As a long time Verizon customer and a Windows Phone fan, I’ve been waiting for the new Windows 10 for Mobile flagship phones from Microsoft. In a couple of days, Microsoft will be holding an event to announce some new hardware. It’s expected that Microsoft will announce and demo the Surface Pro 4, the Band 2, and a pair of Windows 10 for Mobile phones. It’s not exactly a state secret that the phones will be known as 950 and 950XL and will be the logical extensions of the higher end Lumia phones.
Being a Verizon customer, I got a sinking feeling that I’ll be sitting on the sidelines for those phones. Mind you, this is just conjecture, but past experience with Verizon Wireless has dimmed my expectations with Windows Phone on that carrier. While nothing has been said, I would be very surprised if 950 (I’m too lazy to type “the 950 and/or 950XL”, so I mean both) shows up on Verizon. And there have been rumors about exclusivity.
Verizon has been more or less indifferent to Windows Phone over the years. When Windows Phone 8 came out, we did not get the cool Lumia phones. It took a year for Verizon to get a great Windows Phone. And then they changed their mind and pulled it after a few months. I was lucky enough to get a Lumia Icon before they pulled the plug on it. And that phone has been my favorite phone on Verizon.
If you walk into a Verizon store right now, you have to hunt to find where they keep the Windows Phones. Verizon is basically an Android carrier that carries iPhones only because people would drop them for AT&T if they didn’t carry them. I don’t think that the Windows Phone platform or Microsoft are important to Verizon.
If we go on the assumption that Verizon doesn’t pick up the 950, what happens next? Verizon is the largest carrier and has about 1/3 of the US market.
If Verizon doesn’t carry the 950, that’s a big piece of the US market gone. That’s large deficit to overcome. I’m not switching carriers to get a phone. I have a family plan that would be difficult to untangle and it has the best reception where I live. When it comes time to replace my Icon, I’ll have a difficult choice to make.
In the US, I think that Windows Phone has become dead man walking. Outside North America, Windows Phone is comparable to the iOS market share in a few markets. It’s not going to beat the Android juggernaut, but it’s still in the game.
As an American. my views are biased to what is going on in the US market. It bugs me as a Windows Phone user, but that’s the reality in this market. When Microsoft released Office on iOS and Android, before their own phone, that’s when the handwriting on the wall went from spray paint to neon lighting. So what’s next?
If Microsoft tries the Motorola model and sell an unlocked 950 directly to the consumers, I have a shot at getting the 950 on Verizon. That will be dependent on Microsoft selling an unlocked 950 that supports the radio bands that Verizon uses. It’s also dependent on Verizon allowing the phone on their network. In the past, Verizon has been somewhat difficult about allowing devices that Verizon had not certified on to their network. People buying the Moto X Pure directly from Motorola have been able to use Verizon, so the precedent exists.
If Microsoft doesn’t sell an unlocked 950 that would work on Verizon, I’ll be facing the decision of Android vs iPhone. And that bugs me. I like the Windows Phone UI. Their home page makes sense to me. The iOS design of multiple pages of icons worked great when you only had 16 apps. But now, finding an infrequently used app is an exercise in scrolling and squinting.
Android is a little better with managing app icons, and it allows you to replace the default launcher with one of your choice. But Android is teeming cesspool of security vulnerabilities and their update story is a sad one. Between the vendors being less than quick with updating older models and the carriers taking ages to sign off on updates, with Android the updates are much less frequent than with iOS.
Apple does have two advantages: a much smaller pool of different devices to update and the iron clad control of issuing updates on Apple’s schedule. I just don’t want to have to use iTunes to manage the content on my phone. And what’s the deal with their mobile hotspot? It can take some serious voodoo to get it working sometimes.
If I go Android, I’ll want devices that get updated as needed. Motorola has the advantage of selling the devices, they can update the Moto X Pure when they want to (but will they?). The Google Nexus phones are supposed to work that way too, but I have a Nexus 7 tablet on Verizon and the Android Lollipop update came at least 6 months later for that tablet than the one for the Wi-Fi version. Since Google is selling the 5X and 6P directly, hopefully the updates will be timely.
That being said, the new Nexus 5X and 6P phones look like very nice devices. It’s odd that they left out wireless charging, but the rest of the hardware seems to be very good. If I can’t get a 950, they may be the closest devices to what I want. Take this all with a grain of salt, I’m just making a guess based on past experience with Verizon.