Numerous companies in the past, including the mighty BlackBerry, have tried to take a spin on the mobile operating systems, but as history goes, it isn’t about how good the OS is, it’s about how many people use it. First Symbian and then Android validate this point. There have been other, better mobiles operating systems but they weren’t as successful simply because they didn’t have that big an audience.
One such OS is Windows Phone. Now dropped by Microsoft, Windows Phone was quite the OS when it peaked. I personally have been a Windows Phone user for as long as I possibly could before being forced to switch to Android. In this article, I talk about some points that made Windows Phone such a great OS.
In a time where every Android device lagged as hell, only Windows Phone could deliver a smooth user experience. iOS, of course, was in the business too, but then it wasn’t as affordable as WP.
Windows Phone derived its memory management from, you guessed it, Windows. Microsoft having learnt their lessons from Windows implemented solid memory management in WP, which in turn contributed to its smooth user experience. There was no hidden buffer; if you deleted an app, it actually got removed and didn’t eat up any space in the memory. You knew exactly how much space you had and what was consuming what. It was transparent.
Extension to Windows
It many ways, your WP was pretty much your extension to Windows. When WP 10 hit, if you mixed it up with Windows 10, the experience was as seamless as iOS and macOS.
You got your phone notifications on your PC and vice versa. Settings would automatically sync in, including WiFi networks and Bluetooth devices. It was heaven for a Windows power user.
Even for the general consumer, it made things seamless. The OS just knew somehow what to do. You wouldn’t need to set or sync anything manually. Everything just worked.
The User Interface
This might be subjective, but I loved the tiles interface of the WP. I find it so much better, faster and natural than a standard menu-driven interface. You just unlocked your phone, and everything was just there. No menus, no folders — nothing — your phone, your apps right there. Then there were options like the Child mode or Guest mode. Press the power button twice, and you have a completely different phone with different storage. You could hand it over to someone, and they’ll never know what you have on your phone.
There was a slew of features that came directly from windows, and they made so much more sense. Overall, the UI still has me hooked.
Performance to Price ratio
At the peak of Windows Phone, Androids were still laggy boxes. Yes, they were affordable, but WP offered way better hardware and performance at the same price.
My last WP, the Blu Win HD LTE, came for INR 3500 new. It was on par with Androids costing around INR 15,000 at that time. The phone lasted me quite some time and had terrific hardware for the price. It never lagged, had a great camera, great screen, great battery, great everything.
There was only one mistake that Microsoft did with Windows Phone. Well, in hindsight they did a couple, but one really broke the deal with them. They tried to go for an iOS-like ecosystem with a hardware line that was more like Android. With the devices being cheap, a lot of people initially bought them. But since the software ecosystem was quite restricted due to several reasons — which included transitioning from various versions from 7 (through 7.5 and 7.8) to 8 (through 8.1) to Windows 10 that hampered continuity of support and also the fact that the lower number of users means a lower ROI — developers couldn’t release their apps on time. With the rising popularity of Android, developers were focussing more on it, and it was easier to develop as well.
I was a beta developer for Microsoft for some time. They never fully disclosed the reason why they actually put so many restrictions. They would usually hide behind reasons like security and the fact that they were trying to deliver the best customer experience by upping the quality of the Windows Store. However, to the best of my knowledge and research, they never addressed it directly
This caused a vast ‘app gap’ between WP and Android/iOS. Consumers realised it and started switching to Android as it was the only other budget option. In a way, WP added to its competitors’ popularity.
Microsoft realised this and opened up their ecosystem, but the damage was done. Microsoft went even further and allowed Android apps on WP as a last-ditch resort to recover it, but it was too late. Manufacturers had stopped producing WPs, and the market was over.
Additionally, WP had single-handedly caused the demise of Nokia, the leading WP brand. This further caused any interested manufacturers to back off. This was the last nail in the coffin for Windows Phone.
Eventually, Microsoft accepted defeat and stopped WP support. That’s not to say that Windows Phone won’t make a comeback in the future, but for now, its goodbye to a very robust OS that taught a lot of corporations a lot of different lessons.