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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  • ananduser - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    "Gamers for example are forced to use windows because of DirectX. MSFT refused to follow open standards."
    What a load of bull. DirectX was a tremendous effort on MS' part that had them derided by the game outfits of the 90s. Like Apple feels that it has a responsibility towards its users to create imessage, facetime and airplay so is MS responsible towards its users to create a gaming API(keep in mind OGL was built with CAD in mind not gaming).

    Office/Exchange are just the best in their market segments.

    Furthermore with Windows you're locked within software not sotfware AND hardware like with Apple. I would happily pay Apple for OSX and iWork to run on my PC but unfortunately I am forced to buy another set of redundant x86 hardware to be able to run said software. Vendor lock-in is significantly more atrocious if it's Apple's style.
    Reply
  • RevLuck - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I noticed the Lumia 920 battery info seems wrong, It's not removable.

    I've been using Lumia 920 for about two months now and love the phone, coming from Android, the tiles fit me lot better than widgets. Easy, consistent and you can fit lots of info in one view. While there are still features that I miss from Android, I don't think I could go back.

    For me, the two features that really stand over X8 are the wireless charging and super sensitive screen. Twice in few weeks I've been freezing my fingers off trying to use phone outside before realizing I can just put the gloves back. After getting used to the wireless charging its the kind of convenience I would probably find hard to go back on. I guess I'm lazy :)

    I pretty much thought both features as gimmicks when I bought the phone, but now I hope my next phone will have them too. I just wish the charging pad prices would go down, the current price point is pretty ridiculous.
    Reply
  • shompa - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I hate that people still thinks its great dragging files back and forth in explorer. That is 1970 thinking. A good OS should make it so you never have to see the filesystem.

    How should a person with a huge library do? I have had over 40K songs in my library since 2002. In "Windows" thinking I should drag and drop the stuff I want.

    No.
    The computer should do the work for me.

    Give me songs, rated 3 stars and above, that have not been played for the last week.
    Smart playlists.

    It amazes me that people still 11 years later don't use playlists, automatic syncing and so on. This is typical Windows thinking. So 30 years after the fact.
    Reply
  • boozed - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Wow. Hate's a pretty strong emotion to feel towards someone... Especially people whose only crime is that they want to be able to do things a certain way.

    If I wanted to be churlish I'd have said "...they can do things for themselves." instead, but I won't.
    Reply
  • madmilk - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    You can use rsync for syncing and playlist files (duh) for playlists.

    Or you can wait for the music management software you're using to suddenly come out with a craptacular update (cough iTunes and Winamp), and then wonder what the hell you're going to switch to.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I could do exactly that, with smart playlists, using my player (J River Media Center), but you know what, I don't bother.

    I prefer exposing the files and doing it manually.
    Reply
  • karocage - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    "How should a person with a huge library do?"

    You should probably either continue using the Zune client with WP7.5 or the new desktop client for WP8. Using Windows Explorer would be a pain for that.
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    "If you're one of the precious few people who invested in Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 like I did, Windows Phone 8 is going to feel pretty lackluster initially, if not even capable of engendering a mild feeling of resentment. Windows Phone 7 was a rough draft and a product with no real future the moment it left Microsoft, and they knew it."

    Microsoft did the exact same thing to Zune HD users, otherwise known as Windows Phone 7 beta testers. Anyone who owned or followed the news about the Zune HD a couple years ago should know what I'm talking about. And lo and behold they've done it again, although the situation with the Zune HD was far more severe. And this is why I didn't get a WP7 device, and I won't be getting a WP8 device. Microsoft has proven itself time and again to screw over its customers and early adopters in the mobile market for the sake of its grand mobile development plans.

    I'm actually a little surprised Microsoft repeated this behavior twice, but now there's no doubt in my mind that it's systemic. They essentially use their customers as nothing more then beta testers, and each revision of their mobile platform is nothing more then a brief, unsupported, unadvertised stepping stone to the next thing. I'm sure not supporting or investing in a new platform saves a lot of money, initially, but eventually this kind of behavior is going to catch up with Microsoft in a big way, if it hasn't already. They're probably losing a lot of potential and once loyal customers.
    Reply
  • karocage - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I'm still trying to figure out what I got screwed on as a WP7.5 user. All my apps I bought would still work and be useable on a new WP8 phone so....? They didn't give me a new free phone? This is asserted in the article multiple times without ever laying out what the tangible harm is. And neither did you here. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    You lose out on any apps made for the WP8 APIs, obviously. Reply

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