Nokia may well be springing to life again with the announcement of new models at MWC, but according to most commentators Windows 10 Mobile is still manifestly kicking the bucket. Can’t you just hear that clanging sound?
Much of the blame for Windows Mobile’s failure to take off has always been put on the ‘app gap’, the absence from the platform of key popular applications, although according to Steve Litchfield’s article at All About Windows Phone (allaboutwindowsphone.com), the situation isn’t half as bad as some people make out.
But certainly Windows 10 Mobile seems to be at a standstill, treading water at a point between having been killed off by Google’s wilful lack of support, and re-emerging as an integrated part of the entire Windows platform – backed up by universal apps that run on any Windows device no matter its size.
Windows Mobile as it currently stands, though, has drawbacks and weaknesses not found in either the Android or iOS ecosystems, both of which have stores where a wealth of applications constantly twinkles with life. Windows Store in contrast is a barren, dusty place where owls hoot and cobwebs drape. All this means there is a type of mobile phone user that should definitely avoid Windows Mobile.
Take photos for instance. Not long ago Microsoft allowed Windows phone users 30GB of free online storage. This comprised 15GB as standard, and an additional 15GB bonus easily obtained by setting the camera roll on a mobile device to use OneDrive for image backup. But in 2015 the free storage was reduced to 5GB, while the 15GB camera roll bonus was discontinued. Bah, humbug, Microsoft.
If you’re a Windows phone user, Google apparently considers you unworthy of attention. It certainly wants you to keep your grubby hands off its own apps and services, nearly all of which are nowhere to be seen on the Windows 10 Mobile platform. This is a shame, because Google Photos is undoubtedly the king of cloud storage for your images.
Google provides unlimited free photo storage through its Photos app, so long as you don’t mind a degree of file compression, one which anyhow doesn’t in normal circumstances affect the quality of your images. Your Gran is hardly going to be complaining that she’s had her pixel count reduced in that picture of her adjusting her dentures on Eastbourne seafront. Needless to say, Google Photos is not available on Windows Mobile, along with all other Google goodies. It just isn’t.
My personal Windows Mobile bugbear is the inferiority of the default maps. Several years ago I took up a job in Cambodia, South-East Asia, and was astonished to find that the country’s map on Windows was practically non-existent, consisting of main roads and a few labels (unlike most other countries in the region it was not available for download either). It looked more like a minor underground transport system than a busy city’s road network.
Now, Cambodia may well be a lightly populated country of little significance to most Europeans, but it receives plenty of tourists each year, most of them admittedly French visitors looking in on an ex-colony, but still. And let’s not forget it has one of the most impressive temples in the world, Angkor Wat.
To add insult to injury, Microsoft phones were heavily promoted in the country’s capital city, Phnom Penh. In fact, when I was there in 2015, a large Nokia store had just undergone transformation into a ‘Microsoft’ outlet, and was selling all the latest Lumias of the time. Yet I’m certain that no salesman would have dared remark that the Lumia 640 was a great phone ‘unless you want to find directions to the next block down the street’. Cheeky? I’d say so.
Returning to the app gap, the Windows platform is not a terribly suitable phone for those looking for romance either. Or at least not if you’re gay. For while Tinder, a dating app for straight people, is at least supported by third party alternatives such as 6tin, there are no options for platforms such as Grindr, one of the most popular gay dating services. Sadly – or indeed happily – any gays going to Cambodia will just have to find partners the old-fashioned way by eyeing up other guys in bars.
And how about Snapchat, that social media phenomenon for the young and wordless who like to transmit quaint pictures of themselves all over the universe? Well, forget it. Snapchat is as missing as an expletive in a monastery on the Windows Mobile platform.
So, it seems that if you’re a gay photography buff who generates a ton of images to save to the cloud, and who just loves to send out cartoon-emblazoned selfies while on vacation, and you’re going to be navigating the Kingdom of Cambodia for the first time, then leave your Windows phone at home and take an Android device instead. Then you won’t get lost, lonely or frustrated.