The iPhone 4S is a nice phone. But most people think it's a disappointment. After all, it comes in last years' skin, and its guts aren't radically amazing. It's nothing special. And that means it's Microsoft's chance to counterattack.
I say Microsoft because Android is still a mixed bag of hurt and ugly—a lemonparty. Its hardware is competitive and the OS is highly customizable, but it's still just a me-too option full of inconsistencies.
Right now, Microsoft's awesome Metro user experience is the only real alternative to Apple's dominance. Not in market share—yet—but in terms of technological superiority. FAF, if you will, the Fucking-Awesome Factor. To me, Windows Phone 7.5 feels like the only real challenger to Apple's iOS 5 superiority.
iOS 5 doesn't seem new
Sure, iOS 5 has Siri and location-based Reminders and Cards, but overall it's just the same old stuff or playing catch up. Like Notifications. And there's really nothing new under the hood except a new image API for developers and Twitter integration. Wonderful.
For normal consumers, iOS 5 looks the same. It's still row after row of icons. The applications still live in their own little worlds, with little interaction between one another. Siri seems awesome, don't get me wrong. But, even if it works like advertised, I have a hard time imagining myself—or anybody—talking to their iPhones like Captain Kirk or Dave in 2001. The embarrassment factor is just too high for most people.
Mango, on the other hand, is different. Looking at the feature list, there's really no apparent distance with iOS 5. But it looks different, more modern and advanced than iOS 5. When I saw it for the first time my reaction was "oh, wow, what? really?"
Then, as I went through it, I felt the same sense of new and wonder that I felt the first time I played with my first iPhone. It's centered around the user's information, not around isolated app islands. Just looking at it is useful, with live updates of the stuff and people you really want to know about. And it's really smart. The search alone makes me feel like I did when I started up my first PC or my first Mac or my first iPhone or my first iPad.
For a normal consumer, Windows Phone 7.5 will feel polished and fun and shiny and useful and easy to use. It makes sense. At this point, it only needs a killer handset.
Nokia, this is your last chance
It needs a killer phone because, no matter how good the operating system is, you need the object of desire. That's where Nokia comes in.
Right now, in the sea of glass and plastic created by Samsung, LG and HTC, Nokia seems to be the only manufacturer with enough expertise to create the jewel. A device that can match or surpass the iPhone 4S in terms of size and technical features. A phone with a better camera—they can do this, they have the experience—and, more importantly, a cool, smart design. Something that can be exhibited at New York's MOMA. Something that screams to the consumers, that grabs them by the eyeballs and make them go "I WANT IT!". Which is what Apple did with the first iPhone. Great software inside great, lustful hardware.
If Nokia can pull such a phone, then Microsoft has a chance to use this holiday season as its beachhead to enter the market like the Allies in Normandy. MS has the cool new operating system and the money to advertise the hell out of it. It just needs an awesome Nokia phone to wow everyone in the planet.
Microsoft, Nokia, make it so.