Thursday, 26 October 2017

Why I willingly bought a Windows Phone

Without shame or apology, I use a Windows Phone. A bright orange Lumia 630. I purchased it with my own money. No-one pushed me to it or chose it for me. It was entirely my decision.

But why?!

Phones

My story starts in 2012 when I had outgrown my aging Symbian phone. After considering a number of options, I purchased an Android based Samsung Galaxy S2.

I had considered an iPhone at the time, but the main reason I didn't was that I'd have to buy into the Apple ecosystem, which just wasn't for me. My primary computer platforms were Windows based and moving to iPhone would be a big culture shock. My Samsung instead fitted into that world quite neatly and I'd remain happy with my choice for years.

Stage Fright!

In 2015, a security vulnerability (known as Stage Fright) was found in many versions of Android, including the one on my phone. All it would take was for someone to send me a malicious text message in the night and my phone would be taken over.

Not to worry, new phones had already been fixed and I was sure it would only be matter of time before that same fix would be pushed out to older phones like mine. Every day for a few weeks, I'd go into the phone's check-for-updates system to see if a fix was available. Every day, there wasn't. I'd call tech support to ask when (not if) a fix would become available. "Soon" was always the infuriatingly non-specific answer, occasionally along with the subtle suggestion that maybe I should buy a new handset instead.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more and gave up. My phone, despite being only three years old was considered too old to be updated. The risk of keeping it switched on, waiting for a drive-by attacker, was giving me too much stress. I switched the phone off and put it away, never to be used again.

Normally, there will come a natural time with each phone I use when I start to feel it is time to upgrade, having simply outgrown the old one. When that happens, I keep using the old one while I take my time to consider my choices. This time was different.

It was clear to me now that the Android ecosystem had a problem. Security vulnerabilities were not being taken seriously by the handset makers who would rather I just purchased a new device instead. If I had bought a new Android phone back then, I'd be supporting that attitude with my cash!

Choices

Having lost trust in Android, I was left choosing between Apple or Microsoft. At first, I wasn't even considering Windows Phone, having had bad experiences with the platform some ten years earlier. Faced with an iPhone as my only choice left, I was willing to give the new Windows Phone a try.

Trying out a Lumia 630, I was pleasantly surprised. The tile concept was a welcome relief from the "Space Invader" style rows-of-icons that dominate the rest of the market. Suitably impressed with the whole package I ended up buying one and I've not looked back. (Except to write this.)

The lack of apps for this platform is a little annoying, but I get by. I have instant-messaging, a podcast player, a weather tile on the home screen and a few others. For everything else, I use a number of "M Dot" websites. (m.facebook.com, m.youtube.com, etc.)

The Future

How long, after having purchased a smartphone, is it reasonable to expect support in the form of security updates? Back when "Stage Fright" happened, I found that answer for the Android ecosystem was 1½ years. That's just way too short in my book.

My Lumia 630 is around two years old as I write this and I've just installed an update that fixes the WPA2 "KRACK" bug. If I had purchased another Android based phone back in 2015, would I now have an update for this new bug? (Or, would I be back down the shops spending more money to enrich the handset makers who are laughing at the chump that I am...)

While I'm not planning on replacing my phone any time soon, its likely I will feel I've outgrown it in maybe a couple of years down the road, especially as Microsoft have announced they will not be actively developing it any more except for those security updates. When that day comes, I hope Android will have taken a tip from Microsoft on how to do updates right.

Picture Credits
Microsoft Lumia 630 running Podcast Lounge. By me, ironically enough, using an iPhone.
Tension, 91/365 by Matt Harris.
Future by "Legosz".
(Pictures are Creative Commons licensed.)

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