It appears low-end Windows Phone devices are going to be more crippled than we’d originally thought. Lost in the hullabaloo of Apple’s next iPad announcement yesterday, Microsoft put up a blog post on its Windows Phone Developer Blog which gave Windows Phone application developers guidelines for how to make their applications play friendly on devices with 256MB of RAM in the upcoming Windows Phone Tango update.
Developers who want their applications available to users of low-end devices are encouraged to optimize startup time, reduce memory usage below 90MB, reduce the number of features available to these users, and be responsive to user input on these devices. Guidelines for how developers can achieve these goals is outlined in the blog post and supporting documentation/guides.
Users of these inexpensive devices will see greatly reduced functionality, including some of Microsoft’s own services. They will not be able to utilize processor-intensive applications such as several podcast consumption tools, the location-based Bing Local Scout, automatic uploading of photos and videos to SkyDrive, HD Video agents, and the fast app switching multitasking feature introduced in the Mango update.
The hefty restrictions placed on these low-end devices begs the question as to why Microsoft is even allowing 256MB devices to exist in the first place. We can only imagine that Microsoft is targeting the prepaid market, where customers must fork out the entire cost of the device upfront in exchange for not having to sign a 2-year carrier contract. As high-end devices can cost well over $500 to purchase without a contract, Microsoft could deliver the Windows Phone experience for less than $100 to prepaid customers. However the Lumia 610 (see our hands-on here) is rumored to have a lofty €189 price tag, or approximately $250 USD.
Several prepaid devices are currently available running Google’s Android operating system which run as low as $100 without a contract for devices with 1GHz processors and 512MB of RAM, so it’s a bit baffling to me that we’re talking about smartphones with 256MB of RAM in 2012. It just seems to be a step in the wrong direction, as we’ll likely soon see low-end smartphones with 1GHz processors and 1GB of RAM come in at around the same $100-$200 off-contract price points we see today.
Windows Phone Tango will be released sometime in Q2 2012 with the launch of Nokia’s Lumia 610, which will be the first 256 MB Windows Phone Device released. Time will tell how the 256MB Windows Phone devices perform, though we have a hard time believing they’ll be very widely adopted.