All Sections

Debate: Are Windows Phone smartphones too expensive?

Nokia recently introduced it’s second Windows Phone handset: the Nokia Lumia 710. We loved the handset and scored it highly, but it did provoke a question in the office. Are Windows Phone handsets too expensive? Recombu’s Hannah Bouckley and Thomas Newton have differing opinions.


Hannah Bouckley – Yes

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried a couple of affordable Windows Phone handsets. The Nokia Lumia 710 – described at launch as ‘affordable’ and the ZTE Tania billed as ‘the most affordable 4.3-inch Windows Phone on the market.’ I think they are too expensive and until Microsoft and phone hardware manufacturers produce a genuinely affordable Windows Phone, the OS will not make a big impact in the UK.

Results last week from the Kantar World Panel, found that during the last 12 weeks in December, Windows Phone has just a 0.4 % market share in the UK. This contrasts with 43.9% for Android, 34% for Apple iOS and 16.1% for RIM.

OK, the Windows Phone operating system is younger and there are fewer devices, but a chunk of those Android and RIM sales are at the lower end.

Google’s operating systems function at all ends of the smartphone price spectrum. You can get the Huawei Blaze for £69 (a steal considering the feature set) and the big-selling Orange San Francisco for £89 on PAYG.  RIM’s BlackBerry operating system isn’t quite as cheap, but it’s still possible to get the BlackBerry Curve 8520 complete with email and BBM for £119.99 .

In contrast the Nokia Lumia 710 starts at £260 sim free. On contract at Phones 4U you can expect to get it free for £15.50 a month on Vodafone and Orange, which doesn’t sound too bad, until you realise the Orange tariff includes only 100MB of data and Vodafone’s has none. Increase the data allowance to around 500MB and you are looking at £26 a month. That can get you a Samsung Galaxy S2 a phone certainly not classed as ‘affordable.’

There’s no doubt the Lumia 710 is a great handset and was never designed to be budget, but for an ‘affordable’ phone it’s still too much money.

Expect to pay £250 sim free for the ZTE Tania, although the exact price hasn’t been confirmed. ZTE states it will be around £10-20 a month. £10 a month is reasonable, £20 a month seems too much – especially if you start adding data.

Of course some Android’s dominance can be attributed to choice – there are far more handsets with Google’s operating system, than Windows Phone. Of course the hardware requirements such as a 1GHz processor and 800×480 screen aren’t the specifications of a low-end phone.

But what’s to prevent Microsoft creating a slightly slower specced phone? Say one running an 800 GHz processor like the Orange San Francisco II? It might not run as smoothly as the existing Windows Phone handsets, but if you know you are getting a slower phone then it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, Microsoft has already shown a willingness to be flexible with it’s own requirements, such as RAM and internal memory limit. The ZTE Tania has 2.89GB of which 2.5GB is usable, instead of 8GB.

I would like to see a Windows Phone handset priced around £150 sim free or on PAYG. Something that can rival the HTC Wildfire S and Samsung Galaxy Ace.

Ultimately, I really like Windows Phone. It’s a fantastic UI and a fantastic interface for first-time smartphone users. It deserves to be used and enjoyed and at it’s current pricing it won’t be, which is a shame.  



Thomas Newton – No  

I don’t think that prices for Windows Phone handsets are too expensive when you consider what you get for your money.

You get a solid, stable user experience and a beautifully designed UI. To be honest, you don’t get that with an awful lot of Android phones unless they happen to be running HTC Sense or Ice Cream Sandwich. BlackBerry OS 7 is admittedly a step in the right direction in terms of a good UI but looks and feels light years behind what Windows Phone offers.

With Windows Phone you get an OS that’s crammed with useful features and functions such as easy group messaging and threaded conversations with friends across texts, emails and social network messages.

With Windows Phone you get Microsoft Office functionality, Xbox LIVE connectivity and the SkyDrive cloud locker built in to every single device. Sure you can get similar functions and services on Android phones. But how many Android and BlackBerry phones come with all that built in? Native? Ready out of the box?

The Apple iPhone 4S has Siri, iCloud, iMessage and plenty of other native features which compete with what you get out of the box with Windows Phone, if not directly in terms of function, then definitely by virtue of them being value added features.

The HTC Titan, which comes with 16GB of internal storage and an 8-megapixel camera with a low-light sensor can be had free on Vodafone contracts via Carphone Warehouse for £26 a month. This gives you 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data.

An iPhone 4S (16GB, 8-megapixel camera with a low-light sensor) from Vodafone directly on the same contract – 300 minutes, unlimited texts, 500MB of data – will see you paying £31 a month and £199 for the phone itself.

At the end of the 24 month contract, you’d be saving £319 if you went for the HTC Titan. If we’re comparing OS’s based on features against cost here, then it looks like Windows Phone offers great value for money.

Windows Phones are polished products and as such command a high price. You get what you pay for.

Arguably the high price comes from the stringent minimum required spec for Windows Phones, which dictates that a phone needs a 1GHz CPU, 512MB of RAM and needs at least 8GB of storage, amongst other criteria.

For Android the bar is much lower; 128MB of RAM, 256MB flash memory memory and a 2-megapixel camera. Of course most Android phones these days are way and above that very low minimum. But this low bar of entry means that there can be many cheap Android phones manufactured for much less than your average Windows Phone. The metrics of such an argument are stacked in favour of Android.

So why aren’t more people buying them? Price can’t be a barrier, as it doesn’t explain why people continue to buy iPhones in the millions every year.

I think one reason why Windows Phone phones aren’t selling as much right now comes down to a number of reasons, one being age. The platform hasn’t been around nearly as long as Android, iOS let alone BlackBerry. It’s still a relative newcomer in the market.

I think another reason why it’s not selling well compared to the other platforms is also due to volume. You can (just about) count the number of Windows Phone phones being sold by the UK networks right now on one hand. You couldn’t say the same about Android phones.

If Windows Phone Tango succeeds in bringing the minimum spec requirements for the software down, as it appears to be doing, then we ought to see the price dropping accordingly and hopefully, more Windows Phones on shelves. Even without Tango lowering the bar I think this would happen anyway.

Earlier this week, Samsung announced the Galaxy S Advance, a 1GHz dual-core Android phone that’s being priced and pitched as an affordable mid-range option. A 1GHz dual-core Android phone – mid-range.

This time last year the Galaxy S Advance would have passed for high-end in the Android world. Nowadays it all about the quad-core chips as the likes of the HTC Edge and Samsung Galaxy S3 are expected to pack.

Suddenly that 1GHz single core barrier to entry of Windows Phone doesn’t seem so high.


What do you think? Are Windows Phone smartphones too expensive? Let us know below or via Facebook and Twitter.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *