Why should I buy a Windows Phone smartphone?
As the name suggests, Windows Phone is Windows for your phone. Forget any bad experiences you've had with Windows on a PC, though, because while Windows Phone is related it's newer, brighter and better than the software you use on a computer. Solid, affordable and innovative, it's a real alternative to Apple and Android. It's a lot of fun, too.
What is Windows Phone?
A few years ago Microsoft decided to scrap its mobile operating system (Windows Mobile) and write a brand new one from scratch. The result was Windows Phone, a system that had even the most hardened Microsoft critics going "Ooh, that's lovely". You'll find it on the latest phones from the likes of Nokia and HTC.
Is there more than one version of Windows Phone?
There is. The best version is the most recent one: Windows Phone 8, which launched in November. Older handsets may still be running Windows Phone 7, which is currently at version 7.8. You can't upgrade a Windows Phone 7 handset to run Windows Phone 8, because Windows Phone 8 has been completely rewritten: it looks the same, but under the hood it's more like the Windows 8 you'll find on tablets and laptops. Windows Phone 8 is the one to go for.
What are Windows Phone's key features?
The most obvious feature is Live Tiles, which are brightly coloured squares and rectangles displaying information. That information could be the weather forecast, your next appointment, your best friends' Facebook updates and so on: it's entirely up to you, and that means every Windows Phone will look utterly different from every other one. In Windows Phone 8 you also get:
- Kid's Corner, which is a safe mode that enables your kids to play with the phone without causing problems or seeing things they shouldn't.
- Rooms, which are private spaces you can create to share notes, photos, calendars and chat.
- Photos and SkyDrive, which enables you to store your photos on Microsoft's SkyDrive service.
- People Hub, which brings your contacts, chats, emails and even Skype calls together.
- Skype, for chat, voice and video calling.
- Lens, to spice up your photos with special effects.
- Local Scout, to find nearby places to eat, drink or shop.
- Games Hub, so you can stay on top of your Xbox Live account.
- Office Hub, for mobile Office document creation and editing.
- Wallet, for storing all your card details safely and securely.
- NFC sharing, for wirelessly sending stuff from phone to phone.
- Visual Voicemail, so you can see who left you a message.
- Voice control.
What are the pros of Windows Phone?
If you're fed up of me-too smartphones, Windows Phone 8 is completely different and thoroughly refreshing. The Live Tiles are particularly good, enabling you to see everything that matters without opening lots of apps, and Windows Phone is far and away the best platform when it comes to completely customising your phone's look and feel. If you use Microsoft Office already you'll really like the Office Hub, and the People Hub can help tame social networking overload.
The handsets are good, too, with Nokia's Lumia 920 looking particularly tasty, and as Windows Phone is currently the underdog in this market there's going to be lots of discounting - so you will be able to get a very nice Windows Phone handset without spending an awful lot of money.
What are the cons of Windows Phone?
Windows Phone doesn't have as many high quality apps as Apple does, there aren't as many handsets to choose from as there are with Android (at the time of writing there are just three Windows Phone 8 handsets), and Windows Phone 7 handsets don't look too great when you compare them to more powerful rivals. Unless you're being offered the bargain of the century, avoid the older Windows Phone devices and make sure you get one running Windows Phone 8. It doesn't look much different, but it's a completely different and much better operating system.
What's the verdict on Windows Phone?Let's face it, Android and iOS are awfully similar these days. You can't say that about Windows Phone: it looks and works completely differently from the smartphone kings, and it's a refreshing, fun and genuinely good mobile operating system. If the apps you want are available it's well worth your time - although if you wait a little while, the choice of both apps and handsets should improve significantly.
Official links and social network information
- Official website - Windows
- Apps - Windows App Store
- Twitter - @WindowsPhone
- Facebook - Windows Phone on Facebook
- Google+ - Windows+
- You Tube - Windows Videos
- Windows Phone 8 overview - http://www.windowsphone.com/en-GB/features
- Windows Phone 8 full feature list - http://www.windowsphone.com/en-GB/features/all
- Windows Phone 8 phones list - http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/phones