I have a huge crush on OLED screens. Their steep contrast ratios make my heart quiver. I love the excessively saturated colour reproduction. It makes average pictures look stunning. It livens up Instagram 500px and Flickr. Even reading text (black on white or white on black) is such a joy. Night-time in-bed browsing doesn’t give you the headaches that most LCD screens leave you with. Even movies are better. Battery life sings along to this praise. Everyone loves OLED. Hold on. This is going somewhere.
For a long time, usage of this kind of panels has been the premise of Samsung and probably LG. Everyone knows the bluish Samsung screens can be a joy. Not everyone knows that Nokia too (and thereafter Microsoft) uses these panels. Add to that the amazing beauty of Windows 10 Mobile (if you had joined the Windows Insider program like myself) and you have one gorgeous screen to gawp at.
Microsoft will never have the excuse of poor hardware. Windows Phone has always had good hardware to build the platform on. Lumias are amazing, and they tied the knot with what was the best phone company in the world: Nokia. Never mind that things didn’t work out. Even when [Microsoft] married from other tribes the few times [read HTC, Samsung, Blu & HP] the hardware was always stellar.
I love my Lumia 820. Mostly its screen. The phone is quite thick, running up to a dizzying 10mm on its waist but the OLED panel (never mind that its resolution is miles from being HD) almost atones for this sin, and many others. And above all else, it is a Nokia. One of the last actually, before things became ‘Microsoft’-branded. The last of the truly hardy ones. [There’s the little headache of the side bezels being a bit under the front glass, leaving the glass to take all the brunt of face-first falls. My 820 has a cracked digitizer to attest to that.] But other than the pretty screen and the pretty Windows 10 Mobile, there is little else to blow Windows Phone’s (Microsoft’s) trumpet.
First is the all-too-famous app drought. There are no notable apps in the Windows store. More worryingly, the major players are leaving the platform, announcing no further plans to support Windows phone anymore, some being PayPal and MyFitnessPal while others haven’t had official Windows apps ever, such as Reddit and SoundCloud. Things are not getting any better either. The latest Anniversary update comes bundled with a warning that it could mess things up on your device. For a while, I was a Windows Phone developer but being that isn’t very rosy anymore.
This, of course, reflects in the device sales, which infamously fell below 1% of the market share as of the second quarter of this year. And obviously the execs at Redmond knew of this apps issue. What did they do about it? They brewed a few projects:
Project Astoria which does what every other failing OS does as the final clutch of straw – make their OS capable of running Android apps. This worked, to an extent, but it never left the lab (Windows Insider) table. It died amidst some of the early Windows 10 Mobile release previews, mostly because it had bugs of its own, one being the notoriously known gradual-Android-slowdown. Side note: This got me really excited at the time.
Project Islandwood: This is similar to Project Astoria, but one for iOS apps. Apparently this is out in the wild. And apparently still, the new Universal Windows apps for Facebook are built on this.
There were a couple others to rein in web-apps and native Win32 apps. But still, this didn’t save the boat.
Rumours have been flying about, speaking of a Surface Phone, a new Microsoft strategy to save its mobile wing. I don’t know, man. The innovation should be on the OS itself, not the hardware, where Microsoft clearly has no issue. Look at the new NuAns Neo, Vaio Phone, Lumia 950 XL, HP Elite X3 and Acer Jade Primo. Hardware vendors are still smitten. It needs to woo the users. And its plan to go enterprise should be reconsidered, case in point: Blackberry.
I really wanted the Lumia 650 a couple of months ago. It is gorgeous, slim, has a metal build, sports an AMOLED screen, has the famously decent Lumia camera prowess and can be bought without breaking a bank at a reasonable Ksh. 18,000 in Kenya. But after much thought, my thirst for apps will not be quenched by the beautiful design, or the AMOLED screen (at least not this time) or the sturdy build or the capable camera. No, this time I’ll go for the cheap. I’ll go Android.