Today started out pretty exciting. I had at last received my $500 reward card for winning second place the March Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes for my app Console.fm for Windows Phone. With this, I planned to finally upgrade me and my wife to brand new Lumia phones, our first WP8 devices, which we’ve been waiting MONTHS to get.
Unfortunately, instead of ending with this post being a bragging "look at my new Nokia Lumia WP8", it’s a testament to the inevitable and utter failure of the platform, and the near giving-up point of a true, loyal supporter.
The Long and Painful Journey
First, some background. I apologize if you don’t like long stories, but I feel it’s important to understand exactly where I’m coming from to truly grasp why this is such a bitter disappointment.
My first smartphone was a used Palm Treo 700w Pocket PC. The iPhone had just taken the smartphone space by storm, but being a staunch Windows user (and a complete Apple hater!) I was proud to brandish my inferior Windows Mobile device, no matter how bulky, clunky, and junky it was.
Despite it’s failings, it did work well for people fully on the Microsoft stack, which I was (and continue to be). I liked it so much that I ended up buying two additional Pocket PC devices over the years (the Dell Axim x51v and some Viewsonic device, BOTH of which I still have today!) and found them valuable and used them every day.
But great phones they were not. Besides the fact that they were slow, nobody wanted to build apps for them, and with good cause, as let’s face it, the platform really sucked. I tried to learn to program for CE and it was the most dreadful time I ever spent inside Visual Studio.
But still, I chugged along. Partly because I was a fanboy (and DESPISE Apple and Google and everything they stand for), but mostly because I genuinely like the Microsoft stack. When the time came to upgrade my phone, all my friends had nifty androids and iphones, and I chose the HTC Touch Pro, as it was pretty much the only Windows Mobile device Sprint offered at the time.
If you’ve ever used the TP, then I don’t have to tell you what a GODAWFUL PIECE OF JUNK that phone was. Six months later, HTC released the Touch Pro 2 and I was PISSED because I had wasted my money on their first POS and thanks to my contract, I was stuck with it.
I read a lot of great reviews about the Touch Pro 2 however, so when time came to upgrade, I went for it. Not really because I thought it was a great phone (it wasn’t) but rather because once again, it was the ONLY FREAKING CHOICE available for Sprint.
So I gave in, thinking "screw it, it may not be the best phone, but I believe in this platform and I’m going to support it". At this point Windows Phone 7 was more than just a rumor, but I had no idea when it would be coming out, and I sure as hell didn’t think Sprint was going to get one right away (they didn’t).
So I bit the bullet yet again, and threw my support behind the Microsoft Stack. And holy crap did it once again kick me in the ass. I don’t know what people were saying about the Touch Pro 2; I found it to be several steps BACKWARD. The freaking thing didn’t even have a god damned FLASH for the camera!
The TouchFLO 3D was a complete resource hog, and everything ran like a anesthetized sloth dragging a dump truck through a a pit of molasses. I found some custom ROMS that made the phone BEARABLE, but it was still a nightmare, having blown good money on crap phones I couldn’t even GIVE away (they’re still rotting in a drawer somewhere around here).
And yet, I never gave up. "They’ll get it right someday," I thought, and just kept chugging along.
When I finally held my first Windows Phone device, there was no hesitation; I was completely sold! After all my suffering on the old Windows Mobile platform, this was finally something I could be proud of! And as a developer, I was blown away by how easy (and fun!) it was going to be to develop for the platform. I couldn’t wait!
Unfortunately, waiting is all I could do. None of the carriers wanted to back the platform, and Sprint didn’t even HAVE a WP7 device for MONTHS. And when they finally got one? ANOTHER GOD DAMNED HTC DEVICE!
That’s when I found T-Mobile. Although their WP7 device was also a (god damned) HTC, it was at least a nicer, slimmer device (didn’t have the bulky keyboard of the Arrive, nor the sliding parts that were absolutely going to fail). Unfortunately, I was still on contract with Sprint.
