Microsoft, Please Take a Page from Google’s Mobile Playbook

Nokia was kind enough to loan me a Lumia 920 for a couple of weeks, so that I could get a better feeling for what’s going on across the Windows Phone market. It arrived today, and I’ve spent about five minutes with the device.

It doesn’t take long to notice problems.

If there’s one thing for which I’m eternally grateful to Apple, it’s that the company has (almost) unfailingly stonewalled the carriers out of the equation. “Here’s a phone. It works on your frequencies. Sell it.” As such, there has never really been much of a difference between an AT&T iPhone and a Verizon iPhone. They’re both iPhones, made by the same company.

Where I’m hoping that Microsoft steps up (a la Surface) is in providing the same type of device experience. Heck, it doesn’t have to be manufactured by Microsoft. Google has had great successes with the Nexus line, and they’ve been made by a few OEMs.

The problem at hand with Windows Phone is that there are significant tradeoffs to be made, depending on which device or carrier you want. What it leads to is muddy waters, and a disparity within the ecosystem that’s going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers.

Let’s look at the highlights for a moment.

HTC 8X - Verizon - Thin, light, great battery life. Good camera in well-lit conditions. More narrow than the Lumia 920, thus easier in the hand. But terrible buttons and a lack of an OS-level navigation app really hurt.

Lumia 920 - AT&T - Feels more solid in the hand, but also considerably heavier than the 8X. Amazing feel to the buttons. Great Pureview camera. Nokia Drive navigation.

In my case, my wife and I are both with Verizon, on a family share plan that includes my iPad. Just because I like a phone is no reason to have us paying considerably more money every month to split our plans. This disparity between carriers, with exclusive lock-ins, might somehow be good for the bottom line but it’s bad for consumers.

For Microsoft, it creates a conundrum that’s directly anti-consumer. It’s carrier-centric, and that’s an issue. We’re already in a position where the carriers have an enormous amount of power with Android, and it appears that Windows Phone is headed down this same path.

There aren’t many times when I would suggest that any company follow in Google’s footsteps, but I honestly hope that Microsoft does when it comes to Windows Phone. Call it a Surface Phone, have Nokia build it, but make it as light as the 8X. Sell it yourself, and make it available all Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.

The more notes that I continue to write here, the more I’m thinking that I need to do a full-length post on TNW about my thoughts on the whole. I’ve been using OS X and an iPhone for so long now that making this switch has been an interesting exercise into maneuvering outside of your comfort zone.

But just as it came as a surprise to me that I’d consider moving to Windows Phone from my iPhone, I’m equally surprised to say that I’m starting to like Windows 8 a lot more…and it has everything to do with the device in my pocket.

More on that later.


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