Why Android outsells Windows Phone 7

One retailer’s data underscores all that’s wrong with Microsoft's platform and all that's right with Google's.

We all knew Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 would have a hard time catching up with the leading contenders in the smartphone arena, and now there's yet another fresh batch of evidence suggesting that it can't.

Following the platform's lackluster launch, Windows Phone 7 is being outsold by Android phones by about 15 to 1, a U.K. retailer reported today. Even battle-weary Symbian is doing better, with its Symbian 3 handsets -- primarily the Nokia N8 -- outselling Windows Phone 7 by three to 1, Mobiles Please reported Monday on its blog.

Specifically, for the sales period between Nov. 11 and 24, Windows Phone 7 accounted for a measly 1.87 per cent of Mobiles Please's smartphone sales, while Android weighed in with 28.56 per cent, company representative Ben Pusey told me this morning. BlackBerry accounted for 19.36 per cent, Symbian 3 drew 6.95 per cent, and Apple's iOS pulled in 6.83 per cent, according to the company's data.

"The Windows Phone 7 handsets -- as nice as they are -- are by and large generic phones from well known manufacturers, and in most cases an almost identical model is available from the same manufacturer with Android," Mobiles Please wrote. "Given the choice, people seem to be picking Android."

Windows Phone 7 is in trouble, in other words, and it's no real surprise. In fact, there are five key reasons Android is eating Microsoft's lunch.

1. Security

With no on-device encryption, support for complex-password policies, or VPN, Windows Phone 7's security is weaker than pretty much every other major contender in the smartphone arena, making it a non-starter for businesses, in particular. For a company whose traditional customer base draws so heavily from the business market, that's a big problem -- a disaster, you might even say.

Android, meanwhile, is becoming more and more business-capable every day. Its relative openness and Linux roots lend it numerous features that boost security, while the operating system itself is continuously gaining new features and apps that serve business users well.

2. Apps

Speaking of apps, that's another area where Windows Phone 7 is lagging. I count somewhere around 1400 apps currently in the Windows Phone Marketplace -- a figure that doesn't compare too well with the tens of thousands available for both iPhone and Android.

Since a month ago, in fact, the number for Windows Phone 7 has increased by only about 400, if my count is right. That doesn't bode too well for a quick catch-up with the platform's key competitors.

Particularly troubling within the realm of apps, though, is Windows Phone 7's poor showing in the office productivity arena, as my IDG colleague at Infoworld recently noted in a review. Full multitasking is missing, as is Flash support and cut, copy and paste functionality, to name just a few examples. That's no way to please business users.

3. Nuts and Bolts

Windows Phone 7 may have a pleasing interface, but the operating system itself is sluggish and a poor competitor for Android or Apple's iOS. The Infoworld review called it a "couch potato of an operating system."

Rather than focusing its efforts under the hood, Microsoft has chosen flash over substance -- not typically a good way to win the hearts of business users or anyone else.

4. Choice

Part of Android's strength derives from the fact that there are so many devices to choose from. While Windows Phone 7 offers more choice than Apple's iPhone does in this respect, it still can't compete.

Choice is always a good thing for consumers, and consumers are the ones demanding myriad Android phones for work. Unless something suddenly turns around for Microsoft's platform, both handset makers and app developers are going to lose interest in it altogether as they watch demand for Android phones continue skyward.

5. Momentum

Android's popularity is even threatening to make the iPhone a niche also-ran, not just among consumers but among businesses as well. That's particularly impressive given the iPhone's head start, but it's also why Windows Phone 7 would have had to make a much better first impression to gain any real ground.

Bottom line? Microsoft brought too little to the game, and it entered too late. Unless it makes a really big change really soon, Windows Phone 7 doesn't stand a chance.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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