I feel a bit like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day” when it comes to this topic. I mean, sure, Windows phones are not nestled in many sweaty palms across the land, and the apps are most definitely not as numerous as on iOS and Android, and the Windows Store is about as thin as Hansel after a stint at the witch’s cottage, but COME ON! Windows phones are simply not dead, they’re just… very rare. Like blood diamonds. But do we need to see that headline almost every day in the tech press? Can’t those guys do some research for a change and see that Windows 10 mobile is actually alive and kicking? Popular, no, but capable, awesome and beautiful? Yes! (Did I mention it’s not dead?)
We’ve had a bunch of news to deal with in this area recently: firstly, Microsoft stated that they are categorically NOT out of the mobile game, with a renewed commitment to the platform, and promises to support existing (read: new) Lumia phones, and those from their OEM partners. Terry Myerson’s “leaked” internal email from last month said clearly (he even used the words, “let me be very clear”) that they will continue on with this journey in Windows 10 mobile, so if you’re running this on your phone, either by default (Lumia 950, 950 XL) or via the Insider program (Lumia 930, for example) then you are going to be fine. Fi-i-ine. You may very well never get to enjoy the ludicrousness of Snapchat, or the not-as-good-as-on-a-browser PayPal app, but as far as things go with the main engine receiving its petrol and squirts of oil, things will continue to run smoothly.
As for new features, well that may be a slightly different picture overall. I think it’s fair to say that new features will come but in subtle form; if the Photos app gets a slight overhaul, or if the Email app’s UI gets tweaked, then I think that’s an OK-enough thing to pin hopes on. Bigger things such as “double-tap-to-wake” or being able to use your Lumia for mobile payments… those fancier features may or may not come. So basically, if you’re sticking around for the ride in this almost-empty roller coaster, you’d better be OK with that.
After this year, it becomes a bit more questionable, because I think it’s fair to say that the Lumia 650 released recently will be the last Lumia mobile telephone released by the Redmond giant. Again, none of that should be a shock to anyone who paid attention to Satya Nadella’s announcement last summer, when he stated that all things mobile at Microsoft would wind down to three categories: budget, business, enthusiasts. We now know of course, thanks to the newer announcement from Microsoft on Wednesday of last week that the budget and enthusiast sections are effectively being sliced and diced and those bits will be scraped off the chopping board straight into the smartphone dustbin of time. What’s left is exactly what I always thought Microsoft traditionally stood for: business and enterprise and stuffy people in grey suits. But don’t think that Microsoft will be releasing the Lumia 650 Plus, or the Lumia 650C or the Lumia 650 SE anytime soon. They won’t. The business side of the market will likely be taken care of with the rumoured “Surface phone” – or whatever it ends up being called.
We know this because of Myerson’s “leaked email” when he said that while they are committed to Windows 10 mobile, they were also working on their next range of devices. That coupled with the more recent statement that Windows 10 mobile might be “down, but we’re not out!” suggests that something in the Surface device category (headed up by Panos Panay) will be coming down the line at some point in the future. Most commentators agree that spring 2017 is when we will see the fruits of this labour, under Panay’s watchful eye of course. What that device ends up being is still anyone’s guess, but the smart money is on something like a mini Surface, perhaps in the Galaxy Note realm, but with a detachable keyboard. I think of it as a Surface-styled Nokia E7, except that the keyboard can be removed if you want. That device was a superb device to type on, either with two thumbs as the phone was cradled across both palms, or as a teeny tiny laptop while it sat on a desk. Admittedly, the latter positioning wasn’t great simply because the device was small, but think of that kind of experience in a gorgeous Surface-like design. I hear people screaming, “Shut up and take my money!” already.
Whether this is the future of Windows 10 mobile remains to be seen. We’re all guessing at this point, but guessing well, because of the statements Microsoft has made recently. It’s easy to join the dots and see where things are going, I think. And I’m pretty excited about it. Is Windows Phone dead? Yes, of course, and in terms of new Lumias running Windows Phone 8.1? Certainly. For new Lumias running Windows 10 mobile? Almost certainly. For new devices from Microsoft that run Windows 10 mobile? I think we’ll certainly see something from them next year. And if we don’t, guess what? That Lumia 950 XL you have will still be updated more often than your friend’s Galaxy S7. You’ll be updating yours to Redstone 2 next year while he’s still waiting for Android N. Perhaps.
One thing’s for sure: I’m sticking with my gorgeous 950 XL with its exceptional camera prowess, it’s lovely leather Mozo back cover, and it’s wonderfully bright and rich screen. Plus all of the goodness that comes with Windows 10 mobile. It is, in my view, an excellent operating system. Admittedly, it isn’t used by many people, but most of those people that do use it, know how good it is, and probably aren’t bothered by the apps that are unavailable at this moment in time. I certainly would not be using it if it did not provide a rich experience that was also very useful and very enjoyable. I’m happy to be part of the 0.7%.