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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  • shompa - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    The author is worried about vendor lock-in with the iPhone. Whats the difference with windows? You are locked into using windows on you PC/Phone.

    I am amazed how uneducated people are how MSFT locks its users in. Always by doing shady stuff. Gamers for example are forced to use windows because of DirectX. MSFT refused to follow open standards.

    Office/Exchange is another huge lock-in.

    The funniest thing is that windows fanatics never have used anything else then windows. Every single mac user I know have used/know how to use windows.

    MSFT have a 50 billion turnover on crap. Its amazing.
    (But I do give MSFT props for the Metro GUI. Their first own innovation)
    Reply
  • thesavvymage - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    They are not locked into windows because of directX. Windows can use openGL and other rendering engines. Its just that directx is much more efficient and easier to code for than the open standards. Also, Office is not a lock in. It is simply the most widely used productivity software, and its also available for mac. Reply
  • UpSpin - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    The fact that Win 8 will be a requirement for Direct X 11.1 is artificical. MS forces you to upgrade to Win 8 if yout want to play the latest games. Luckily for us, game companies are too lazy to switch to DirectX 11.1 immediately. But maybe with the next XBox console, this will change, so people have to upgrade to Win 8 if the game requires DX11.1.
    Microsoft could support open Document formats, yet, they only improve their propietary stuff. So open source Office solution often aren't fully compatible to MS Office documents and it's a hassle to switch between them.
    MS could also support OpenGL, no, they only develop DX, because that way they make sure that gamers use Windows, and regularily update to the latest version, if they want to play a game.
    This will, luckily, change, because of Valves and other start up initatives (Ouya) to support open console like devices running on anything.
    Reply
  • A5 - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    1) Ouya is going to fail. Just so you know.

    2) Steambox won't change anything because the console ports are all going to be DirectX. The reason DirectX took such a huge lead is that OpenGL was slow to adapt to changing standards and whatnot.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Supporting old hardware means there're multi-year lags in when new DX standards become required. It's only really been in the last year or so that DX10 only titles have started appearing in any significant number, and DX10 launched nearly 6 years ago with Vista.

    By the time DX11.1 becomes a required minimum as opposed to something that gives extra eyecandy at max settings windows 9 will probably be in the middle of it's retail lifetime and DX11.0 only systems will be obsolescent at best.

    In the medium term keeping everything working with DX10 only systems for the cross platform ports is, if anything, likely to hold back the 720. I doubt that will be an issue though since DX11/11.1 have only been incremental changes on top of the existing DX10 foundation, and not major redesigns like the DX9-10 upgrade.
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    If Microsoft's document format is so proprietary, why does Libre Office work for me? On Windows, no less? MS isn't half as bad as Apple. You can even put a browser on WP8 that uses its OWN proprietary rendering engine - try doing that on iOS! You can't!

    Most developers actually support multiple renderpaths. As a result, the vast, VAST majority of games will run fine on Vista/Win7 even if they DO support an 11.1 render path. Actually, most of the important 11.1 features are getting backported to Win7 anyway.

    Valve's only motivation for Steambox is money. They want a box where they are the primary/sole distributor, and take a cut of all profits. They don't want to share that cut with MS or anyone else. If all they really wanted to do was foster gaming on Linux or PCs in general, they wouldn't be building a console-type system. They would drop their fees to almost nothing for Linux versions to encourage developers to make a Linux port. Maybe even reduce their cut for the Windows version of any game with a Linux port, to further sweeten the deal.
    Reply
  • ananduser - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    The DX 11.1 requirement is also tied to kernel modifications that are present in Win8. It is not artificial.
    OpenGL was always supported in Windows, but since OGL was built with CAD in mind, they(MS) created a superior product with DirectX that caters exclusively to games. It's so good that Carmack himself praised it.
    Reply
  • krutou - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    "The fact that Win 8 will be a requirement for Direct X 11.1 is artificical. MS forces you to upgrade to Win 8 if yout want to play the latest games."

    How else is MSFT going to pay for DirectX development? DirectX is a large driving factor for the improvement of graphics quality and performance in PC games.
    Reply
  • boozed - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Tell us the story about how we're all so uneducated again, oh enlightened one! Reply
  • karasaj - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I used an iMac for four years in band/for various music editing stuff. I love mac for music, photo, and video related stuff, but prefer Windows for most things. I see why some people like Mac more, but I personally don't. Reply

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