The end of 2014 is quickly approaching, so this is a great time to look back at the year that was in Windows Phone, and give our recommendation on the best Windows Phones for various price ranges. 2014 saw some change in the Windows Phone market, with the dominant player Nokia being purchased by Microsoft earlier this year. Microsoft also made some changes to the platform to make it easier to build a Windows Phone from scratch with the Qualcomm reference platform, and they changed the hardware requirements of the software to allow device makers to port their Android based smartphones over to Microsoft’s platform.

The former Nokia smartphone division is now Microsoft Mobile, and they have continued to churn out many different devices this year. This new division has focused mainly on the lower cost devices where they have seen the most traction. But the new hardware requirements have allowed a larger array of devices and manufacturers to come on-board in 2014. This has changed the landscape with competitive offerings from many manufacturers over a wide price range.

Flagship Phone: HTC One (M8) for Windows

Phones called flagships are going to need to earn it, with shortcomings more harshly criticized when the average selling price can be north of $600. The HTC One (M8) for Windows is the winner in this category. The combination of a sleek aluminum design, light weight, good battery life, microSD support, Boomsound speakers, and the fastest SoC available in any Windows Phone puts it over the top. Performance is important on all platforms, and the Snapdragon 801 is a potent choice for Windows Phone. Battery Life is another key, and here the HTC has a great showing as well. The 5 inch LCD has a 1080p resolution for 440 pixels per inch, and with a RGB subpixel arrangement.

  HTC One (M8) for Windows
SoC MSM8974ABv3 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801
RAM/NAND 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32GB NAND + microSD
Display 5.0” 1920x1080 IPS LCD
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE) up to 150 Mbps
Dimensions 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 (mm)
Weight 160 grams
Rear Camera 4.0 MP (2688 × 1520) Rear Facing with 2.0 µm pixels, 1/3" CMOS size, F/2.0, 28mm (35mm effective) and rear depth camera
Front Camera 5MP f/2.0
Battery 2600 mAh, 3.8 V, 9.88 Wh
OS Windows Phone 8.1
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, DLNA, NFC
Location Technologies Qualcomm IZat Gen8B
SIM Size Nano SIM

The one shortcoming on the HTC One M8 is the camera. The 4 Ultrapixel duo cam rear shooter cannot compete against the likes of the Lumia 930’s 20 megapixel 1/2.5” sensor, but it still gives good low light performance although at the expense of resolution.

The HTC One (M8) for Windows also supports the funky dot view case which allows Cortana integration through the case. People who purchase the HTC One (M8) for Windows in the USA can now get the limited edition green Xbox dot view case until January 31st 2015, and the device is now available from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile for around $600.

Overall, the HTC One (M8) for Windows is the more complete package, and camera aside, checks all the flagship boxes. If you value camera performance above battery life, the Lumia 930 would be runner up.

Phablet
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  • Zizy - Wednesday, December 03, 2014 - link

    I wouldn't grant flagship win. Both have serious drawbacks I find unacceptable in flagships - one lacks camera, the other misses battery. Either might not be an issue for you, but for a flagship this is a rather large compromise.
    Budget - if 4" is too small, get Blu Win HD. Lumia 535 if you live in India. 6xx make no sense, except if you really want that better graphics in snapdragon 400.
    Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, December 03, 2014 - link

    Blu Win HD is twice as much as the Blu Win Jr. In fact, the Blu Win Jr was on sale for $49 at the Microsoft store with no contract a few days ago. Reply
  • SeleniumGlow - Thursday, December 04, 2014 - link

    The Blu Win HD has been launched as the LAVA Iris Win1 in India (Both have the same body design, SoC, RAM, display and battery). It costs about INR 5000 ~ $90.

    I wonder who the ODM is for Blu and LAVA...
    Reply
  • garretelder - Thursday, December 04, 2014 - link

    Why get a Windows phone in the first place? Why not get a REAL phone? /Garret at http://www.topreport.org/phones/ Reply
  • Gunbuster - Thursday, December 04, 2014 - link

    So the site you're advertising claims the HTC One M8 is the best phone. You do know the M8 comes in a Windows Phone model right?

    Derp Derp Derp.
    Reply
  • lithium451 - Thursday, December 04, 2014 - link

    "Why not get a REAL phone?"

    That "gag" was old 2 years ago. In light of comparisons between wp 8.1 and android 5.0 not only is it old, it's dumb.
    Reply
  • JoBalz - Wednesday, January 07, 2015 - link

    Lithium451. I'm in complete agreement with you after having actually used Windows Phone 8.1 for several days. And that's not even taking into account Cortana, which I feel is the crown jewel of the OS. I'm already finding it very useful, it's provided accurate info for EVERY question I've thrown up to it, and I can see it's a useful feature that I WOULD like to see MS carry over to Windows 10. The OS is fast, I find it intuitive to use, and from a personal standpoint I find the UI beautiful. I've spent a couple of hours playing around getting my tiles just the way I like them so that live tiles providing news and weather info as well as phone and camera functions are the first thing I see when I move from the lock screen. I think the "losers" are the ones that refuse to ever even consider trying WP 8.1 a "test drive". Reply
  • JoBalz - Wednesday, January 07, 2015 - link

    I find WP 8.1 a REAL phone. It does the job I want it to do and does it well. I've found all the apps I want for it so that's not a problem. While I hated the Metro look on the desktop, I actually like it very much on a phone. It's already proving very useful with the weather reports and adviseries on the live tiles during the deep freeze we're going through this week. And surprisingly I find WP 8.1 much more intuitive to figure out how to use than Android (and I absolutely refuse to pay the Apple tax for an overhyped iPhone). If droid or iOS work for you, fine, but your condescension against Windows Phone OS is simply your personal opinion, not backed up by any facts, just a bash-Microsoft canned response. Reply
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, December 03, 2014 - link

    I'm still disappointed in Microsoft, even though I'll give them a few months to make things right. The decision to not ship the 830 with something like a snapdragon 610, and also not even having a hint of another high end Lumia for the holiday season is just frustrating.

    Unfortunately, I think personally that the UI and general use is way better than Apple or Android. So I'll give them a few months past my upgrade to impress me.
    Reply
  • Luc K - Wednesday, December 03, 2014 - link

    There were several hints of new Microsoft flagship phones including 9xx and the 1030 with supposedly 30 mp camera. But yes not for this year. Reason I think is upcoming windows 10. That will be a big change and will consolidate all devices into 1 OS with larger app compatibility. That will take until next year but should be interesting (if you can wait that is...).

    Not sure if faster chip would be something to wait for. I don't think that's an issue with the 830. But a nicer display and 1020 camera would be great.
    Reply

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