Who will buy Samsung Focus S Windows Phone?
Microsoft has a perception problem: It's the new IBM -- the stodgy has-been that built an empire on a now declining market. Meanwhile, Apple is the amazing innovator that drives the new era of computing, propelled by the cunning genius of Steve Jobs. That story is repeated every day, particularly now that Jobs has left this world, his biography is fresh off the presses and Apple and its fanclub of bloggers and journalists have in his passing new praise to heap. But it's fiction, and something those of you who have used Windows Phone understand.
Six days ago I asked: "Will you buy the Samsung Focus S Windows Phone?" Many of you answered yes or proudly told how you already have. Your responses say much about what's right with Windows Phone and what's wrong with perceptions about it.
As I've oft harped: In business, perception is everything. Apple is among the world's best marketers, able to make the simplest new feature seem like the company invented it. Apple's marketers have an amazing knack for making small things look larger than life. So Apple adds voice commands and questions to iPhone 4S, and suddenly it's magic. But voice-feature Siri obscures the truth about iOS: It's a tired, desktop PC-like user interface that has changed little since the first iPhone shipped in June 2007. By comparison, Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" is fresh and uses the touchscreen more sensibly -- to accomplish meaningful tasks rather than launch applications.
But there is the perception problem, and much of it Microsoft's creation -- mishandling Windows Mobile development and marketing, starting around v5 in 2005. Microsoft lost its mobile mojo, which it only started recovering with Windows Phone 7's launch a year ago and seriously regained with Mango's release in late September. Windows Phone looks and feels nothing like Android or iOS, and it's better suited to touchscreens because it is task oriented. The most natural user interface is you, something Microsoft demonstrates it gets with Windows Phone. But the perception of innovation belongs to Apple and iPhone and, to a lesser degree, Android and Google.
BetaNews reader mtnrunner comments four days ago:
I got the Focus S last night and love it. Don't understand why it's considered a red-headed stepchild when everything about it -- the OS, build quality, responsiveness, etc. -- is the best I've seen. Just need to finish it off with Skype but all my major apps are there. Zune is also a must-have and TellMe speech recognition does what I need, where I need it. What WP has is the best, hands down, no argument: Social integration and that’s what a smartphone needs to be 1st a foremost for me. It’s about connecting and not about weeding through one-half-a-million crappy app$.
Reader Richard Hoffman, who plans to buy the Focus S, agrees. "Windows OS and the Focus are simply the best OS/Phone combination I have owned. You have no idea how much you will love Live Tiles until you try them, and then you will curse everytime you have to use a phone without them".
"When you pin a contact as a live tile it is literally that: When there is new email from that person, a new update from his Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. account or when I have message from him, the Live Tile flips to inform me", arcana112 comments. "Android does NOT have this" -- nor iOS 5, I might add.
Microsoft's design and marketing approach to Windows Phone is "glance and go", for which Live Titles are core feature. The idea is simple: Get what you need from the phone to live rather than be consumed by the device.
John Megert: "Yes. Will buy either the Focus S or the coming HTC Titan. Love the Windows Phone".
"Yes, everything I need from smartphone, and yes I also work in IT office so I need a phone that actually doesn't crash or freeze, like every Android I've previously had. Buying this phone from AT&T online as I type this! ;D", commenter Gromanon writes five days ago. Well, did you get it? How about sharing some first impressions.
There's a common thread among most of the comments. I asked a question specifically about one Windows Phone, but the majority of comments are about the operating system.
Philip Gould: "You betcha I will, when they are available in the UK that is". That's where Microsoft and its partners have gone wrong -- international distribution. Jeremy Moses laments:
I'd buy the Samsung Focus Flash in a heartbeat -- that is if Microsoft would start supporting more than a handful of countries. I recently moved to Kenya and, well, there goes any chance of WP7 Marketplace support for at least a few years cause of how slow MS is rolling out international support. But lo & behold, Android is everywhere with amazing support for all their services here. I'm begrudgingly heading off to buy an android (Galaxy S Plus, or S2) this week sadly.
However, the first Nokia Windows Phones, Lumia 710 and 800, may broaden the operating system's availability and supporting services. Nokia has huge global reach and brings Lumia Windows Phones to international markets first. Still iPhone is available in more countries and more carriers than is Windows Phone today.
"I had a Windows HD7 for the last year and switched to the [iPhone] 4s the day it came out", Matt Gruber comments. "Even with its pre Mango shortcomings I still miss my Windows Phone, and if I could I would probably jump back to a Windows Phone. There is a lot to like about the iPhone but there will be things that I will always miss. For some reason I don't think I will say the same when I eventually replace my iPhone. Maybe Siri will change that but at this point I don't see it. In my opinion the UI for Windows offers the best experience I have ever had with a smartphone".
Well, Matt, you can still go back. For people who preordered iPhone 4S or bought on launch day, the 30-day return period ends tomorrow.
Baard Williams went the other way. He owned iPhone from first model through 4S:
I bought the Windows Phone out of [disappointment] of not getting iPhone 5. So I tried something different. I gotta tell you, [Microsoft] is on to something. I am extremely satisfied. For me that uses social media a lot, Windows [Phone] is a gem and far superior to iPhone in that regards. I have never been a Windows fan -- I always hated their software and everything lagg and buggy. But I gotta give them thumbs up this time. It's far better than Android and closing in fast on iPhone. I never thought I would say this!!
But for all this enthusiasm or my praising Windows Phone UI as being innovative and better-suited to touchscreens than either Android or iOS: People still have to buy. Will you? Have you?