Windows Phone, what do you stand for?

CALL me jaded, but ever since Microsoft removed social network integration from Windows Phone when it advanced from version 8 to 8.1, I haven’t felt the same about my favourite mobile operating system.
The 8.1 update made a lot of progress in some regards: I love the new Action Centre for notifications, I’ve certainly enjoyed Live Folders, and I’m grateful for the Developer Preview that has breathed new life and intrigue into my ageing Lumia 920 over the past few months.
But I just can’t love Windows Phone like I used to.
Ever since it hit the scene in 2010, Windows Phone has always strived to be different from Android and iOS. Why compete when there are already two very viable choices in the smartphone category?
Along with the small legion of Windows Phone fans I embraced the change and have stuck by Microsoft’s operating system enjoying every minor and major update – except when Microsoft stripped away Facebook and Twitter integration from the People Hub.
Since 8.1’s introduction, you’ll no longer find your social notifications in the People Hub. You’ll no longer be able to quickly reply to a Tweet or status update without loading a cumbersome, sub-par app.
No more can you send Facebook messages or MSN (see: Skype) messages from the SMS application, either. Instead, you must use an app.
This is not new news, of course. But over the past few months, my love for Windows Phone has eroded. I still believe it offers the best user experience in terms of finding and doing what you want, but I lament the loss of the operating system’s original vision – the one I signed up for.
By trying to be like Android and iOS, I believe Microsoft has taken a step in the wrong direction. It has only sought to assimilate – not to stand out – in the world of app-based ecosystems, and now the only major point of difference is a negative one: the quality of its applications.

Windows Phone users are united in hate for the platforms terrible Facebook application
Windows Phone users are united in hate for the platforms terrible Facebook application

The ‘app gap’ is not as pronounced, but what is slipping by most tech reviewers’ radars is the quality of the apps available.
It’s one thing to become an amalgam of Android and iOS and requiring apps to be used, but it’s another thing to ensure that your apps are up to scratch. Windows Phone has failed to provide suitable versions of popular apps. In some instances, such as its terrible Facebook app, Microsoft has dropped the ball entirely.
Instagram is labelled ‘BETA’ in capital letters, and Microsoft relies on indie developer Rudy Huyn to code third-party versions of Tindr and SnapChat apps – with really terrible names like 6snap and 6tin.
I could tolerate the divide for all the benefits of a very usable phone – which is what Windows Phone 7 through to 8 was. But if the original vision is truly gone, and we’ve got only a Modern Ui take on other operating systems, perhaps Windows Phone is no longer for me?
Will Windows 10 and the one OS for many device strategy work? Who knows. But I know that the features I loved won’t be coming back, and so Microsoft must – without a doubt – improve the quality of its mobile and tablet apps if it is to win me back.

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