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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  • Sabresiberian - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Flash Player is also a security nightmare; I'd love to see it die everywhere. Reply
  • krutou - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    But how are we going to watch our cat videos on YouTube without Flash? Reply
  • ericore - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    Flash Player dominates the web. That isn't changing anything soon. It will take at least 5 years for HTML5 to become the defacto if in fact it ever does. Flash Player is no longer supported on the mobile front, that doesn't mean that its dead or that Microsoft can't integrate the last version into their handset and god forbid acknowledge that 50% of websites use it. They are lazy (will take any excuse) and disrespectful. Flash Player was a security nightmare; that is no longer relevant with the frequent updates.

    Your outdated dinosaur.
    Reply
  • techguy378 - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I don't know why anyone would use WP 8. I recently bought a Nokia Lumina 920 phone. It's a great phone, but it can't connect to wifi networks that use WPA2+AES encryption which is what most home wifi networks use. Not good when AT&T isn't offering unlimited data. In my case it kept saying the password was wrong. I tried copying the password from my router's setup page into a text file and uploaded it onto my skydrive. Then back on my phone I copied and pasted that password into the wifi password field. The Nokia phone STILL said it was the wrong password. The phone connected to open wifi networks without a problem. I ended up returning the phone and getting a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. I'll probably need an extended battery, but at least it works. Reply
  • Faragondk - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I use my Lumia 920 on a WPA2+AES encrypted wireless network every day, without any problems. Reply
  • RevLuck - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Same here, I've used my L920 with plenty of WPA2+AES wifis and no problems yet. Problem was either with the particular wifi router or PEBKAC. Reply
  • frostyfiredude - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Let me third that, on the 8X. Actually it's had the most straight forward set-up of that connection I've experienced yet. Reply
  • rcarroll05 - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I'll 4th that. My wife loves her Nokia 920 and I'm really close to trading my iPhone 4 in on one too.. Just waiting for a few particular apps to come out. Got a good laugh about the pebkac reference. Reply
  • Myrandex - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    works fine here iwth WPA2+AES 802.11N network at my home. Reply
  • maximumGPU - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    a lot of polarised opinions about the OS here. Here's a more balanced take:

    my daily driver is a lumia 920, and my wife has a nexus 4, so i can give you a quick comparision:

    Yes, Android is more flexible, and more customisable, and arguably the superior OS, but windows DOES feel fresh and innovative, live tiles are a great, as well as the social media integration. When i think about the lag fest Android was just a few years ago i can't really critisise msft for winphone7 and 8.
    for now Android is a more polihed option, but all msft need to do is roll out updates aggressively and you can bet they'll catch up on features, while still retaining that fresh perspective.

    Was an iphone user before, and i think both OS easily outdo IOS.
    Reply

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