Windows Phone 8: Microsoft’s Last Chance?

On October 29, Microsoft finally released Windows Phone 8 to the public. Windows Phone 8 is the tech giant’s smartphone operating system based around the new tile-based UI and ‘Live Apps’. Windows Phone 7, its predecessor, was largely viewed as an ‘also-ran’ in the mobile world, with Android and iOS as the kings. But Microsoft has made some significant improvements to their platform by unifying all of its ecosystems – on the phone, tablet, Xbox, and computer. But the big question is this: Is this Microsoft’s final chance at introducing to the world a high quality, top-of-the-line phone operating system that can compete with Android and iOS?

The answer is yes. With Windows Phone 7 viewed as the warm-up act for WP8, Microsoft is late in the game. If they cannot show people that this is a smartphone you really want to have, to use, a phone that really is personalized to you, a phone that is really neck-and-neck with competition, then of course they are doomed to stick with the dismal market share that they currently own. Microsoft had to show the world that its mobile phone operating system had killer features, that it did feature stunning hardware as opposed to just getting the scraps off of the Android table, and that it could pull together all of its ecosystems into one fast and fluid interface that is intuitive and reliable.

I believe Microsoft hit the nail on the head with Windows Phone 8. And I’ll tell you why.

Amazing Hardware

I’ll admit it – the majority of Windows Phone 7 phones were pretty bland. They were dull and looked just like any other Android phone on the market. But the new crop of Windows Phones being released this month are looking amazing. Nokia started the trend of colorful Windows Phones with the Lumia 900, which was a great device released in early 2012. Nokia designed and built a stellar update to that, called the Lumia 920, which adds lots of features like amazing low-light camera shots and a smooth PureMotion display. This phone is built out of polycarbonate, so while it might not look like the classiest of phones, it is as solid as a rock. Another high-quality and very underrated phone is the HTC Windows Phone 8X, which is very thin, light and fits in your hand perfectly. These two phones, as well as the Samsung ATIV S and others prove that Windows Phone no longer lacks creativity or innovation.

Fast and Fluid Experience

Windows Phone 8 is designed to be efficient. It is fast, cuts to the chase, and gives you easy access to options. For example, you don’t have to jump into different apps to post a photo to three different social networks – there is an option from right inside the camera app to share your pictures. But moreover, the user interface is a joy to use. It is smooth and has nice animations of apps sliding in and a vertical-scrolling home screen. The experience is wonderful, and the Start Screen and Live Tiles are genius. There is no denying that Windows Phone 8 is one of the best, if not the best, phone operating system on the market today.

Two distinctly different phones for two distinctly different people.

A Phone Designed Around You

Windows Phone is uniquely different from all the other phones on market today. Whereas iOS and Android have a static grid of icons on their home screens, Windows Phone has tiles which come alive with content. Windows Phone is designed to be personal. If you watch movies a lot, you can pin apps to do with movies like Netfix or HBO to your start screen. WP8 comes with a feature to resize apps. You can make frequently-used apps larger, or lesser-used apps smaller. This also helps in personalizing your phone. Microsoft is trying to hammer down the point: “We didn’t design the phone for all of us. We designed it for each of us.” I completely agree. With Windows Phone’s People hub, you can pin people to your home screen and see everything having to do with that person right there – it is so much more than a contact list. You can see messages, status updates, posts to social networks, and everything. But in a broader sense, you can pin what matters most to you. Windows Phone 8 is personal.

A Changing Public Image

This is probably the biggest question mark of Windows Phone 8. Microsoft has grown to be viewed as slow-moving and incompetent. But with Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Microsoft amazingly changed its course to create fresh, new products instead of just evolving on their current, already solid product line. This strategy makes a lot of sense, as it unifies all of Microsoft’s ecosystems (how many times have I said that already?) and creates a sense of unity between the PC, the laptop, the tablet, the phone, and the media center. Since many customers will now jump to Windows 8 and get used to it, Windows Phone 8 will seem easier to use and more familiar. This is a good thing for Microsoft.

Apps, Apps, and More Apps

Tech pundits will be quick to point out that Windows Phone 8 does not have a solid app lineup. I say that’s a bunch of  malarkey. Windows Phone 8 has over 110,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store, and 46 out of the top 50 most popular apps in the smartphone market. Although I would like to see things like Waze or Instagram on Windows Phone, the apps offered by the Windows Phone Store are great. Remember – it is quality, not quantity, that matters. UPDATE 11/20/13: It has just been announced that Waze, Vine, and Instagram will be released on Windows Phone 8!

Bottom Line

In all of this, it is hard to find a single “killer feature” in Windows Phone 8. But all of the hard work, research, and creativity that went into designing this beautiful product creates a magnificent phone OS with a sleek look and efficient UI. If you think about it, not having a killer feature is actually good – they are mostly short-lived and copied by other companies. Windows Phone 8 fills in the gaps of Windows Phone 7, and killer hardware further immerses you in the unique design of the phone and its operating system. Windows 8 is a major step forward for Microsoft, an evolution of the product Microsoft started with Windows Phone 7. Along with the boldly-designed phones by HTC and Nokia, Windows Phone now has a chance to excel.

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