just to make sure I get all the updates and also I don’t spend a fortune. I am still not ready to commit to a contract with an Android phone, so a good but not an expensive Android phone is my choice for what I consider an experiment for now

  19. I fully admit that the biggest reason I’ve been able to stay on WP is my low app usage.

  20. Doug Wilson says:

    I’m running into the same thing. Home Automation and Windows Phone are about as far apart as you can get without leaving the planet. Like you I’ve been using Windows Mobile and Windows Phone for years, with a brief stint into Apple territory. I am now looking at the new offerings coming out from Microsoft and they’re just way too far behind (especially in Canada where the carriers don’t carry the best models).

    I look forward to hearing about what you get and your experience with it.

  21. jmo says:

    Well, best of luck to you. Thankfully, I am not a heavy app user so my WP device meets my needs perfectly.
    One way to close the app gap is for mobile web apps to improve significantly. I get by OK with the Uber mobile web site on my Windows Phone. Microsoft could help by creating tools that make it easy to create great mobile Web apps that run in all phones. Maybe they could partner with Mozilla and/or Adobe.

  22. Øivind says:

    If you switch from WP to Android to escape the app gap, you may be disappointed – at least I was. I found the Play store to be full of spam apps, and I found that even big-name apps would have confusing, out of place UI’s, would suddenly drain the battery, throw errors, slow down, etc.
    The number of available apps is certainly lower on WP, but everything about the experience is so much easier.

  23. John says:

    Was on Windows Phone 7 since Nokia Lumia 800, got a Nokia Lumia 630 with Windows Phone 8.1 now. Love the new Windows Phone 8.1, actioncenter etc..

    But I agree on the app issue. The Swedish bank Nordea will pull out the Windows Phone app and in future only have a iOS and Android app. Popular services/websites here like Prisjakt and Blocket have new updated apps for iOS/Android. The Windows Phone app for those are from around 2012 and not recive any updates since the launch. And I suppose eventually well be pulled out to.

    Maybe in real life there are only space for 2 Os in the smartphone industry? I dont know how Microsoft can make a solution to this.

  24. mkm says:

    Why not use the total connect 1.0 website? That is what I do…

  25. at says:

    Hal, I have been reading your (insightful) analysis on various things Msft for some time now. They make for very interesting and stimulating reads. You being windows-lover at heart, wanting to try an Android phone says how much of a techie at heart you are 🙂

    Finally, people are feeling the pinch of WP app-gap, which M$ still maintains is, “hypothetical”. The only reason I’m posting is to recommend that you give non-Sammy devices a fair chance. Google’s own Nexus-5 or OnePlus One are worth a (very) serious consideration. Mostly because they are un-locked (and awesome price!) but more so, (as a result) the ability to upgrade to latest-n-greatest version of the Android, without having to wait for carriers to push an update a year after the OS is released. I can’t comment on the shooting abilities compared to 1020, though.

    Sammy devices are great, but you have to deal with crappy wait time for updates (via carrier) and I’m not a big fan of some UI/OS customization that they put on top of stock Android.
    (Note: I have Samsumg S3 and owned/used various versions of Android so I’m speaking from firsthand experience on android).

    I would LOVE to hear from you once you have had chance to choose the device and have had time to play with it.

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