Windows Phone 7 is my mobile platform of choice. I liked the look enough to jump in relatively early, and haven’t regretted it. Yet, despite of the largely positive reviews, growing app store, heavy developer support and a widening carrier support, it’s losing ground.
According to comScore’s recent report, Microsoft has fallen from 8% to 6.7% of the smartphone market in the US since January*. Having been a Windows Mobile user, I can see why people are fairly wary of touching a MS Mobile product. The report also indicates growth by Android and iOS, and significant drop in RIM’s marketshare. So what can Microsoft do to help themselves out?
Well, with the myriad of features being released with the Mango update, they can start with spinning up the Microsoft propaganda machine. the WP7 team is improving on every aspect of the phone, from Office and Outlook, to quick search results – both on the phone and from the cloud – to everyday, everyman usability improvements.
Multitasking is important. More important than copy and paste, and it needs to be done right. The way it’s being implemented looks perfect, so let the people know. If I’m listening to Slacker Radio and a text comes in, I have two options; ignore it or stop the music, and have to re-start the app. Not cool. I use G-Alarm for my alarm clock instead of the stock app, but when I wake up to feed my daughter in the middle of the night and want to play a quick game of Wordament, I have to stop the alarm, then remember to re-start it as I stumble to bed.
The other thing that they’re doing is tying all of your social life into the phone. The current Facebook and email integration is great. After you import your contacts, it will match names to consolidate the number of contacts you have. If some people use different names, you can manually match their phone, email and Facebook profile, removing duplicates from the phone. Now, they’re putting Windows Live Messenger and Facebook chat in the text app. Now you can text the people who are sitting at the computer away from their phone.
This pulls from the basic idea of a smartphone: You’re always connected to the web, why can’t you be always connected to your social networks? Microsoft did some good advertising for this during the reveal, but typical consumers won’t even know about it. Microsoft needs to take a page from the Rocco and tell people “You start getting excited motherf**ker!” Make people talk about it. Apple is being quiet, Android is staying (relatively) at the same level they’ve been at for a while so it’s time for Microsoft to stand up and get people interested in the new kid on the block.
Also coming with Mango is Internet Explorer 9. Before you start moaning about IE, consider that a hardware accelerated, HTML5 loving beast-phone is a great step forward in mobile browsing. Full browser capability on a phone is a big thing for me. Mobile sites suck on a smartphone, and full sites that don’t work suck even more. If I can click a link from Twitter or Facebook and get the same experience that Joe Deskjob just posted about, I’ll be more willing to interact with him.
Microsoft is also bringing a better search experience to WP7. Currently, if you search, you get a mobile version of Bing results, which works decently. But, since I have a smartphone, I probably have an app regarding what I just searched for. The new, integrated search will pull results from within the apps on your phone and display them with the web and local results.
Also included in search is Local Scout, a Yelp style system that is integrated into the search results. Just search for “Bar” and swipe to the side to see what people think about the local watering holes, then use the maps app to see exactly where it is, all without hitting the back button or returning to the home screen. If I never have to backtrack to move forward, I’m a happy camper.
Apps don’t just sit there, waiting for you to start them and find what you need. With Mango, you can pin deep within the app. Say I always want to check the comments on the Noisecast. Previously, I would need to start the WordPress app, select the blog, then navigate to the comment moderation section. Now, I’ll be able to pin the comments straight to the start screen and I’m one click away. It’s just like how I can currently pin a specific web page to my start screen instead of opening IE every time I want to check the Noisecast.
Microsoft also announced a whole list of Partners, meaning more devices are coming. This sets them apart from both Google and Apple. Apple has 1 model, one OS experience and one price. Android has a multitude of models, many different OS experiences and prices to fit any budget. Microsoft has a minimum spec-sheet for each phone, a universal OS experience, but has a phone for every budget and every level of user. This is important to selling the brand. No matter what phone you get or what you pay for it, you get the same OS, just different screen sizes and battery life.
Look, Microsoft, I don’t think anyone is denying that you’re making a great product, but we all realize that you’re not selling it. If you don’t start selling it, we know it will lose funding, and we’ll end up with minimum effort from you. Don’t let that happen (again). You’ve got the cash to sell any product, and you’ve made a product that almost sells itself as soon as you experience it. Get people excited about what this OS can do and be.
*I realize that not all of Microsoft’s units reported are WP7, but this drop means that people are getting rid of their WinMo device and jumping ship.
Check out Microsoft’s blog post about Mango’s features here.