As 2016 crawls onward (I can’t quite believe it’s April already) things are not looking too good for Windows 10 mobile. Well, that’s what nearly every tech blogger/reviewer would have you think. The amount of negative press out there for Windows-on-a-phone is quite staggering, but coupled with the lack of devices in stores right now, it’s hardly surprising. With such a low market-share at this point, the carriers aren’t selling many Windows phones (only two of the main four carriers in the US are actually selling Windows phones) and all this plays into the “Windows Phone is Dead” narrative.
It’s not dead, not yet anyway. If it was I wouldn’t be using my superb Nokia Lumia 930 every day, which is running Windows 10 mobile via the Insider program. My 930 has been absolutely solid on the latest Threshold build (ending .164) and I’ve never been happier. But try telling that to your average buddy and they’ll just snort in disgust and smugly pull out a flashy new Samsung Galaxy S7 or a shiny iPhone 6S. Good for them. But also, good for me too.
So why Windows in April 2016? Simple really: Live Tiles. Of course it’s not going to be apps, and of course it’s not going to be, well, I’m trying to think of another negative reason… but I can’t. You see, Live Tiles are such an important part of how I actually use a smartphone, that I think I’d honestly be a little lost without them. Now I know aesthetically speaking, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s fine. I love them though. I love that I can customise my Start screen to the point of complete sublime convenience, and that gets me through the day with a smile on my face.
I have all kinds of things pinned to my Start screen. Some of them are just “dead” tiles; tiles that I place there for sheer convenience, but they offer up little or no information. But I like that. If every single tile flipped and rotated and showed lots of information, it would turn me off to be honest. To just glance at my screen and see I have a Whatsapp message, two unread emails, a Facebook Messenger message and a story about Trump or Clinton on the News tile without even doing much interaction is massively valuable to me. Going further, being able to pin random tiles from other apps is also a huge benefit. A good example of this sort of convenience was when a friend of mine sent me a link from the BBC iPlayer so that I could listen to his new radio play. Because this was going to be a website only affair (the iPlayer app doesn’t work outside of the UK anyway due to licensing rules, even though it’s available for Windows phone) I pinned the specific radio play website to my Start screen. This play was going to be something I would be listening to in bits and pieces, and so being able to simply swipe down the Start screen and tap the tile, wait a few moments for the phone to connect to the BBC servers and begin streaming… it was so effortless.
I have Deezer playlists pinned to the Start screen, along with individual contacts (placed inside a folder to keep things neat) and everything else I need without have to go into the app “drawer” or “list” on the right. It’s just so easy, it’s no wonder people always say, “Live Tiles” when asked why they like Windows phone. Yes, it might be a tired answer at this point, but it’s most certainly a relevant one.
Couple that flexibility and facility with a (still) amazing camera, some great connectivity options (especially for sharing photos from the gallery), wireless charging, and some fantastic physical hardware design aspects, and I remain a happy Windows user. Naturally there is always the question of how long will this last, and I honestly can’t answer that right now. I like to stick with what works for me, and right now, it’s still my Lumia 930. If certain apps were removed from the Store, or if general functionality was in some way compromised within the operating system, then of course, it would be foolish not to look elsewhere. And right now, I’m also enjoying using Android Marshmallow on my second-hand Nexus 5, even though I know deep down it’s not really ringing true for me to be my daily driver. It’s nice to dip into other OSes and experience things in a different way, and to some extent, “see what all the fuss is about”. And yes, Android offers up an ocean of apps, some of which are not available on Windows, but as of now, they aren’t any apps I really hunger for. The apps available to me right now on Windows seem to be sufficient for my work flow and my mobile needs. It’s very likely that the app situation is already improving in the Windows ecosystem, thanks to a ‘halo effect’ of Windows 10 on the desktop and the Universal platform; even companies that killed their old Windows Phone 8 apps are bringing back Universal apps – Bank of America is one I can think of off the top of my head.
Of course, choice is out there, and the latest slew of smartphones is a plethora of magnificence that tempt even the hardened Windows fan. But when it comes to sheer convenience, familiarity and reliability in swiping and tapping those conveniently-placed tiles, it’s still Windows that does it for me.
Photo credits: Windows Central, Engadget