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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  • tolgerias - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    I currently have a Lumia 920 and have been waiting for the next flagship. Although the M8 looks gorgeous, I really like having a physical camera shutter button, glance screen and wireless charging. I don't really game on my phone, so the 830 looks like the best option for me if I were to buy today. But my 920 still works great so I think I will just wait to see what 2015 brings. Reply
  • Stephen Barrett - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    I'm in the same boat. agree on all counts Reply
  • Laxaa - Thursday, December 4, 2014 - link

    Seconded. My 920 still holds up(even after several drops on concrete), but I'm eager to see whats next for Lumia. Either that or the successor to the HTC M8(I guess it'll be the M9) Reply
  • LarsBars - Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - link

    I had a 920 since launch, and bought a Lumia 1520.3 off contract. I really like it, but I think you have to be willing to deal with the size. Reply
  • jrs77 - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    The best Windows-Phone currently is the Lumia 530, which can be bought without a contract for €70 incl VAT. Reply
  • Gunbuster - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    You should not link out to that 1520 on Amazon. The unlocked model with the correct US LTE bands is the 1520.3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... Reply
  • LarsBars - Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - link

    I bought mine here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1036818-REG/...

    But it was cheaper and not back ordered.
    Reply
  • BMNify - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    Lumia 535 and 730 with dual sim are the best low-end and mid-range phones respectively, Both can be bought in India fro $130 and $220 respectively. Lumia 730 or 735 is now available globally in loads of countries and 535 will also be widespread within a month. Reply
  • Mugur - Thursday, December 4, 2014 - link

    I have also to vouch about 730/735. Around $200 including VAT in my country (possibly 200 EUR without any discount :-) ). Same SoC as 830, 4.7" with 720p Amoled, Gorilla Glass 3, nice design. I got one for my wife (previously she used an HTC One Mini) and she's very happy with it. 730 is dual micro SIM/HSPA+ and 735 is 4G LTE with 1 nano SIM. Both have uSD and removable battery (2200 mAh).

    IMHO 830 is too expensive for what it offers.
    Reply
  • cbf - Thursday, December 4, 2014 - link

    In the US, unless you're on AT&T, there really is no mid-range Windows Phone option. And even if you're on AT&T, they want far too much ($450) for the Lumia 830.

    Note that the Lumia 830 RM-984 at Expansys linked to in this article support most (or any?) US LTE frequencies. And the price is too high -- it is not competitive with a comparably priced Nexus 5.

    If Microsoft wants to know why Windows Phone is doing so poorly in the US, the answer is simple -- it's by and large simply not available for purchase.
    Reply

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