A month with a Windows phone

I was recently given the choice of a new work phone and decided on a HTC 8x, mostly to see how Windows phone 8 behaves. My thoughts in summary format:

  • I do love the live tile UI – having an at-a-glance indication of stuff (like weather, calendar, tube status) is a really nifty and innovative thing. It works much better on a phone or tablet interface than it does on a desktop computer though.
  • The app store is a mixed bag but functionality wise it’s great with a unified search that brings in results from apps, music, games all in one place, the ability to browse the store from another computer’s web browser then “push” that app to your phone and best of all is trial mode where you get a free time-limited or functionality-restricted version of the app to use to decide whether it works or not. On the other hand, it’s lacking a lot of the content but I have found apps for all my major needs like evernote, foursquare, twitter and lastpass.
  • In a similar vein, IE10 is ok but it’s a shame there’s no version of Chrome available as IE10’s tab switching is clunky.
  • It took me a while to work out some of the UI – the “back” button also seems to do a lot of things, including task switching which I find I bit clunky. It’s also lacking a decent way of scrolling back up to the top (on android and iphone I’m used to tapping the top of the screen in some way).
  • Integration with a desktop computer is basic (but the phone app is still “preview 2”? really?) but gets you there, especially as it’s just a mass storage device allowing you to drag and drop your music straight onto the device. This alone is worth considering switching away from Apple in my opinion.
  • Skydrive integration is seamless, office documents just get copied back and pictures get uploaded perfectly with no messing and you can see it all dropbox-like on the web or via the syncing apps on the desktop. This is really one of the most important things Microsoft have done right and it puts iCloud to shame.
  • On the hardware level the HTC 8x is probably the best windows 8 phone right now (the lumia 920 is just too big) – the feel of it is lovely with its rubberised back – but I just can’t quite get the knack of the buttons. The volume rocker gives you no tactile indication of which way is up and down and often I find myself mashing the volume when I’m going for the lock switch on the top.¬†Little¬†things, but they do detract a bit.
  • Battery life is not too shabby; I easily get a couple of days use between charges (and that’s without turning the power-saving mode on).
  • The camera is ok, but just ok. The Microsoft “Blink” app is a nice camera app that starts taking photos before you even press the shutter and allows you to select the best version. On a similar note I like the way camera and photo apps plugin to the central photos hub and allow you to mess with filters and upload stuff from one place.
  • The screen is not too bad, the colours are certainly nice and vibrant and the white balance is good. It’s not quite as sharp as the iphone 5’s screen though (HTC on the left, iPhone 5 on the right – click for bigger!):
    HTC8xiphone5

Overall it’s a nice experience but it’s let down in a couple of areas and you just get that feeling that it’s just not quite finished, but give it six months and it’ll be great.

Would I buy one? Absolutely.
Would I replace my iPhone 5 with one? Not just yet.