Windows Phone 8: the third wheel or a genuine contender?
The growing popularity of Android and iOS has some people worried that we are facing an era of mobile monopoly, but with two major players dominating the market. It is hard to judge if this is a big problem because having two companies dominating is not a constrictive situation in most industries.
In the mobile industry, however, it means that the best apps, accessories and news coverage will gravitate towards those two platforms and this puts the others at a disadvantage which is not easy to recover from. With RIM struggling to bring relevance to the BlackBerry platform, we are left with Microsoft to try to break the stranglehold that Google and Apple have at this time.
I have spent the past week working with Windows Phone and come to some conclusions as to where it is at currently, what could be improved and what potential it has.
It would be easy to just say that Windows Phone sits between iOS and Android and that it represents the perfect middle ground. It offers more customisation than iOS, but retains the ultra-smooth interface and the locked-down approach that makes the user feel more secure. The operating system is more open than iOS and you can technically do more with it if you have specific needs, but when you check the available apps the situation changes a little. There are some noticeable omissions at this time including an official Dropbox client and when I searched for many other very well-known apps / solutions, I had the same problem on occasion. This goes back to what I said earlier about dominance and we will have to have some patience for the software to truly gain a universal developer following that gives the user everything they want. Android and iPhone users are used to that feeling and it is difficult to offer something less, no matter how minimal, to these people.
The actual interface and the way that Windows Phone 8 works is positive in almost every area. There are some ‘tiny’ bugs which are being worked on and the overall experience has been one that I want to come back to time and time again. Indeed, I have found myself using the 8S three quarters of the time over the past few days in preference to the iPhone. I thought it was the novelty at first, but it is actually the feeling it gives when you use it; there is something very unique about the operating system that makes you want to flick, swipe and simply play with it.
Potentially, it could be fantastic and in many ways it already is. I am someone who likes a simple smartphone experience that lends itself to getting things done and to avoiding clutter and the temptation to tweak my devices to oblivion. This is probably why I have gravitated towards iOS, but at the same time I have often wanted to be able to tweak the experience more than I am able to. Windows Phone gives me some of that personalisation in place of bland rows of icons, but maybe it could be taken even further so that the OS encroaches more into Android territory than the iOS-centric feeling it offers currently.
Windows Phone 8 is a very, very good operating system and I have been more than impressed with what I have seen so far. I have been testing it on an HTC 8S which is a mid-range handset so can only presume that the experience will be even better on a higher-end device. It is without doubt a genuine contender.