Look, you either hate IE or you don’t. But site for site, IE10 held up against any other mobile browser I would use. It did everything HTML5 and CSS3 told it to do, at least for what I threw at it, and sites rendered fine and quickly.
Data Sense is a big plus here. It’s a compression mode that reduces data consumption where possible, mostly around images. It also tracks your data usage. Since I have unlimited data – yeah, I’m one of the lucky ones, for now – this isn’t that big a deal to me, but I know I will need this down the road.
Personally, I think data limits will eventually do more harm than good to the mobile industry, resulting in a choke on innovation as customers become hesitant to use mobile bandwidth up to a certain point. So gains on this front are particularly important.
Yes, most camera plusses and minuses will be determined by the hardware. The camera I used in the HTC Windows Phone 8X is a standard camera, certainly not as good as the iPhone cameras, but definitely on par with the rest of the best, including the Droid DNA and Motorola Razr M.
Touching the screen not only focuses the camera on an object, but automatically takes a picture. Lenses are also a look at where mobile camera tech is heading, allowing you to scan for text, barcodes, QR codes, etc. I’ve been depositing checks with my mobile phone camera for months now, and there are all kinds of applications for this technology that are right around the corner.
Devs, get on it.
If there’s one vertical where Microsoft dominates, it’s gaming, and where the XBox is Microsoft’s entry into the living room, Windows Phone 8 is its Vita/DS.
Windows Phone 8 is tied tightly into the XBox architecture. You can play your XBox Live games, control your XBox via Smartglass, play your music, stream all Xbox music, and so on.
However, there currently aren’t any downloadable video options for Windows Phone 8 via XBox Live, but I expect those are coming.
Sync with Windows 8
So I have an Android now and, after years and years with a Windows laptop, my main laptop is a Mac. Is it difficult to sync up my Android to my Mac? No, thanks to Gmail and the cloud. However, the integration between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is a different and deeper kind of integration. I start a doc in Windows 8, I pick it right up in Windows 8 mobile. It’s seamless, where the up-to-the-cloud then down-to-the-device Android integration is a little bit more muddled.
It’s definitely more like iOS to Mac, which is one of the better things about having an iPhone. Is this a huge win for Microsoft over Android? Ehh… probably not, but since so many people are still on Windows, this could help tip the balance in Microsoft’s favor.
Office provides the same kind of seamless integration, but again Google Docs has advanced quite a bit over the last couple years and it comes down to syncing device to device vs. working in the cloud on Drive. All in all, I’d call integration a wash — an area where Windows Phone 8 has caught up, but not broken through.
Things That Aren’t There Yet
I’ll only touch briefly on these because they’re common knowledge.
The Windows store has gotten much better, but as I found in the HTC 8X review, it’s still hit and miss on the popular apps. Facebook, Twitter, all of that, absolutely. But I couldn’t get HootSuite, Instagram, Runkeeper, Google+, Spotify, or a free Angry Birds. Further, some apps, like YouTube, are just pointers to the mobile sites.
But we all know this is chicken and egg. Before developers start rushing in to create great Windows Phone apps, they have to see Windows phone usage picking up.
Nitpicking. Windows Phone 8 doesn’t come with turn-by-turn navigation. You can solve this with third party but it seems like this should have happened.
More nitpicking. This one isn’t Windows’ fault. Wallet is functionality that’s almost there, but not quite. The smartphone became the smartphone when I could ditch my PDA, which was exactly why I loved the Windows Mobile powered i-760 in the first place. Camera and GPS had been around for a while but only became real when you could ditch those devices as well. I will love wallet when I can leave my wallet at home. However, this time it’s the process that needs to catch up to technology, and not the other way around.
Windows Phone 8 is a competitive entry into the mobile universe, the first we’ve seen since Android. And as a Windows mobile early adopter through Android, and a Windows user through 2011, I’m excited that there’s an alternative – the world needs more than two mobile OSes.
My fear is that it may be too late, culturally speaking. Also, devs need a reason to adopt a third OS. They must develop for either iOS or Android, and likely both, just based on market share. But if anyone can get them to take on a third code base, it’s Microsoft, much more so than even Blackberry at this point.
It remains to be seen. I’d use Windows Phone 8, especially with killer devices like the 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920. The only thing that can stop them is if it is truly now just a two-player game.