Windows Phone market share contracted, things are more certain now, but carriers are part of the problem
Up to now, Windows Phone, while a sliver of the market, had been posting huge percentage gains the past several quarters. The second quarter of 2014 showed a decline in units shipped as well as market share. So, what gives with this most recent development?
Fans of any given platform will provide the normal run of arguments when it comes to Windows Phone. However, the past six months in particular were different for the platform because of the transition of Nokia Devices and Services changing ownership under Microsoft. There was arguably a sense of uncertainty, on a macro level at least.
The manufacturers are on board
At the same time those moves were being made, Microsoft also eliminated license fees for Windows Phone and loosened the hardware requirements for manufacturers, enabling them to use design principles they may already have in place for existing Android powered devices. The result is that a whole new crop of manufacturers that signed on as Windows Phone partners. In fact, one manufacturer alone introduced five models for the Vietnam market.
That is just one small piece of the puzzle. HTC is using this new freedom to bring the wonderfully crafted M8 body to a Windows Phone form factor. That will be the company’s first notable Windows Phone since the 8X two years ago. Samsung did the same with the ATIV SE in what is a clear recycling of the Galaxy S4 (which is fine, keep them coming). Even Microsoft’s newly acquired mobile unit took liberty with the new rules and trimmed production costs with devices like the Lumia 630 and Lumia 530, each featuring on-screen navigation buttons and no dedicated camera shutter key on the side.
Windows Phone Store passed the 300,000 app mark recently, and all but a few of the “must have” apps are available, and where first party apps are missing, either Microsoft has it covered, or there are some very high-quality third party apps available. Granted, if you are heavily vested in Google services, the experience is going to be second hand, but the apps are there to provide a workable Google+ experience, and who needs Google Docs when you have Office?
The carriers are not
There is one other obstacle the Microsoft needs to attack relentlessly, and that is the retail experience, not only in the carrier retail stores and dealers, but in the eCommerce segment too. The guys over at Neowin took a gander at the online chat options with AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon (T-Mobile does not have that option).
Posing as prospective customers interested in Windows Phones, the AT&T and Verizon reps made active efforts to steer the order towards the iPhone. The Sprint rep made a valid point when it came to the selection of devices the carrier offers. That, and while it wasn't directly addressed in the dialogue, the Windows Phone line-up on Sprint is about as exciting as a loaf of bread.
HTC One (M8), LG G3, and Samsung Galaxy S5 are the best devices released in 2014, and that is arguably true across all the carriers – all three of those devices outshine the iPhone and Windows Phones on the spec sheet. The Lumia Icon is a sweet piece of hardware but it is a Verizon exclusive. The Lumia 1520 is also outstanding, but again, that one is an AT&T exclusive. There is not a single Windows Phone that is available across all four major US carriers.
Despite being presented with a customer that had a semi-informed interest in Windows Phones, the reps chose to push the sale in a whole different direction rather than let it take its course. Is it possible that the sales reps see an increased return rate with some types of devices? Yes, however that can be equally attributed to the sales experience from the customer’s perspective too. The confidence of the sales person plays a role, and any Windows Phone discomfort can be overcome with smart training (not death by PowerPoint).
The screenshots from the online chats with the carriers are not isolated incidents. Online and in-store reps will often use their personal or company device experience to guide their pitch to close the sale with confidence. Hopefully Microsoft will keep much of the Nokia Devices and Services sales teams intact during the upcoming layoffs, and leverage them to engage with the carrier and dealer partners. We will just have to wait and see how that shakes out.
One thing is for sure, it is hard for Microsoft to sell something when the people tasked with selling it through partner channels aren’t selling it.
references: WinSuperSite.com and Neowin