There are plenty of reasons to enjoy a Windows Phone, especially if you’re coming from a feature phone or your personal workflow is really integrated into the Microsoft ecosystem. We’ve reached a point where there’s quite a few phones floating around with the Live Tile UI, so we’ve put together a list of the top Windows Phones out there.
Bright and Colorful – Nokia Lumia 920
While other manufacturers have to struggle to make the outside of their phone stand apart from the rest of the Windows Phone lineup, Nokia has an important advantage in this ecosystem with their additional software. Nokia Maps is now a standard on Windows Phone, and it’s the tip of a sizeable iceberg when you look at how many apps have the Nokia logo on them in the Microsoft Store. Everything from photo editing and augmented reality to live text translation and turn-by-turn navigation with speed limit awareness falls under Nokia’s domain.
When looking at the actual phone, Nokia has worked hard to continue their unique design language with an almost oval shaped phone that never really lays flat on anything. The polycarbonate body feels like it can take a hit, while managing to always feel comfortable in the hand. The Lumia 920 is a little thicker than some of the other Windows Phones on the market today, but comes standard with things like wireless charging, NFC pairing for several Bluetooth accessories, and a screen that will work even when you are wearing gloves. The Nokia Lumia 920 is a great continuation of their Windows Phone experience, with expansion plans that include a spot on shelves at Verizon Wireless stores after an exclusivity period with AT&T ends.
Sleek and Shiny – Samsung ATIV S
Samsung’s design language recently has been high gloss, curvy, and highly pocketable. The ATIV S smartphone is exactly that, contained within a thin, light plastic casing. It’s one of the only Windows Phones on the market right now that doesn’t rely on a brightly colored casing to set itself apart from the other rectangular slabs on the shelf. Instead, the 4.8-inch 720p AMOLED display uses its ability to display deep blacks and rich colors to enhance the flat Live Tile UI and literally outshine the other phones on the shelf.
The 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon with 1GB of RAM in the ATIV S falls behind the top of the line Android phones in terms of on-paper expectations, but compared to the other Windows Phones on the market Samsung has released a worthy competitor. The HD rear camera and 1.9MP front facing camera work well with Microsoft’s new camera software, and the Gorilla Glass 2 cover suggests that the phone can take a hit with very little issue.
Best in Breed – HTC 8X
Being able to combine the Windows Phone experience with a powerful piece of hardware often means including top of the line hardware with an exciting new design. HTC challenged Nokia as the only other manufacturer to make phones with bright primary colors as the casing for their first flagship Windows Phone, the 8X. This phone is lighter, thinner, and more durable feeling than the Lumia 920 without compromising on the user experience.
With a dual core 1.5GHz snapdragon processor, Gorilla Glass 2 screen, and 8MP rear camera, the 8X sounds an awful lot like the Samsung ATIV S. The big difference is that the 8X has been out since November 2012, while the ATIV was only recently released. Additionally, the 2.1MP front facing camera on the 8X will be able to produce higher quality video chats, especially across Verizon’t LTE network. HTC has also included their Beats Audio enhancement to the hardware, making the 8X the best Windows Phone for listening to music on the go.
What comes next?
While the current generation of Windows Phones are powerful and exciting pieces of hardware that make great use of the current version of the Windows Phone OS, it’s always fun to take a peek at what might be around the corner. Just in case you’re not quite ready to upgrade, there’s a couple of phones in the pipeline that will be ready when you are.
HTC has been working hard on their next masterpiece, which is currently being dubbed “Tiara” internally. The HTC Tiara is expected to be a Windows Phone that pulls from the design cues seen recently in the HTC One. The phone’s specs aren’t entirely clear, with one source calling a 1.2GHz Snapdragon without elaborating on whether or not the processor is from the S4 Pro line or the new 600 or 800 line of chips. Couple that with HTC’s work into what they now call Ultrapixels, and the HTC Tiara could be well suited to shake up the Windows Phone market later this spring.
Nokia is also expected to be working on their next release, reported to be focusing on the ridiculously high megapixel PureView camera they developed. This Nokia Lumia EOS, as it has been referred to, is expected to take a step back into Nokia’s more rectangular designs to support the extra space needed to facilitate such a large camera on top of the next generation in mobile processors. The boxier shape will allow Nokia to keep the form factor as close as possible without resorting to the unsightly bulge that was seen on the original PureView phone.
Alongside new hardware is the expectation that Microsoft will publish software updates with new features that sync with the upcoming Windows Blue release, which is expected to behave similarly to a Service Pack for Windows 8. It’s expected that Windows Phone 8 will grow to offer deeper integration with both Windows 8 and the Xbox platform through SmartGlass and SkyDrive.