"Screw it" I said, "I want a WP7 phone!" So I once again bit the bullet, paid the ETF fee and switched, getting a snazzy new WP7 for me (and droids for the family). I paid a pretty penny to get out of that contract, and even more for the phone.
I wanted it THAT MUCH.
Fate is a cruel jerk
I loved my phone. Despite the fact that it was an HTC, the WP7 platform more than made up for it. This thing was GREAT and EVERYTHING I wanted in a phone. At long last, my journey through the muddy waters of crappy phones was over.
Fate had other plans.
Not two months after I got the phone, it slipped out of my hands and fell to the ground.
I was devastated. The new phone I fought tooth and nails for was destroyed, and I barely even got a chance to use it.
And since we had switched carriers, I couldn’t even use one of my crappy old Sprint phones while I tried to get a replacement!
I ended up having to borrow my parent’s crappy clamshell phone (thank GOD they used T-mobile) for a month while I scoured craigslist for someone who was selling a used HD7.
Eventually I found a guy who sold me one for $150, and once again I bit the bullet.
I wanted it THAT MUCH.
The phone itself worked well enough, except I discovered too late that the light sensor was damaged. So when I make a phone call, I have to manually turn off the screen with the power button, otherwise I would hang up on my caller with my face. The camera also didn’t work, but I managed to get that fixed.
But the phone never really quite worked right, and to this day (yes I’m still using it) I still have to turn off the screen every time I take a stupid call.
And I won’t even get into the fact that T-mobile didn’t release a 7.8 upgrade and basically took a big dump on all us WP users, including my wife who has a Lumia 710.
I also won’t discuss how T-Mobile offered an LTE capable phone without actually making it LTE capable.
NOR will I go into the other dump Windows Phone loyalists got from Nokia and ATT who decided to make the flagship Lumia devices carrier-exclusive so that even if I wanted to (or could afford to) I could never get one!
And yet, despite all these experiences, I’m still happy with my Windows Phone.
I like it THAT MUCH.
So fast-forward to today. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this tirade, I received a $500 gift card and I knew immediately that I wanted to spend it towards two new Lumia 810 phones for me and my wife. At long last, I would finally be on WP8, with a solid, decent phone no less!
Aaaaaand that’s when I discover that T-Mobile freaking STOPPED SELLING THE 810 literally a freaking DAY before I was going to buy it.
At this point I am seriously starting to suspect that I am in some kind of Truman Show which has the sole purpose of driving a man insane just slowly enough so that he can’t see it coming.
I then discover that they are still selling the refurbished 810, and for a slim $240 and hope is temporarily restored. I log on to my account and try to purchase.
If you can’t guess what happens next then you haven’t been paying attention.
The refurbished Lumia 810 is NOT an option for existing customers to purchase!
The only way to get it is to open a freaking NEW ACCOUNT.
I figure this HAS to be a mistake. Surely I can call and place an order. So I dial up customer service. I’m sorry, what I meant to say was that I dialed up "customer service".
My journey through the automated answering machine is enough to fill another one of these ranty posts, but suffice it to say after 30 minutes of what eventually turned into a screaming match with the automated system, I was finally put in touch with a human being.
Who promptly told me they couldn’t sell me the phone either, because it wasn’t in their system for me to buy on my account.
[Insert image of exploding head here, or if I can’t find one, I’ll record one myself because I’m pretty god damn close at this point]
The agent (who was friendly enough, no disrespect to people who’s fault this isn’t), then offered to transfer me to Sales, who might be able to sell me the phone outright. "Why not" I say "it’s worth a shot".
I’m placed on hold, and the first thing the automated voice says is something like "this department can not upgrade phones, we can only sell new lines."
But I wait it out anyway, just in case.
I want it THAT MUCH.
Alas, sure enough, she tells me that there is no way for the sales department to sell a phone without a line, and offers to transfer me back to "customer service" for the upgrade.
