Posey's Tips & Tricks

Why Windows Phone Isn't More Popular in the U.S.

It's hard to sell units when customers can't find them in stores.

I have never made any secret of the fact that I love Windows Phone 8.1. I have given iOS and Android a fair shake, and they are both good operating systems in their own way. But I personally prefer Windows Phone. Some might be quick to point out that I have written two books about Windows Phone, so of course that's what I am going to use. However, I wrote the books because I like Windows Phone. I don't use a Windows Phone just because I feel an obligation to. Having said that, I've been puzzled as to why Windows Phone only has a single-digit market share in the USA (it does much better in some foreign markets). However, I think I have figured out the reason.

Last month I accidentally killed my Windows Phone. My phone was running the Developer Preview release of the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. I had been making a bunch of configuration changes related to an article that I was writing. When I was finished, I (stupidly) thought that it would be faster to reset the phone than to manually adjust all of those settings.

When writing my books on Windows Phone, I preformed resets  on my device on an almost daily basis. It was no big deal. This time, however, I was running a developer preview OS. When I reset the phone, it reset to the Microsoft defaults, not to my cellular provider's defaults. This caused me to lose the ability to natively connect to my provider's cellular network. The phone was perpetually roaming. I also lost the ability to access the Internet, except through Wi-Fi.

I didn't have any way to put the phone back to normal. The Cellular option on the Settings menu was gone. To make a long story short, I had no choice but to buy a new phone.

I started out by going to one of the big box electronic retailers. However, they didn't carry any Windows Phones at all, except for one seriously outdated model that was for a different cellular network. From the moment that I set foot into the store's mobile department, a fast-talking salesman kept trying to pressure me into purchasing the latest Samsung Galaxy.

Since I didn't have any luck at the big box store, I went across the street to the mall and visited a kiosk operated by my cellular provider. It was the same story all over again. They didn't have any Windows phones, but they could get me a "great deal" on an iPhone or an Android.

Frustrated, I tried one more store. This one was a full size store run by my cellular provider. It was the same story. They didn't carry Windows phones, but could order one for me. Even though I was asking about Windows Phones, the sales guy kept trying to pressure me into buying something else.

The experience was really eye opening. It's no wonder that almost nobody uses Windows phones. None of the stores sell them, and the sales people that I dealt with were all super aggressive in trying to push phones that I didn't want. Ultimately, I ordered my new Windows Phone off of my cellular provider's Web site and had a hassle-free experience (aside from having to be without a phone for a week).

Of course I understand that the stores only carry what they can sell, but conversely nobody is going to buy something that nobody sells -- especially with salespeople who push other models so aggressively. I can honestly say that I delt with less sales pressure the last time that I bought a car than I did shopping for a cell phone.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that Microsoft does not abandon its Windows Phone efforts in the USA in response to the poor sales numbers. I am hoping that the people in Redmond begin to realize that all of the clever TV commercials for Windows Phone are useless if the cellular providers make it nearly impossible to actually buy the phone. Maybe things are different in other parts of the country, but I absolutely could not find a Windows Phone for sale locally. I had no choice but to order online. I suspect that some of the people who might actually want a Windows Phone are probably put off by the difficulty in getting the phone and by the relentless sales push toward other models.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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