Windows Phone 7 shows why device exclusivity sucks

Windows Phone 7 launched with 10 devices, but thanks to device exclusivity users will be restricted to a couple choices.

Microsoft has finally unveiled the Windows Phone 7 platform--including a diverse selection of ten different Windows Phone 7 smartphones right out of the gate. Despite Microsoft's struggles getting into gear in the mobile game, Windows Phone 7 looks awesome. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 7 is also a prime example of why device exclusivity is bad for all parties and handicaps the potential of the platform.

Having ten different form factors seems to give prospective Windows Phone 7 buyers plenty of choice, but thanks to exclusive arrangements with wireless carriers, the reality is that the options are much more limited. As an AT&T customer, my Windows Phone 7 options are limited to only three of those ten, and none of those three is the smartphone I would actually choose...if I actually had a choice.

Taken as a whole, the collection of ten Windows Phone 7 smartphones provides prospective customers with a diverse array of options. With five devices from HTC (7 Surround, HD7, 7 Trophy, 7 Mozart, and 7 Pro), two from LG (Optimus and Quantum), two from Samsung (Omnia 7 and Focus), and one from Dell (Venue Pro) there is a size and form factor for everyone.

Four of those ten will only be available in Europe, or other international markets, so we can already narrow the field from ten to six for prospective Windows Phone 7 shoppers in the United States. No worries. Three of those six are from HTC and HTC has always developed the best smartphones for Windows Mobile. Prior to my iPhone 3G -- now my iPhone 4 -- my three previous smartphones were all HTC Windows Mobile devices.

The problem is carrier exclusivity for specific devices. The reality is that because of the arrangements between the smartphone manufacturers and the various wireless providers, AT&T only has three Windows Phone 7 smartphones to choose from, T-Mobile has two, and Sprint will eventually have one. Verizon is apparently not invited to the Windows Phone 7 party -- or at least not yet.

If I could really choose from all six of the Windows Phone 7 smartphone models available in the United States, I would get the HTC HD7, followed by the HTC 7 Pro, and probably the Dell Venue Pro as a third alternative. Guess what? It turns out that although AT&T has the most Windows Phone 7 options with three out of six, it just so happens they are the exact opposite of these three.

My HTC option with AT&T is the 7 Surround -- with a slideout speaker and digital Dolby surround sound. Seriously? So, as an AT&T customer I can choose from three Windows Phone 7 devices out of the original ten, but they are the three that are at the bottom of my list -- if I actually had a choice.

Both of the T-Mobile options are on my top three list, but I have a contractual commitment with AT&T and a family plan that impacts four other smartphone contracts in my home. I can't simply jump ship to T-Mobile on a whim because it happens to have the smartphone du jour I am interested in. Likewise, businesses are not going to fold up their tent and make the arduous trek to a new wireless provider just for a specific device.

Smartphone exclusivity is a failure as a marketing ploy, and ultimately hurts the wireless provider and the customers. The marginal gain that a wireless carrier might get from being the only provider of a specific smartphone model can only really work with brand new customers that don't already have a contractual allegiance to a given provider.

Wireless carriers should be able to compete head to head without relying on smartphone exclusivity blackmail, and smartphone customers should have the freedom to choose from all available devices to find that one that suits them best. Businesses and consumers should also have the option to use the smartphone they choose with the wireless provider that best meets their needs.

I don't want to settle for a Windows Phone 7 smartphone I don't really want, and I am not switching wireless providers to get the one I do want, so AT&T, T-Mobile, Microsoft, and I all lose out. This current model is a lose-lose proposition.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags samsunglghtcconsumer electronicsMicrosoftat&tCell PhonesPhoneswindows phone 7

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q – Reign beyond virtual world

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

D-Link TAIPAN AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Modem Router (DSL-4320L)

Learn more >

Crucial® BX200 SATA 2.5” 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive

Learn more >

D-Link PowerLine AV2 2000 Gigabit Network Kit

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >


Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

ASUS VivoPC VM62 - Incredibly Powerful, Unbelievably Small

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Best Deals on PC World

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?