September 30, 2015
UK phone outlet MobilesPlease reported today that Windows Phone 7 sales may be even more lackluster than originally reported. Data gathered from phones bought on their website, as well as other networks that use their service, shows that only 3% of smartphones sold were Windows Phone devices. This is a far cry from the nearly 45% of sales that Android accounts for on the site, and less even than the dying Symbian platform.
Despite the public being bombarded by advertising for Windows Phone, they continue to demand phones from Apple and, according to MobilesPlease, HTC phones running Android. There's even a high demand for Blackberry, a company many tech pundits suggest is dying. What does this mean for Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft's mobile strategy as a whole?
Given the huge amounts of money Microsoft is pumping into the platform (nearly a billion dollars between Windows Phone and Kinect), I find it difficult to believe they'll abandon the platform any time soon. They've also invested heavily in developers, in some case paying developers to create third-party apps for WP7. It isn't going away any time in the next few years, but there's also no reason to assume that demand won't pick up before Microsoft declares the platform dead.
The major hindrances for Microsoft right now seem to be dull hardware and the lack of big features. As a whole, the Windows Phone 7 lineup is boring. All the phones (except, maybe, the 7 Mozart) are black slabs of plastic. Some of them have standout features like a keyboard or a larger screen, but there's nothing that distinguishes them from similar Android Phones. There's very little to separate phones like the EVO 4G and HD7; both have the same screen size, the same general layout, and the same build quality.
Windows Phone 7 is also lacking features their competitors have had for years. One of the big disappointments from the original Windows Phone announcement was the lack of copy-paste. iOS had had this feature for nearly a year before the announcement, and Android has always had it integrated with the rest of the OS. It was a little disheartening and even confusing, given that Microsoft's own Windows Mobile was one of the first smartphone platforms with copy and paste. Arpan Shah, Director of The Microsoft Project, blogged in early November that the company would be releasing an update with the feature "in a matter of weeks"
Unfortunately, the platform is also missing multitasking. Many tech pundits, both online and off, have harked on WP7 for not including a feature which is fundamental to Android. These two features may be major hindrances for Microsoft right now as they learn about its shortcomings.
However, take reports like these with a grain of salt. These numbers come from one less-than-mainstream source in one country. They may not reflect how Windows Phone 7 is doing as a whole around the world. In addition, carriers and manufacturers have made a few missteps along the way; there are plenty of people finding that there's little to no advertising or support for the platform in carrier stores, and huge supply restrictions have been hindering the platform as well.
While all reports indicate that Windows Phone 7 is off to a poor start, that could easily change in the coming months as Microsoft fixes some of the platform's biggest holes and manufacturers and carriers step up their game. Personally, I'd like to see a flood of WP7 devices in the market; it's just such a different experience from Android and iOS. It's very fresh and clean, and it definitely represents the future of mobile as a whole.