Tis the season for all the new year predictions and wishlists for your platform of choice. For Windows Phone it was both the best and worst of times. The year kicked off with early adopters being disgruntled over the lack of updates to the OS which meant no copy/paste or any meaningful multitasking. NoDo arrived in the spring and was met by an avalanche of hiccups and the rollout was disappointing at best. In all it took several months to get it out to the majority of users. The much hyped and anticipated Windows Phone 7.5 update “Mango” was a different story. In fact you could argue that Mango was updates done right. Microsoft took even more control of the update process, stayed keyed in on their OEM partners to prevent any secret changing to hardware that would cause update failures like what happened with the NoDo fiasco and made updates look simple.
Why will Windows Phone be better in 2012? Here’s a short list.
1) Mango Momentum
Software-The Windows Phone 7.5 truly lived up to the promise the Windows Phone team bragged about. It put the platform squarely into the conversation of viable daily drivers. How good was it? It was so good you almost never read anyone of substance writing about how far ahead iOS and Android are compared to Windows Phone OS.
Microsoft will surely ride the momentum, reflect on lessons learned from both NoDo and Mango and usher the era of dual-core processors and hi-res screens to the platform. I also bet that Microsoft does dual-core right. That means not sacrificing battery life and figuring out how to utilize the dual-core architecture to run background tasks and throttling the processor at normal state.
Hardware-The Samsung Focus S & HTC Titan are two really great phones. Both are light, fast and feature really good cameras. If there was one wish is that both came in larger capacity storage space. 16GB is enough for most people but there are those who would pay a premium for the extra on board space. If Samsung and HTC are smart they will recognize the value in a great series of phones. Apple’s annual-ish iPhone hardware update leads the way but in recent years Samsung has wised up and made the Galaxy S lineup an annual update and has seen sales go through the roof. The Galaxy S III is probably more anticipated than even the Galaxy Nexus. In short the Galaxy S series is the premium line of Android phones and is well branded enough to scare Apple. HTC would be wise to do the same to the well acclaimed Titan. There should definitely be a Titan II released this fall. Too many phone names leads to no appreciable brand awareness. Sure people know HTC but not any single device.
OEMs also released some terrific midrange devices that entered the market at lower price points for the budget conscience. The well received HTC Radar and Samsung Focus Flash are both terrific devices that might lead their class in the mobile space. There were tons of people who would have bought the HTC Radar if it had not been limited to being solely available to T-Mobile customers.
Nokia stepped up to the plate with their first two devices and although they didn’t blow the competition (Android & iOS) out of the water they showed themselves very capable of still producing great looking hardware. The Lumia 800’s design was nothing short of breathtaking and rivaled the iPhone 4/4S as reviewers choice for hardware design. Operation Rolling Thunder starts early this year as Nokia re-enters the US smartphone market in earnest.
2) B2B Attention
Business focused security features will be added in the Apollo update. Hopefully some sort of on-device encryption and even better Lync, Office 365, Sharepoint and Skype integration between the phone and desktop will be present. 2012 should be the year Microsoft tears down all barriers to entry into the business sector.
The rumored Tango update is also meant to make it easier for OEMs to create devices without cameras and other such hardware removals to appease corporations that are key on confidentiality. Apparently the world of espionage is alive and well.
Business Apps-The arrival of Windows Phone 7.5 gave developers the opportunity to use sockets and other features that are useful in creating apps previously out of their reach when Windows Phone 7 launched. 2012 will bring with it popular apps like Go To My PC and other wanted titles.
3) Staying the Update Course
Microsoft will be wise enough to not give in to the wishes of a few who clearly are more interested in a wishlist than understanding the Windows Phone design metaphor. They will ignore the suggestion to make single live tiles into “multi-tiles”. They will continue to add functionality to the tiles. The ability to resize tiles being the priority. Ideally this would be done for all apps not just 1st party apps.
Selective native code Access also falls under this header. Not every dev should have native code access, there should be a certain level of ability and need to gain the access. One of the big benefits of apps being sandboxed and not being able to get at certain system level files is the non-threat of crashes and risky business taking place. Yes certain game and app developers need that native access and should be granted it but Microsoft will see the value in continuing to be selective in who gets in and who doesn’t.
1st Party App Updates-Bing should continue to be refined and I’m betting actual voice turn-by-turn navigation without having to touch the screen will be present in the major OS update later this year. I also look for Windows Phone to the main hubs on the device featuring more options to share like YouTube access and other popular media sharing services.
4) Nokia’s Operation Rolling Thunder
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you have undoubtedly seen and read about the Lumia 710 and 800 phones. You’ve also obviously also seen the creativity and effectiveness of Nokia’s marketing efforts. Nokia is putting Microsoft’s money to good use and will continue to do so in 2012 in the US. Almost as importantly, Nokia has fought to gain equal footing with the iPhone and Android phones in terms of carrier support. One of the things about the Nokia/Verizon no-go is that Verizon wasn’t going to put Windows Phone in a place to have the product thrive. Nokia wasn’t getting in bed with someone like that. AT&T will end up being the big winner and Verizon will actually use a small percentage of customers because of this. I’m not saying it’ll be iPhone exodus but any lost customer is lost revenue.
Nokia’s push into the European and other markets will dramatically increase the user base for Windows Phone and along with that comes other delightful benefits to all Windows Phone users.
5) More and Better Apps
2012 will bring to the platform the last remaining “must have” apps from iOS and Android. We will start to see speciality apps like fashion and store apps that up to this point have largely ignored the platform because of the small user base.
The more exciting part of this is that current apps will only get better as devs will have more experience and a better handle on what does and does not work well on the platform. The improvement some apps have shown between their initial release and their Mango updates are phenomenal. There are so many cool things you can do with apps on the platform now that I find it hard to believe you can get an equal experience on other platforms. I’m a huge fan of Manga and my Manga Reader app gives me the ability to pin individual titles to the start screen or even groups of titles. My TVShow app gives me the ability to see not just a picture of the next upcoming show but also a mini list of the shows for the night on the Live Tile along with a count of how many episodes I haven’t seen for all my shows. All that without having to even go into the tile saves time and is just cool to look at. Because I have grouped the most important people I follow on Twitter together (Mobility Digest, other tech bloggers) I sometimes don’t even have to go into the People Hub. I can see the latest updates from those that matter in my tech world without leaving the start screen. One more example, my Bank Account Manager app allows me to pin individual accounts to the Start Screen as Live Tiles and the Back of the Tile shows me my current balance.
Apps will only get better and more refined in 2012. Yes there will continue to be disappointing apps by devs who were either lazy, failed to properly execute their vision or just bad devs but there will be a lot of great apps that while not “brand” apps that people are used to on other platforms showcases the beauty and utility of the Windows Phone platform.
6) Apollo Update
The Apollo update reportedly will bring Hi-Res screens and dual-core support. Seeing how snappy the UI already is utilizing single core 1.4-1.5 GHz processors I can’t imagine what high end Windows Phones will behave like when the Apollo update hits. Slightly more RAM and Storage should accompany the flagship Windows Phones putting it squarely in the drool category.
More importantly the Apollo update will user in the era of better integration with the Microsoft ecosystem. With the timing of Apollo to coincide somewhat with the debut of Windows 8 for the first time Microsoft will have a platform UI and compatibility at the system level that they haven’t before. There is a growing sentiment share by both Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley that believe that the Windows CE kernel will be swapped out for a Windows 8 variant kernel. The future is near and although the present is glorious the future has much to behold. I’m excited and you should be too.
So are you excited for what 2012 promises to bring to the Windows Phone platform? Comment and win a shot at a free app.