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In the mobile world, change has been and continues to be a driving force. As consumers, we watch this relentless change even while we wait a couple of years between changing phones. (Yes, I know there are expensive programs to accelerate this, but for most of us in the U.S., our mobile bill is too high a percentage of our costs as it stands.) I recently reflected on my move from Android to Windows Phone a year and a half into the switch.

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920

The two take aways from this experience has been that it’s been a great experience, overall. If I could do it all over again with the ability to choose any phone available at the time, I would still choose the Lumia 920 and, with it, Windows Phone 8. The other take away is that my desire to upgrade this long into my two-year contract is much less than in devious phone cycles. I would love the Lumia Icon, for example, but I’m still happy. So, there’s no real desperation. Nonetheless, I’m starting to think about my options when my contract is up within the next six months.

One of the really smart things to do with customers looking for newer, bigger, better & stronger is to at least freshen up what they have. Actually, in the mobile space, where there is so much change, providing good and frequent updates, quickly made available to customers, is critical. Nokia has worked really hard to bring new experiences to the Lumia line through apps and updates. Microsoft has helped in this process and, I hope, will take up the baton. The Windows Phone ecosystem has allowed this to happen faster than Android, albeit with some carrier delays. Android is so fragmented that you were lucky if you received one update within your two year contract and it came much later than for the same phone without the carrier add-ons.

WP8to81Main

Windows Phone 8 Left – Windows Phone 8.1 Right

As you can see above, 8.1 enables transparent tiles with a background picture allowed to display (yes, it’s a Tardis – this is called Joe’s Geekfest, after all). It also allows more tiles on the screen. This seems small, but when your window into your mobile world looks significantly different, your mobile experience is different. Of course, the update isn’t just eye candy, but the point is that well into the second half of my contract, where I might be getting antsy for a new experience, I get one. My eye is less likely to rove to a new platform, phone or carrier. This is not just nice, this make really good business sense. When those updates come out and many of your customers can’t experience them (or have a very delayed experience}, you have just the opposite effect – you alienate your customer. You become the worst kind of tease when others are moving on to new things.

WPCortanaMain

Now if were just sugar, the thrill is short. Fortunately Microsoft and Nokia (now part of Microsoft) are smarter than that. There is lots more available in this update, but I’ll highlight two that are both functional and improve the aesthetic experience, both visually and sonically, namely Cortana and the updated calendar.

  • Cute Cortana vs. Siri ad

Cortana: Windows Phone already had pretty good voice integration (certainly better than my old Froyo & Gingerbread Android experience). Cortana not only enhances that experience but sounds natural, even conversational. This is in no small part due to employing Jen Taylor’s voice talent (the voice of Cortana in the Halo game series). It also in how it’s rendered and the algorithms in it’s response. While “my” Cortana is still learning and defaults pretty readily to a web search, it does a nice job responding.

WPCortanaGetStarted

Calendar: With Windows Phone 8, you typically went between a day, month and to do views.

Windows Phone 8 Calendar

Windows Phone 8 Calendar

Whereas 8.1 has views that dynamically allow you to drill in. So, the default look at the week is:

WPCalendarWeek

Selecting into a day brings an scrollable, expanded view:

WPCalendarDayHighlight

Not huge, but hugely useful. The weather’s a nice touch as well.

Like I said before, lots of other nice touches, from an integrated Skype button on calling screen to better granularity in notification sounds and volume.

The salient point is that even with carrier delays, Windows Phone 8 users have or will have the updates and they’ll have a new experience to tide them over. In our own customers experiences, there are often big wins with small updates that keep it fresh even while we plan larger changes. Happy now and happier later.

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