Seen a Nokia Windows Phone Lately?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Have you seen a Nokia Windows phone lately? Me neither.

This June was supposed to be Nokia's ( NOK) long-awaited ramp-up of Windows Phone 8 devices, but as I look carefully at what smartphones people are using in public, I have seen a grand total of two Nokia Windows Phones in the wild, in recent months.

Windows Phone 8 launched in late 2012 and Nokia now has a vast portfolio of devices for the U.S. and international markets alike. The major models include 520, 620, 720, 820, 920 and the latest 925 and 928 models launched just this quarter.

Almost every carrier around the world offers one or several of these models. With a full line of models -- finally! -- from low-end (520) to high-end (920, 925 and 928), Nokia should be selling more Windows Phone 8 smartphones than ever.

Yet, either I'm blind, or Nokia sure hasn't been selling where I find myself watching, in public. Granted, I have not traveled anywhere near the corners of the world, but at some point, personal observations matter, especially for those who are good at paying attention.

I have reviewed several Windows Phone devices from multiple manufacturers, starting with the Dell Venue Pro in 2011 to the HTC 8X in late 2012, to most recently, Nokia's flagship, the 928. I have also recently played, to a less significant extent, with the Nokia 520 series.

There are some things to like about Windows Phones. First, the consistency. I don't mean just the superficial look, but also the performance. Whether you're talking about the high-end 928 or the low-end 521 model, it's hard to pass a blind test in terms of basic CPU responsiveness for these devices. Even if you go back to the Dell Venue Pro, which is more than two years old, it performs as well as a brand new Windows Phone.

This is unlike Android, Apple's ( AAPL) iOS and BlackBerry ( BBRY), whose devices more than one or two-years old, suffer from visibly slower performance. So kudos to Microsoft ( MSFT) for having created a great foundation for its OS.

The biggest problem with the Windows Phone remains the lack of relevant apps, or the quality of many with nominal existence. We've been through this argument before: It's not enough to have 170,000 or whatever apps, if the apps you need aren't among them. It's also bad if some of the ones that exist are far behind their Android and iOS counterparts.

Every experienced reviewer knows about this app deficit. I don't know of a single tech journalist -- who isn't a dedicated Windows Phone site specialist -- who uses a Windows Phone as a primary phone for any more than a few days or weeks, at the most. They all go back to iOS and Android.

Then there are the little things that also turn out to be not as little. I'll just mention two here:

First, notifications. Windows Phone doesn't really have notifications in the same way Android, iOS or even BlackBerry does. Microsoft knows this, and has promised something new in the nondescript future.

Second, how about a decent address book?

When you buy a car, no matter how fancy it is, there are two things that every consumer is unwilling to compromise: Starting and stopping. The car has to start -- all the time -- and the brakes have to work -- all the time. There is no tolerance for compromise on those two fronts.

Windows Phone also has a similarly critical shortcoming, which I can't overlook: The Windows Phone address book is bad for a number of reasons.

Here are a few:

  1. No contacts count. When you synchronize with, say Gmail, or some other online address book, your first indication whether you're doing it 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 says you 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, synchronizing with some online address books, I sample a few entries and they're not there. So, something is wrong. This is unacceptable.

    You have the same problem if you use Outlook.com as your cloud service. 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 of which tells you how many it's got, you're truly talking about the blind leading the blind.

  2. No "sort on company name." BlackBerry does this. I don't care about first names or last names. I want to sort on company name. It's what's relevant in my business.

  3. No "categories" support for Outlook. I've spent almost 20 years categorizing all Outlook entries, very, very carefully. You would think that a Windows Phone's address book would support Microsoft Outlook's field. But no. This is almost comical.

I could go on and on, such as the inefficient view of the list of contacts (too few on the screen at a time) and so forth, but I'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 about the platform that I like.

It boils down to this: Nokia makes great hardware. Microsoft has the bones of a good OS, but too many things are missing or not working. In the end, therefore, it appears that the average consumer has come to the same conclusion that I did: There is no reason to buy a Windows Phone over Android or iOS -- or even BlackBerry! -- but there's plenty of reason to do the opposite.

In the end, this cannot bode well for Nokia. It's probably regretting putting all of its smartphone eggs in the Windows Phone basket. It probably realizes that it also needs to offer its excellent hardware with 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 decent amount of Windows Phone devices. As for the scenarios of where this saga will go from here, please read my article from Monday.

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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