When I first used Windows Phone last year, I was captivated by the operating system’s striking visual design: Its home page buttons are flat and brightly colored, many of the menus feature arresting white- and red-on-black text (with really nice typography), and the line-drawn icons in its built-in apps are slightly quirky while remaining functional. This time I liked the look even more. Compared with my iPhone 4—whose interface hasn’t changed much since the first iPhone, unveiled almost five years ago—Windows Phone feels new. Microsoft is planning to import this design to rest of the Windows empire (Windows 8 will have the same look and feel), which is a wise move: At the moment, there’s no better-designed OS on the market.
Will I trade in my iPhone for a Windows Phone? No. For one thing, I’m going to wait to see what Apple unveils next week. Second, there are a few features on my iPhone, like FaceTime, that I use often and that Windows still lacks. And, finally, most developers still consider the iPhone their primary platform. Because I review a lot of new apps, I need access to the iPhone’s App Store.
But these are my quirks: For most people, the fact that Windows Phones have fewer apps than other platforms isn’t going to be a huge impediment. I’m always suspicious of Apple fans who wield the App Store’s superior app count as a reason to get the iPhone. Weren’t they the same people who told us that it didn’t matter that there was less software created for the Mac than for Windows? Anyhow, Windows Phone has most of the apps you’d want, including Facebook, Kindle, Netflix, and Angry Birds. And while it’s true that the iPhone has some features that Windows Phone lacks, I found many features on Windows Phone that have long been missing on Apple’s device (for instance, the ability to subscribe to podcasts from the phone).
If Windows Phone is so great, then why has it been such a bust? I suspect that part of the reason is its awful name. Windows, as a brand, evokes everything we hate about computers. Windows Phone looks nothing like Windows on your Dell, but folks who’ve never seen the phone are likely to picture a desktop, a Start Menu, and My Computer—and then head to the Apple Store for relief. Then there’s Microsoft’s timing. Windows Phone is competing against two juggernauts that have been in the market for years and that have gained a great deal of exposure over that time. If you want a new smartphone, you can always look at a friend’s iPhone or Android to see if it will work for you. You can’t do that with a Windows Phone.
Let me urge you to give it a chance. If you have your heart set on the new iPhone or an Android, go to a store and try out a Windows Phone first. You’ll find a lot to like.