Introduction

While almost all of the AnandTech editors are using Android or iOS smartphones as their daily driver due to the relative maturity of those platforms (and oftentimes bleeding edge hardware within), Brian learned I'd been using the Windows Phone 7.5-equipped Dell Venue Pro as my daily driver for almost a year. 2-year contract plans in the United States amount to highway robbery, but a no contract deal from T-Mobile is actually very reasonable. As someone attracted to Windows Phone's UI and someone who preferred the physical keyboard, the Venue Pro turned out to be a perfect fit.

Unfortunately, time has revealed Windows Phone 7 for what it was: a transitional offering that was practically end-of-life when it left the gate. Windows Phone 8 is Microsoft's real long haul darling, and when Brian discovered I was looking to replace my Venue Pro with something more robust, he asked HTC to send me their flagship Windows Phone 8 handset, the Windows Phone 8X. He's already run performance and battery tests, but we haven't really talked about what Windows Phone offers that Android and iOS don't, and how effective it can be as a daily driver. That changes today.

Android and iOS have both shown tremendous advancement and increased polish over their lives, but I had very good reasons for avoiding either. Whenever you buy an Apple product there's a very real concern about vendor lock-in, and since I don't run any Macs at home, that means having to suffer with the continually buggy Windows version of iTunes to manage an iPhone. The iPhone also isn't readily available on T-Mobile, currently one of the only vendors offering a reasonable no contract plan rate. Verizon's prepaid service starts at $80 for a smartphone, $20 more than T-Mobile and a paltry $20 less than their contract plan. AT&T is no better, asking $5 more than T-Mobile for a 1GB cap instead of 2GB.

What about Android? Android's main problem and uphill battle has been and continues to be fragmentation. With few exceptions, most of the vendors who add their own UI over the existing Android UI only wind up mucking up something that was mostly fine in the first place. Samsung, HTC, and LG aren't software companies, but they try to act like it. I'm also not personally fond of even the stock interface of Android, which is a bit too busy for my taste.

As a matter of personal preference, I went with Windows Phone 7.5 in the Dell Venue Pro, and then 8 with the HTC Windows Phone 8X. Metro Modern UI is mostly absurd in a basic desktop or notebook environment, but on a small touchscreen with limited real estate it makes a lot of sense. Microsoft's user experience is very clean and very snappy, but using WP7.5 as a daily driver did admittedly leave some things to be desired. The Venue Pro itself is a gorgeous smartphone, but the camera (and software) is awful, and the app ecosystem has been bare for some time. Room for improvement definitely existed.

This review is going to be a bit more editorial in nature than we usually do, detailing the experience of using Windows Phone 7.5 regularly, what Windows Phone 8 brings to the table that corrects WP7.5's flaws, and talking about what's still missing from the Windows Phone experience. But before that, a few words about the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X
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  • Myrandex - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    Eh many Android phones these days are sold without 4.x unfortuantely, especially in the lower end / prepaid / unlocked lower priced phones out there. Reply
  • deathgod - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    And people buying those phones won't really benefit or care about having the latest version of the OS. They just want a phone that meets their needs. That's like me buying a iPhone 3GS today and expecting it to have all the features and performance of a 5.

    Based on the sales of Android handsets the majority of people that have a problem with fragmentation are tech authors. I don't see many people buying cheap Android phones and complaining about not having JB.
    Reply
  • drumhellar - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    In the article, you seem to be suggesting that WP 7.5 didn't allow you to group contacts, and that was a new feature with 8. However, that's incorrect. WP 7 does allow you to group contacts (and send messages to groups, and all the other things you can do with groups). Reply
  • Reikon - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    "but Google users will only have to sacrifice some of their apps"

    Um... how having to sacrifice all of our apps for heavy Google users? There are no Google apps on WP except useless search.
    Reply
  • jeffkro - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    Until I see that windows phone has the same or equivalent apps that I use all the time on my android phone I can't make the switch. I'm also really tied into the google ecosystem, drive, docs, gmail, etc but I guess I could switch to MS equivalents. Reply
  • N4g4rok - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    Out of curiosity, What apps in particular?

    The switch from Google to Skydrive is somewhat easy to manage. I don't remember how much Google Drive lets you store for free, but Skydrive will give you 7GB and a good way to create/manipulate office documents. Other than the differences is storage space and access methods (which is kind of a big deal), everything else will feel right at home.
    Reply
  • whickywhickyjim - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    I find it very annoying that the tiles + applications screens do not tilt. Also, live tiles should be way more customizable with colors display options. The lack of these things are just lazy. Reply
  • stanwood - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    I love my 8X. Happy to have left iOS behind since I do not use Mac elsewhere. And the integration with Windows 8 is great for Music, SkyDrive, OneNote, etc. Love the custom tile placement and good multi-tasking support.

    Main complaints on phone: autofocus not as predictable (improved with recent firmware update), button placement is optimal for one-handed grip in left hand. but I like to use my right. I still hit the Search and Back buttons by accident all the time. I think Apple got this one right. One button to rule them all please.

    On the OS, the only thing I've missed is taking contact info from map search and pulling it into my contacts.
    Reply
  • Bobs_Your_Uncle - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - link

    "IT" being basically whatever it is you choose to rock, or carry, or sport, or..er,...uh...use?

    Many strongly held opinions & preferences very passionately expressed. What it ultimately comes down to is the choice YOU get to make to do your own thing.

    Thanks, Dustin, for a very well written op-ed explaining that which you appreciate in the WP8 platform while, at the same time, acknowledging & expressing appreciation for the respective strengths of all the various major platforms.

    Should someone wish to take delight in berating a given platform, taking glee in it's struggles & hoping for it's failure, that is indeed that persons privilege. It's unfortunately a very negative approach to take toward making one's way through life from day to day, but it is one's privilege none-the-less.

    I would view the failure of any platform provider with regret, as more available options usually provides very tangible benefits for all consumers, in addition to stimulating innovation through competition.

    Again, thanks to Dustin & to all of the AnandTech Anointed for providing exceptional journalistic content on the tech that touches our daily lives. And for being ethical, honest & positive in your approach.

    (If I want negative, agenda driven, duplicitous & disingenuous B.S. I'll simply turn the T.V. on to ...... oh, any number of options.)
    Reply
  • sunflowerfly - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - link

    As an iPhone user that also hates iTunes simply refuse to use it. iOS works just fine from iCloud, and Apple is actively moving it further that direction with every update. I actually think a pc without iTunes, but with the iCloud Control Panel works better than a real Mac.

    Overall a great article, I am bullish on Windows phone as well. I gave my 74 year old mom a Windows Phone 7.5 on T-Mobile, and after a short learning curve she loved it. We only sold it when it was apparent that 7.5 had no future. She gets along with one of our old iPhone 4's just fine today.
    Reply

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