If there is one company that has surprised me in the past year it has to be Nokia. Their commitment to the Windows Phone OS and the degree to which they are contributing to the Windows Phone ecosystem is more than I have ever seen come from a partnership.
Two years ago whilst searching the web, I read a story of how Microsoft is going to go into a deal with Nokia in which the Finnish handset maker will exclusively support the Windows Phone 7.5 OS. At first I felt surprised, after all Nokia and Microsoft weren’t two names you ever heard in the same sentence. Then I thought, “Would this work?” I mean, I have seen deals like this before “exclusive partnerships”, but they never amounted to anything significant. I settled with the mentality “let’s wait and see”.
The investment that Nokia made into the Windows Phone platform cannot be understated. You may heard the term “We bet the company on…”, well in this case it is very true. Nokia really used all it’s might to differentiate not only from iOS, or Android, but from other Windows Phone vendors too.
Now, why did I choose the Lumia brand for my Windows Phone fix? Well, to answer that question we need to go back before 2007, the time of the feature phones. You know, those phones that your grandparents use to make calls for payments on their AARP accounts. With the small screens and buttons, yes those. Before smartphones came around, feature phones were all the rage. I know most people carried the Motorola Razr. I personally, carried around Sony Ericsson handsets. Why? Well some of you might know that if Sony did one thing right back then it was to make beautiful phones. I mean really folks these phones were gorgeous, I moved onto to what I consider the real “first modern smartphone” the HTC HD2. Yea I know it used windows mobile 6.5, but this was the first attempt to create a real modern smart phone. HTC’s Sense UI started with the HTC HD2 and it was an amazing handset with a 4.3 inch screen, a fast processor, and great battery life. But like the seasons, we all change phones. I moved on to the iPhone, YES I used an iPhone, for a very long time actually.
Why did I use an iPhone? I am one of the very few people out there, at least that I know of. That thinks that a phone’s physical make and body is just as important as the software its running. So I bought the first iPhone and eventually the 3GS, 4, and even the 4S. At the time, I did not find any other phone appealing. When I buy a phone, I don’t just look at the processor, RAM, screen resolution. In fact, I try to feel the phone out. How does it feel? Whats the weight? Does it feel cheap or plastic? I think you know where I am going with this. So I went for the iPhone.
Windows Phone 7 was out at the time I purchased the iPhone 4S but to be honest I was not impressed with the hardware line up, and like I have said before on other posts, “I don’t buy anything that’s version one.” So my first Lumia was the 900, it was a real beauty, polycarbonate body, angled edges. I loved that phone. I knew I was addicted; this phone was my Picasso in a sea of black and white Android/iOS devices. Not to mention the fact it came with great Nokia apps that really made Windows Phone more user friendly and feature packed, that’s the key in my opinion. It is more than the body. If a handset or OS manufacturer wants to stay relevant in this 2013 mobile space, they must create a good looking phone. But thats not enough. The company must contribute to its parent OS’s ecosystem. That’s exactly what Nokia is doing which is why they are successful. This idea was pushed further with the Lumia 920, a great phone with the same polycarb design, but much more refined. A new curved glass screen with high resolution and a low light camera which anyone would be proud to carry, Nokia really knows how to make a phone. Is it perfect? No. It has its issues, more than one issue actually. Some even call it a tank, well maybe that’s true, but it’s one sexy tank.
So what about HTC or Samsung? Well HTC always made a good looking phone and the HTC 8X is a great phone. Though, HTC did not contribute to the Windows Phone ecosystem. They made a good phone, launched it and called it a day. There are virtually no exclusive HTC apps in the Windows Phone marketplace. Nokia on the other hand has so many apps available that it has its own list. See the difference? Samsung, besides having a WP8 device in the market, are virtually nowhere to be found so I won’t even go into that. If you look at Samsung in the Android ecosystem, however, they are king. Samsung has a done a great job of leveraging Android with its own devices and services to create an amazing portfolio, and to be honest the Galaxy line are all cheap plastic feeling phones. Something you might think you picked up at Wal-Mart. They do not have good looking phones, but they have a superior ecosystem not to mention great marketing, which does count.
Yet, offering just smartphones does not matter; I think Windows Phone has done an amazing job creating a very different kind of OS from their competitors. Is Windows Phone perfect? No, not at all. But It is getting there though. I am seeing great apps filling the Windows Phone marketplace for the first time in a significant way. This is what Redmond needs desperately.
The future holds many promises; many rumors are flying around stating that Windows Phone will be getting an update to support 1080p screens. If true, this would mean that Windows Phone can spread into the “phablet” world, which is a hot topic these days. Not to mention the rumors that Nokia itself will be bringing a phablet or even a tablet early next year. I believe that the Windows Phone Tile-centric feature looks better on a big screen. With Windows Phone going larger and Windows 8 becoming smaller, Microsoft may be on the verge of completing its desired family.
So is this Nokia/Microsoft love connection a perfect one? I can’t say, but this is the first time I am seeing a major mobile OS being developed by two very different groups in parallel. I can honestly say that without Nokia, there would not be a Windows Phone, at least not the kind of one that I carry in my pocket. Now if only they can get Instagram.Further reading: Microsoft, Nokia, Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8