Friday, October 02, 2015

The Smartphones of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon and Why I Chose What I Chose

Being a fan of the Windows Phone, I'm sometimes regarded with surprise that somebody as educated and technologically astute as I am would choose this route.   After all, Android and Apple have all of the apps, all the mainstream support, all the market share, etc.  Not only that, there are many tech journalists and others who continually disparage us poor Windows Phone folk.  That got me thinking...

People sometimes become very passionate about the what they use to the point where they demonize anything else.  It's so easy to decide that MY platform is good and all other platforms are bad.  Maybe it's because your choice of smartphone can affect so much of what you do.  People use their smartphones for communication, social networking, news readers, games, reading books, flashlights, cameras, video cameras, remote controls, watching movies, navigation, etc.  Perhaps people worry that their smartphone choice may not have been the best or they get jealous of others' choices.  Whatever the reason, there are many who will tell you that Apple is wonderful or terrible, that Android is wonderful or terrible, that Amazon or Windows Phone is wonderful or terrible.  What I find refreshing are the people who say "My smartphone works for me.  I hope yours works for you."

When looking at the different platforms, you can see that they all offer similar services - specifically, all the uses for a smartphone mentioned above and more.  However, each company has different goals in mind.  These goals relate more to how they make money than on any sort of altruistic aims.  Here's how I see them.

Apple


Apple has amazing hardware and their devices are praised because they "just work."  They have a very tightly controlled ecosystem with the goal of only letting in the best - which usually means Apple stuff.

Apple's business model is to sell you hardware.  That's how they make their money.  At Apple, design is king and you can see it in their products.  That's also why their products tend to cost more and their customers upgrade more often.  Their whole push is to get you to buy more hardware.

Is this bad?  Not necessarily.  If you can afford the hardware, Apple works very hard to give you a consistent, user friendly experience.  After all, they want you to be happy in their ecosystem.

Google


Google knows everything about you (which can be good or bad) and uses that data to cater to you.  They also have an open ecosystem with very few restrictions.

Google's primary business model is advertising.  They strive to have the best advertising accuracy of anybody.  They do this by having more information about people than anybody else.  How do they do this?  Free email, calendaring, social networking, documents, web browser, file storage, video storage, etc.  All of these services gather information in order to make Google advertising better.  That's why all of their services are free.  The consumer is not the customer, they are the product.  Google sell advertising to businesses - businesses are the customer.

Is this bad?  Not necessarily.  I used to worry that Google was selling my information to companies but really they're not (as far as I know).  As I see it, Google's competitive advantage is knowing more about you than anybody else and being able to use that knowledge to more effectively advertise to you.  They want businesses to buy advertising from them, not information.  To gather this information they offer tons of free services that are designed to help Google learn more about you.  They want as many people as possible using their services so they constantly improve them.  Google/Android smartphones tend to cost less that Apple smartphones because Google doesn't make any money from them (in fact, it's other manufacturers - like Samsung - that make money from Android smartphones), they're just another way to get you to use Google services and get to you click on Google Ads.

The one exception seems to be Windows Phone.  Google has refused to write any apps for Windows Phone.  Microsoft has integrated email and calendar but if you're an avid Google fan, you probably already know that Windows Phone will be a painful experience for you.

Microsoft


Microsoft is Office and business type services.  It is also Skype, OneNote, and other services that are useful for both fun and work.

Today's Microsoft is trying to sell services.  They also sell a ton of things to businesses but that's not what I'm talking about here.  Microsoft's focus is to get you to subscribe to their services.  That's where their money comes from.  Things like Office 365 and Skype calling.  To do that, they sell smartphones that run their services.  However, in the last couple of years, they've realized that most people aren't using their smartphones, so now they offer their services on Apple and Android too.  More and more Microsoft is worrying less about what smartphone you use and more about whether you're using Microsoft services on the smartphone you've chosen.

How good is this?  Well, if you like Microsoft services, it's great because no matter which mainstream smartphone you choose, it will have the Microsoft services available.  Does it mean Microsoft is giving up on smartphones?  I don't think so.  If you use a Microsoft smartphone, you're way more likely to use Microsoft services and that's really good for Microsoft.  So, I don't think they're giving up but they're also not putting all of their eggs in one basket.

Amazon


Amazon wants to sell you stuff.  That's it.  All of their services are just the encourage you to buy their products.

Is that bad?  Not if you like shopping at Amazon.  Unfortunately, for Amazon, their smartphone didn't take off and it looks like they may be giving up there.  But they still offer photo storage, music, movies, shopping, etc. for both Apple and Android phones and, to a lesser extent, Windows Phones.  If you're an avid Amazon shopper, these things are great perks to have.

Me

I've been using Windows Phone since 2012.  I actually blogged about it here and here.  It's actually the only type of smartphone I've ever owned.  I've been tempted many times to move to something else but I can't ever bring myself to do it.  Why?

I like it.  I like the interface.  I like how it works.  I like how its services work across desktop, tablet, and phone.  I like that the phones are not expensive.  I like that it works.  And my wife likes it. 

Are there things that I don't like?  Yes.  I don't like that support from 3rd parties is lacking.  I don't have a banking app (it was actually discontinued), I don't have an official app for my Sonos speakers (although the app I paid for is very good), I have no access to my Amazon music (which is OK because I just use Xbox/Groove Music), and Windows Phone is almost always left out when new products come out - smart watches, home automation, digital picture frames, etc.  New items always support Apple, almost always support Google/Android, but rarely support Windows Phone.  That's probably my biggest concern.

So, even with all of the drawbacks, I stick with Windows Phone.  It works for me and, so far, I've been able to find ways around its limitations.  I've seriously looked at the alternatives and just don't want to deal with Apple hardware prices and Android fragmentation (although it is getting better).  In the end, I'm happy with my Windows Phone and hopeful that eventually, it will overcome its limitations.

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