Windows Phone 7 and Canada

I love my Samsung Focus and I don't know why it isn't the most popular phone in Canada.

WPCentral reported today on the lacklustre support of Canadian carriers for the WP7 platform. Basically, even if you've been sold on the platform or a particular phone by a friend, review or foreign marketing (because there's none here), you're likely to be stonewalled by sales people. People who see my Focus love its speed, its easy fast UI, the fact that you can get a second battery, and the fact that you can plug in a MicroSD chip to cheaply upgrade memory. I know two people who wanted my phone, took the name down and asked for one when they went to renew contracts or sign up for service. One was told her carrier didn't offer it (fair enough) but wasn't provided with any WP7 alternatives. Now she's in the market for the new iPhone (though Apple's website for "next-day pickup" is a joke of artifical demand; she's been on it at 9pm nightly for two weeks without success while she recently moved up to #300 on Fido's waiting list). The other was talked out of the Focus by a sales rep and steered towards Android. He still likes my phone better, and now he's not sure why he got an Android.

The three problems afflicting all carriers here: staff ignorance of WP7 phones, weak or non-existent efforts at marketing, and limited selection.

Staff ignorance of the WP7 platform extends to all the Canadian carriers, and the training, commissions, advertising dollars and/or outright kickbacks that retailers receive for selling other platforms apparently don't compete with WP7 or the field might be more level.

Second, I've never seen one piece of WP7 marketing from any Canadian carrier. Not one. If Microsoft Canada is contributing marketing dollars to the carriers, they are being squandered by the most unimaginative and ineffective marketeers working in wireless today.

Third, selection is limited to say the least. On the surface it would seem okay - trepidation in supporting more than one device per carrier is no surprise. WP7 devices do appear on carrier websites. However at the kiosks, WP7 simply does not exist, at least at Telus and Bell outlets (I haven't been near a Rogers outlet lately).

Conclusion: it's hard to buy a phone you don't know about. If you're lucky enough to know about it, you still need to convince the sales people that you really, really want a WP7 phone. And then, just maybe, you can wait until they receive their next shipment x weeks from now and you haven't changed your mind in the meantime.


What's going well in Canada? Three things:

#1 for me is that the Zune Pass is now available in Canada. "Unlimited music, wherever you are." After a few days my subscription became an addiction. If you ever dreamed of being able to hear a song seconds after thinking about it, it's basically here. Whether streamed or downloaded (which also synchs it to your other devices), the catalogue is "big enough" and I love it. It's the best invention since the first MP3 player big enough to hold a whole collection. And there is no competition. I tried to get my daughter a similar subscription for her Android (her Mom got it, not my choice), and it just doesn't exist here; not through Rhapsody, iTunes or any other host, and the Napster experience requires her to synch with a PC or Mac, not directly to her phone. The iStore lets you buy but not stream. Unless I'm mistaken here (and I'd love to be wrong, a music subscription is the best gift anyone could give), there is no competition. Every Canadian music lover could be sold on this in a heartbeat. Rogers, why not offer a plan with a Focus, a 32GB Micro-SD and one-year Zune Pass? No? Fantastic product, but an opportunity squandered.

[Update 2011-11-10] Let there be competition - I discovered Rdio today. It's an all-you-can-eat music subscription available in Canada with clients for both WP7 and Android, $5 per month, and the catalogue is about as deep as Zune (~12M tracks). Trial started, fingers crossed.

#2: We have a strong developer community so there are plenty of solid Canadian apps including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, a few scattered transit and taxi apps, and even a few city guides. And by the way, Mango's Scout feature works fantastic if you change the regional search settings to English-US. Scout rocks.

#3: I've had acceptable service from Rogers for my awesome Samsung Focus. Updates arrive in a reasonable time, and despite not having enough on hand or any publicity to support their launch, I eventually got one and it's worked ever since. I know someone who had one that broke, and they eventually did the right thing and replced it. Not overwhelming service, but acceptable, and in this market that's good enough.


What's your experience?


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