Weekly Discussion: Glass and Metal, Microsoft leaks, Brand loyalty and more

lumia950-xl

Its Friday again, and this week has been full of quite a few bits of news and surprises. There’re a few stories and editorials I found interesting from browsing #techtwitter, and a few of the more interesting leaks this week.

Glass and Metal vs Plastic:

Should Microsoft had made the Lumia 950 and 950 XL out of glass and metal rather than polycarbonate? Jay Montano and Ali of Geeks on Gadgets certainly seems to think so, here’s what he says below:

… the fact that Microsoft have continued to stick with polycarbonate in their upcoming flagships is certainly questionable, no matter the “quality” of polycarbonate , customers will inevitably equate it with plastic. When Nokia released the Nokia N9, their first polycarbonate phone (and certainly one of the first phones to embrace the color revolution of smartphones), it was nothing short of innovative in terms of design, and build quality. Of course that was a different time, when the iPhone 4S was still one of the few phones to incorporate glass into their devices (besides the screen obviously).

With so many Lumias floating around, and so much polycarbonate and plastic, it seems unfair that the flagship devices for Windows 10 Mobile, and Microsoft’s first proper flagship in well over a year is underwhelming to look at. Like anything valuable, the essence of said value is from its scarceness, and it seems that the abundance of plastic/polycarbonate Lumias with similar designs have diluted the value of the once premium polycarbonate build.

An interesting view, but not a unique one. That many phone manufacturers are using “Glass” and “Metal” is none of Microsoft’s concern. Many phone manufacturers are also using Android, surely a next logical step would be for them to use Android as well no? The reality of the matter is, while glass and metal may be lovely to look at in a store and look good in renders, they are awfully impractical and smudgy. The iPhone 4S was prone to shattered back syndrome and the iPhone 4 and 6 series both had antennagate and bendgate respectively.

Even looking back at Windows Phone, Microsoft has had metal flagship devices before, and they haven’t exactly  flown off the shelves. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL look premium and professional, like true Microsoft devices. They will have quite a few innovative features as well, I don’t think it is valuable to quibble over whether they are as shiny as the Sony Xperia Z5.

Brand Loyalty is for suckers:

This piece on brand loyalty is particularly interesting.

To some extent, that’s fine—it’s good to be happy with the things you buy, and happy with the role they fill in your life. But when a brand goes past “I’m happy I bought this, it meets my needs,” to “This product/company makes me feel good about who I am,” or—worse—to “Anyone who chooses a different product doesn’t understand/is stupid,” you’ve fallen right into their trap. You’re being used as a weapon in a fight where you don’t actually have a stake: to drive sales for that company and diminish the users of their competitors.

Blind loyalty (and blind hatred) discourages us from demanding better products from the companies we patronize. If all they hear is how perfect they are, and how terrible their competition is, they have no reason to innovate or improve. If their customers aren’t capable of being skeptical, why should they?

I’m going to apply this to Windows Phone, specifically to one aspect of Windows Phone devices that has been a point of (unreasonable) contention. Since Microsoft bought the Nokia devices division, there has been no shortage of people who would prefer that Microsoft stick Nokia on their devices. Now, this is not just simply demanding that Microsoft make devices as good as Nokia does, but that Microsoft stick the logo of another company on their own device simply bemuse they consumer in question prefers that company. Its quite absurd to get attached to a brand so much so you get attached to their name on an unrelated device. Similarly with the wishes for a Surface Phone. Many people haven’t convinced themselves why they want a Surface Phone, just that they want one because the name “Surface” is cool. Names and brands don’t matter in the end, if the device does what you want, enjoy it. If not, move on and stop fighting over what it should be called.

Is Microsoft ahead of the curve?

Windows Central’s Jason Ward seems to think so. He writes:

Microsoft is forging a foundation for tomorrow’s computing experience. They were behind the curve when the smartphone became the primary computing device. Their pioneering of a path to computing beyond the phone proves that there has been a lesson learned.

Nadella recognizes that what we currently identify as a smartphone, that 5″-7″ personal computer, may not be our primary computing device in the future. As mobile devices replaced the PC it would be naïve to think smartphones will persist as our primary “computer” indefinitely. As I shared in the opening, that shift is already happening.

It is becoming clearer that the primary computing “device” is the cloud. Where a user’s experiences exist in a formless, device-less state.

This transition is where Microsoft has made its play. Through cross-platform apps, a single OS, a universal app and gaming platform, a ubiquitous cloud, a device management platform and Continuum Microsoft is positioned for the “device-less” future

I don’t quite agree with him 100%, but it would be fantastic if he were right.

Lumia 950 Leaks from Microsoft:

Screenshot (18)

Somebody is getting a serious dressing down from HQ for that.

More Lumia 950 renders leak

lumia-950-render.jpg

We’ve seen several pictures of the Lumia 950 XL, but relatively fewer of the 950. Aside from the earlier leak by Microsoft, EV leaks also provided a look at the 950 in hi-res on twitter. My personal opinion? The device looks pretty good. That metal ring helps create something distinctive and makes it stick out – for better or worse. People may not remember another iPhone looking thing, but they well remember the phone with a cool camera hump, and that’s what Microsoft is banking on.

The Lumia 550 is a nice looking low-end device:

Microsoft Lumia 550 Render

The Windows Phone low-end has never been particularity nice looking. Whether it was the choice of color, or the fact that there were too many of them for one to appreciate any individual one, the face remains that none of these devices were particularly nice to look at. The Lumia 550 has recently leaked yet again in Black and White from a variety of angles, showcasing the device in full glory. Like the other Windows 10 Lumias, I think it looks rather sharp in comparison to its predecessors. Quite, dare I say, “Surface-like” in terms of design cues.

I’m sure we’ll have loads more to talk about next week right after Microsoft announces its devices, but that’s all for now, give your thoughts on the above in comments.

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