NEW YORK (
) -- Have you seen a Nokia Windows phone lately? Me neither.
This June was supposed to be
long-awaited ramp-upof Windows Phone 8 devices, but as I look carefully at whatsmartphones people are using in public, I have seen a grand total oftwo Nokia Windows Phones in the wild, in recent months.
Windows Phone 8 launched in late 2012 and Nokia now has a vastportfolio of devices for the U.S. and international markets alike. Themajor models include 520, 620, 720, 820, 920 and the latest 925 and928 models launched just this quarter.
Almost every carrier around the world offers one or several of thesemodels. With a full line of models -- finally! -- from low-end (520)to high-end (920, 925 and 928), Nokia should be selling more WindowsPhone 8 smartphones than ever.
Yet, either I'm blind, or Nokia sure hasn't been selling where I findmyself watching, in public. Granted, I have not traveled anywhere nearthe corners of the world, but at some point, personal observationsmatter, especially for those who are good at paying attention.
I have reviewed several Windows Phone devices from multiplemanufacturers, starting with the
Venue Pro in 2011 to the
8Xin late 2012, to most recently, Nokia's flagship, the 928. I have alsorecently played, to a less significant extent, with the Nokia 520series.
There are some things to like about Windows Phones. First, theconsistency. I don't mean just the superficial look, but also theperformance. Whether you're talking about the high-end 928 or thelow-end 521 model, it's hard to pass a blind test in terms of basicCPU responsiveness for these devices. Even if you go back to the DellVenue Pro, which is more than two years old, it performs as well as a brandnew Windows Phone.
This is unlike Android,
, whose devices more than one or two-years old, suffer from visibly slower performance.So kudos to
for having created a great foundation for itsOS.
The biggest problem with the Windows Phone remains the lack of relevantapps, or the quality of many with nominal existence. We've beenthrough this argument before: It's not enough to have 170,000 orwhatever apps, if the apps you need aren't among them. It's also badif some of the ones that exist are far behind their Android and iOScounterparts.
Every experienced reviewer knows about this app deficit. I don't knowof a single tech journalist -- who isn't a dedicated Windows Phonesite specialist -- who uses a Windows Phone as a primary phone forany more than a few days or weeks, at the most. They all go back to iOSand Android.
Then there are the little things that also turn out to be not aslittle. I'll just mention two here:
First, notifications. Windows Phone doesn't really have notificationsin the same way Android, iOS or even BlackBerry does. Microsoft knowsthis, and has promised something new in the nondescript future.
Second, how about a decent address book?
When you buy a car, nomatter how fancy it is, there are two things that every consumer isunwilling to compromise: Starting and stopping. The car has to start-- all the time -- and the brakes have to work -- all the time. Thereis no tolerance for compromise on those two fronts.
Windows Phone also has a similarly critical shortcoming, which I can'toverlook: The Windows Phone address book is bad for a number ofreasons.
Here are a few:
- No contacts count. When you synchronize with, say Gmail, or someother online address book, your first indication whether you're doingit right is if the number is the same on both sides. In other words,if the server side says you have 18,715 contacts, and the phone saysyou have 18,715, that's a calming sign.
However, if the phone -- Windows Phone -- doesn't give you any number,you are wondering if everything is OK. In my case, synchronizingwith some online address books, I sample a few entries and they're notthere. So, something is wrong. This is unacceptable.
You have the same problem if you use Outlook.com as your cloudservice. It doesn't give you a number for your contact list either.It also doesn't seem to accurately synchronize with Gmail's address book. Then, when you are using two address books, neither ofwhich tells you how many it's got, you're truly talking about theblind leading the blind.
No "sort on company name." BlackBerry does this. I don't careabout first names or last names. I want to sort on company name.It's what's relevant in my business.
No "categories" support for Outlook. I've spent almost 20 yearscategorizing all Outlook entries, very, very carefully. You wouldthink that a Windows Phone's address book would support MicrosoftOutlook's field. But no. This is almost comical.
I could go on and on, such as the inefficient view of the list ofcontacts (too few on the screen at a time) and so forth, butI'll stop here, for now. It's a huge problem, and at least for me,makes Windows Phone a no-go, even if there are many other things aboutthe platform that I like.
It boils down to this: Nokia makes great hardware. Microsoft has thebones of a good OS, but too many things are missing or not working.In the end, therefore, it appears that the average consumer has cometo the same conclusion that I did: There is no reason to buy a WindowsPhone over Android or iOS -- or even BlackBerry! -- but there's plentyof reason to do the opposite.
In the end, this cannot bode well for Nokia. It's probably regrettingputting all of its smartphone eggs in the Windows Phone basket. Itprobably realizes that it also needs to offer its excellent hardwarewith Android software, since that is where the applications are,as well as the market demand.
In the meantime, I don't see any traces of Nokia selling even a decentamount of Windows Phone devices. As for the scenarios of where thissaga will go from here,
At the time of publication, Wahlman owned shares of GOOG and AAPL.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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