Microsoft’s Desperate Need for a Flagship Windows Phone

As we come into Mobile World Congress 2015 in earnest this week, I’m reminded of a stark reality as a Windows Phone enthusiast.  That reality is that beyond two devices that are both over a year old, Windows Phone has no flagship device.  That, in itself, should not be news.  If you are reading my site then you are likely a Windows Phone user or at the very least have a morbid curiosity on how the other 3.5% live (that’s the rough market share of Windows Phone) and know that there hasn’t been a flagship worthy Windows Phone in a long while.  The last three devices of what many would consider “Flagship” were the Lumia 930 (Icon), the Lumia 1520 and you may be able to stretch and say the HTC M8 Windows Phone.  The last of those was launched mid-year last year but the Lumia 1520 came out at the end of 2013 and the 930 early last year.  In terms of half-life for mobile devices, that is an eternity.  One could argue that the Lumia 830, the “affordable flagship” is a reasonable stop-gap but let’s be honest with ourselves here, it’s not a flagship device not matter what the marketing materials says.

Microsoft has been very busy on the low end of the market and you often hear the term “the next billion” when referring to the segment of the market that is moving from mobile phones to smartphones.  There is, in many parts of the world, an untapped customer base, thus the next billion.  But equally the argument could be made that Microsoft needs – indeed must – cater to the upper end of the market at the same time.  They don’t have to look any further than their own competitors in the market to see this need yet seemingly are willing to ignore it.  It is disappointing, frustrating and not helping win mind share around Windows Phone as a platform.

Today at Mobile World Congress, Samsung announced the Galaxy S6.  Overall it looks roughly the same as the S5 and while there is the new S6 Edge along with it, fundamentally there isn’t much of a change.  For Android fans – particularly Samsung fans – this may be disappointing.  But what Samsung has done today is present their flagship device.  It is likely a $700 device which sets the standard for their lineup of phones.  Underneath it they will have other devices including last years S5, the S5 mini and other devices not to mention the other OEMs in the Android market who will produce the mid-to-low end devices.  For Samsung, they know that in order to attract and keep attracting power users and enthusiasts, they have to produce a world class killer phone.  While we can debate if the Galaxy S6 is a world beater, one this for sure is that it is the flagship.

If Samsung and Android isn’t your thing then take a look down the road in Silicon Valley at Apple.  They too have a flagship device – two of them in fact.  The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus have been, without a question, a huge success for Apple.  In fact the iPhone division of Apple does more in sales than all of Microsoft.  Think about that for a second…. Apple has included their latest and greatest features in the iPhone 6 lineup including things like ApplePay and arguably one of the best cameras in a smartphone out today.  But they too realize, even as a premium brand, that not everyone can afford or is willing to buy a top-of-the-line device.  Go to your local Apple store and you can still pick up an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and yes, even an iPhone 4S (for free I might add).  At one point that was a flagship phone so it isn’t sub-standard by any means.  It’s merely been updated.

These are just two examples but should be sending unending alarm bells in Redmond.  The volume is in the low-to-mid end of the market but the value is at the high end.  At the high end is where you have the group who will defend the platform.  You have those who will help through Microsoft Community or their own site (like this one) users who are new to the platform or don’t quite know how do to that particular thing on their Windows Phone.  These are the ones who will stay up tonight at 2AM EST to hear Microsoft’s announcements of the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640XL, two mid-range phones that will be announced tomorrow.  Yet at the same time they will grumble because there is no flagship in the Windows Phone lineup being announced.

It’s a shame and a big miss for Microsoft on the world’s biggest mobile stage, MWC.

I truly believe that the best days for Windows Phone are ahead.  I believe that with the launch of Windows 10, the promise of universal apps for both Windows 10 PCs and Windows Phones will be the key thing that drives developers back to the platform.  I believe that the user experience in Windows Phone 8.1 and what is coming in Windows 10 for Phones is what people want and need.  Windows Phone is a personal, intimate experience.  You cannot get that from Android and you cannot get that from iOS they way you can from Windows Phone.  Your personally shines through on the Start screen of your Windows Phone through theme colors, wallpapers and Live Tiles, not that of the OEM.  That’s a good thing – an important thing.  But all of that promise and potential is lost if there is not a phone out there that can compete with the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6.  Microsoft cannot wait until Windows 10 for Phones is out although that seems to be the mindset.  That, in my opinion, will be too late.

Microsoft desperately needs a new flagship Windows Phone. Today. Not tomorrow.

4 Replies to “Microsoft’s Desperate Need for a Flagship Windows Phone”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you. Add to this the mess that has been the Denim release and HTC refusing to release the One in the U.K. and its a wonder WP is still in the game.
    The bottom end of the range has more handsets than you can shake a stick at, all with similar specs and prices. The midrange is non existent with technically only two handsets (I don’t include the 1320 as its ‘last years’ model) and they have no real difference either.
    The flagship is basically the 930 (Icon). Again, the 1520 is last years model, so doesn’t count. And neither does the 1020.
    Yes, Lumia doesn’t need a range as wide and as ridiculous as the Galaxy range, but it does need a handset as segment defining and as technically outre as the Galaxy S series are and as beautifully designed and built as the iPhone. Most importantly, it needs to be out soon and be seen by everyone.

  2. Windows Phone is a frustrating mess!
    Microsoft strategy is all over the place. The lack of a new flagship is further proof that they really don’t know what they are doing in this space, they don’t understand their fan base, the value of early adopters or the technique of ‘windows phone first’
    I really wanted to windows phone to succeed, but they are doing too little too late.
    The sad truth is we need to Save ourselves the heartache and go buy an iPhone / android instead.

    1. There are some brilliant Windows Phone powered smartphones out there and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
      The 930 is still a brilliant phone and is still the best Lumia has to offer, but to go to the biggest show of the year without anything more than a pair of midrange devices, a folding keyboard and a giant all-in-one touch PC and not even offer up a tease of a flagship is ridiculous.
      Add to that, to launch two devices with a new version of your OS and not even give a release window for that too? Someone’s head need to roll and far.

      I love Windows Phone and want to have the best experience possible on the OS with the best hardware at all price levels and with the same level of app support iOS and Android receive.

      So why don’t Microsoft see that?

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