[Opinion] Microsoft should let all Windows Phone 8.1 devices update even if it sucks


Windows 10 Mobile isn’t the best experience on Microsoft’s phones right now compared to Microsoft’s previous devices. On the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, we previously noted that both phones had crashing issues and battery life issues at launch, and the Lumia 650 still has some issues regarding stability while in use albeit less so than the previous two devices.

Once these two facts are taken into account, it makes quite a bit of sense that Microsoft will not update Windows Phone 8.1 devices to Windows 10 Mobile, it’s just not going to be a pleasant experience for some. Some things will break, like the Lumia 930 and the Lumia 830‘s surround sound recording, the Lumia 1020 will have worse camera capabilities, and the Lumia 520 for some might slow down to a crawl, all of these are very, very legitimate reasons to not update the Windows Phones to Windows 10 Mobile, yet Microsoft shouldn’t let that stop them.

Lumia 1020

On Saturday I posted an editorial agreeing with Microsoft’s decision and why it made sense, mostly for the above reasons, but in reading the comments AND reflecting on my previous thoughts as to the way Microsoft handled the update, I changed my mind partly.

Yes, Microsoft’s Windows 10 Update for devices like the Lumia 520 and 620 might be possibly rubbish, and for devices like the Lumia 530 and Blu Win JR, an in place OTA upgrade is going to be – if not painful – just impossible, let’s consider what happens if these devices do not get updated and why they were purchased in the first place.

Devices like the Lumia 520 and Lumia 530 aren’t bought by rich American or Englishmen who can afford to change phones at the drop of a hat or use a contract system where phones are hand delivered to them by carriers who handle all the fine details, they are often bought by people in different third world countries like India, Nigeria, Indonesia, etc.

Two things are important to note here, $30 is a lot of money, low-end Lumia are rarely being sold for the equivalent of $30 rather going for the equivalent of $100 – $200 dollars there. For many, that’s a huge commitment that they’re making for a while, and they can’t simply up and quit.

The key thing is , we know that it is not *impossible* for those devices to run Windows 10 Mobile, they can do it and have done so for months, some users will swear by it and it is only sitting from a position of privilege that one can look down and say that that’s not good enough for them. It’s an arrogant, paternal position that takes the choice away from consumers, akin to Apple sneering at 5-year-old PCs and its not necessarily malicious, just myopic.


If these devices do not get updated, the user experience they will get will be completely worse than the user experience that Windows 10 mobile will provide. For example, pick up a Windows Phone 7 device, say a Lumia 900 released in 2012,  a 4-year-old device. This is a device that – like all Windows Phone 8.1 devices has had all its development stop in time. Here’s what has happened to it, and has already started happening to WP 8.1 device.

Social features will begin to fail once by one, the hub integration which has already stopped working will wither away as the backend services which power the integration are replaced for something newer and shinier. Apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram might just up and quit randomly due to the apis being shut down. Microsoft’s own apps and services like Xbox Music, Cortana, Maps will fail, heck we even know that MixRadio and Here Maps are gone forever, so any phone stuck on Windows Phone 8.1 will essentially be dead on the vine as far as native music and navigation services go.

Once the majority of Windows phones are on Windows 10 – somehow – a Lumia 630 or 530 or HTC One M8 will be dead on the Vine. This is not equivalent to Android phones not being updated mind you, if someone updated the Google Play Services, apps like Snapchat and co. can keep serving up nicer and newer versions as long as the GPS is up to date. With Windows Phone, either you’re on Windows 10 Mobile and getting the latest Office, Twitter, and Facebook, or you are not, there are no two ways about it.

Knowing all that, is it possible to convince someone with a Lumia 1020 that it is in his best interest to be forced to stay on Windows Phone 8.1 perpetually? Microsoft, in defending this forced obsolescence as a better user experience is unintentionally or not,  recalling to  mind the image of one urinating on someone’s leg and telling them its raining.


Finally, an appeal to the bottom line. Let’s be frank, there aren’t very many Windows Phones.  I estimate there are between 50 – 70 000 000 active Windows Phones, give or take the 10 OEM windows phones that were probably sold somewhere, if Microsoft decides to slash this Windows Phone userbase in half they are eliminating a vast majority of the Windows 10 userbase. Yes, I’m aware that PCs vastly outnumber Windows phones, but the user base for UWP apps will be – for the most part skewed to phones at first. The more mobile users there are, the more UWP capable devices there are, the more money there is for active developers. Without this already active userbase as well as the lack of goodwill from users and developers, UWP development may not take off as fast as it should be able to if everyone were on the same page.

For Microsoft, Windows 10 Mobile may not provide a good experience on all phones, but it is still better than leaving devices out in the cold unsupported. It is easy to sit in New York, or Seattle, or London and say that performance is unsatisfactory and so users should not be able to get a choice in updating or not. But is that really fair to people who would use it despite being unsatisfactory, to those who rated it satisfactory, and knowing that their current devices are on a time-bomb anyway? I don’t agree. Even if it sucks for them, Microsoft should let the user decide whether they want to update to Windows 10 or not. If they’re ok forcing it down PC users throats, surely this shouldn’t be too hard.

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