I explain that they just sent me to her (a familiar story when dealing with T-Mobile "customer service"), and that if she can’t help me, it appears that no one can.
As a final attempt, she tells me that because T-Mobile no longer has contracts, I could theoretically buy two new lines, paying for the phones outright, then cancelling the service when they arrive.
Unfortunately, this means I’ll have to pay the full price of the phones, and although I have my reward card, it isn’t enough to cover the full cost of the phones with tax. I had planned to just bill them to my phone account and make a payment with the reward.
I considered the proposal of jumping through all these hoops just to get a phone I was BEGGING to pay for, and I realized that I’ve spent half a decade making compromises, going out of my way (and my wallet) to support a platform that never supported me back. ENOUGH.
I guess I just didn’t want it THAT MUCH.
It’s the Carriers, stupid!
So how does this all tie into my premise of the failure of the platform and Nokia? Should one lonely guy’s miserable (and likely unique) experience really have any relevance in this discussion?
Well, let me put it this way. I spent YEARS chasing this platform. Waiting for it. Sacrificing for it. Paying for it. and every step of the way, getting kicked in the ass by it.
And despite all that, I still have to BEG them to take my money.
I can go into any phone store anywhere (now INCLUDING freaking T-Mobile) and walk out with an iPhone. Or a droid. or a freaking BLACKBERRY. And indeed those stores are inundated with posters, ads, and working demos of these devices that you can pick up and play with.
And tucked over into a corner is Windows Phone. And it’s off. And broken. And none of the sales staff knows what it is. Or how to use it. Or has it in stock.
This couldn’t be a better analogy to Windows Phone users. Windows Phone isn’t a third class citizen because it’s a third class device. It’s a third class device because it is US, the owners, the users, the lovers, the supporters, that are treated like third class citizens!
Where is the pride and care that should be given to loyal users like us? Microsoft seems hell bent on just focusing on new customers that they’re forgetting the BILLIONS of us who are already here, BEGGING you to take our money.
I read recently someone defending Ballmer because despite Windows lackluster sails, Microsoft posted a nice 19% rise profit this quarter.
Well you know what? that profit sure as hell didn’t come from selling Windows Phones.
And what kills me is that it COULD have. Hell, it SHOULD HAVE. 19% rise in profit is good? Imagine what that profit rise would have been if Microsoft had their SHIT TOGETHER.
Windows Phone should have taken the smartphone space by storm. No it’s not going to topple the iPhone, or make a dent in the droid market share. But god damn it, it should be doing better than a measly 5% after THREE FREAKING YEARS on the shelf.
But no, they had to give exclusivity to AT&T alienating MILLIONS of potential customers. They had to let carriers take a creamy dump on the devices, shunting them to the dark corner of shame.
Windows Phone isn’t going to fail because it’s a bad platform that nobody likes. It’s not even going to fail because, even after three freaking years, nobody knows anything about it.
It’s going to fail because the people like me, who DO know it, DO love it, and DO want it CAN’T FREAKING BUY THE FREAKING THING!
Shut up and take my money!
Let me close by saying this: I’ve not given up on Windows Phone. Not only is it a joy to use, it is a joy to develop for. Building the Console.fm app was some of the best time I’ve had coding in years. There’s a special pride that comes from using your own app on your own phone.
So don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an "I’m jumping ship to the iPhone" like all those other lame-o’s who feel like they’ve won something by changing their minds.
It’s merely an expression of my severe disappointment in the platform and everyone involved who did everything completely wrong. It’s just a rant to demonstrate my utter frustration that I am practically BEGGING someone to take my money, and instead getting dumped on every freaking step of the way.
And yet, I won’t stop begging. Somewhere out there is a WP8 device with my name on it, and I’m going to find it. I may even give in, take a chance and buy another off freaking Craigslist if I have to, broken light sensors and all.
Because let’s face it, when all is said and done, I do still want it that much.
At least, I WANT to want it…