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The death of Windows Phone and the five stages of mobile grief

Fish, you idiot

Running Windows Phone so I can stay 100% Microsoft is totally fine, even if it's 2019. Nothing else out there strikes the balance I'm looking for. I don't need any apps that I don't already have. I like having an unusual phone, even if it's showing its age a bit. Someone needs to carry this torch. I can hold out until Microsoft gets its act together and comes back to mobile with a new offering.

Freaking Microsoft! I still can't believe they dropped Windows Phone after all this time. Why do they always do this? The only reason it failed is because they didn't try harder. The market needed a viable third option, and they somehow managed to blow it. They have all the money; they could have bought their way into the market, but they chickened out and didn't pay the cost of being late to the party.

Well, maybe I can switch to Android and just use the Microsoft apps. Thank goodness I at least have that option instead of being stuck with only Apple. I've heard that the Microsoft apps on Android are actually better in some ways than the native apps I'm used to. I know I'll adapt quickly. It will be only a temporary inconvenience.

This sucks. Android is annoying and different. I will miss my clean interface and Live Tiles. I don't care about the new features, I just wish it had the polish and nuances of Windows Phone. So few people will ever understand how great Windows Phone was, and there will be no empathy from anyone who doesn't know what I know.

This Android thing actually has some nice features, and it's really nice that it runs Chrome. I guess it's kind of cool that I can run the Alexa and Hue apps on my own device now, instead of stealing the family iPad. I can deal with the changes I don't like because, if I'm being completely honest, there are a few things I like better.

And so it begins

Yeah, I know I used this intro before. But I figure it's only fitting to reuse the same format to tell a similar tale. Like Windows Media Center, Windows Phone has a long history and, also like Media Center, I've been a user for a long time. And of course, Microsoft unceremoniously abandoned Windows Phone, just as it did Media Center.

This phone was great for playing emulated SNES Harvest Moon

My tutelage as a Windows Phone, then Windows Mobile, user began with the Samsung BlackJack II sometime in early 2008. That may seem like an odd choice given that the plucky new iPhone had just hit the scene and Android phones were coming. However, Windows Mobile was the "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" of smartphones at the time, so as an IT professional, I rolled them out to all my users when we switched from Verizon to AT&T, and they served us well.

Time marched on, and a couple of years later we reached the quaint (by modern standards, but practically obligatory at the time) two-year upgrade cycle and contract renewal with AT&T. This is arguably where I first went wrong. The iPhone 3GS was a viable option back then, as was the Google Nexus One, but I still wasn't convinced by these newcomers. I placed the "safe bet" and stuck with Microsoft, issuing the HTC Tilt 2 to all my users. It turned out they were just, you know, kind of okay. We didn't make it to two years before switching things up.

This phone's screen still impresses me

In late 2010, I was salivating over the prospects of Windows Phone 7. Finally, I could give my users a modern mobile experience and still stay within my trusty Microsoft ecosystem. This is what everyone had been waiting for, right? I was first in line to use our early renewal option and purchased a fleet of the Samsung Focus. At the time, the AMOLED screen it sported was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen an image displayed on, and, oh my, black was black. The combination of the screen and the colorful if unorthodox GUI completely won me over. I was hooked, and my users dug it, too.

This phone should have taken the world by storm

Strangely, by the time late 2012 came around, Windows Phone hadn't taken over the mobile world. I didn't understand it, but whatever. A couple of my users seemed interested in the iPhone 5—their family and friends liked it I guess, blah blah blah. But I had my eye on the prize: the Nokia Lumia 920. How could you could you not love that spec sheet? Magical wireless charging, an awesome camera, dual-core processor, 32 GB of memory, and Windows Phone 8, too? I mean, come on... It even had brightly colored polycarbonate bodies as an option. Of course, I ordered all of ours in black. It was heavy, too. Really heavy. It had the kind of weight that you knew meant "quality," the kind of weight that meant if you dropped it on your toe, you'd lose a toenail (true story). This was validation that hanging with Microsoft mobile for nearly five years had finally paid off. 

But then it was suddenly the end of 2014, and not only was Windows Phone still just a bit player in the market, there wasn't even a new flagship phone for me to switch to? What. The. Heck. Microsoft? That's not how acquisitions are supposed to work! I couldn't believe that the only Windows Phone worth upgrading to was exclusive to Verizon. I felt, for the first time since going all-in on Windows Phone: I've made a huge mistake. 

This phone was an underrated workhorse

By the summer of 2015, my users were questioning my judgment and giving me strange looks when we crossed paths. They couldn't get the apps that they heard everyone else talking about for their dumb Windows Phones. It was time to switch gears. I had to play the value card. Management would ignore all the user complaints if I could point to a huge pile of savings. iPhones and flagship Android phones were just too expensive, and I couldn't justify recommending them just because people wanted to use Waze to help them speed. So I switched to Verizon, went no-contract, bought a bunch of $200 Lumia 735 handsets, and used the financial win as the reason for giving Microsoft one more chance.  These phones were for work, after all; they didn't need to be fancy. 

But by late 2016, I could no longer hold back the tide. Adding insult to injury, the new Lumia 950s came out on AT&T not long after we switched to Verizon. Screw it, we're going BYOD, I thought. I cooked up a plan for the company to offer everyone a $300 phone credit every two years and washed my hands of the entire mess. Some people jumped ship from Windows Phone right away. Others still cautiously trusted me and my Windows Phonedom, and waited to see what I would do next.

This phone was five years old before being put to pasture

Nobody liked what I did next. And they stopped asking me for advice. In early 2017, I was still in denial and picked up a refurbished Lumia Icon for a song. Sure, it was older than the Lumia 735 I was still using, but it was better in every way. It ran Windows Phone 10 just fine, too. Of course, the battery life wasn't great, but I wasn't a heavy user anyway, and chargers are everywhere. What did I expect from an already three-year old phone? It would last me until something better came along, at least.

Nooooo! I missed my chance—my absolute last chance—to get a respectably modern Windows Phone. It was late 2017, and the HP Elite x3 got a surprise Verizon-compatible version out of the blue. You could order it right from the Microsoft store, but it was like $600, and I couldn't stomach the expense, even with the BYOD credit I'd devised. So I foolishly waited for a price drop, but by the time I caught wind of the sale, the damage was already done: All the Elite x3s were gone, and they were never coming back. (Trust me, I looked.) I had gambled and lost.

And that's the sordid tale of how I ended up using a five-year-old refurbished Windows Phone all the way into early 2019. Fish, you idiot, you shouldn't have waited. Yeah, I know. The last straw was a pair of incidents last month where my Icon died on me while I was taking photos, even though it reported that the battery was more than 80% full. I can put up with a lot of crap, but I absolutely need a reliable phone. It was time to move on.