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
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.

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  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    Yeah, I saw the 1030 rumors. It's part of what is making me willing to wait. I also saw something somewhere that it might be looking at a MWC reveal.

    The 830 I think definitely could have had a 610. That SoC was already shipping in several HTC phones $50-100? Less expensive, so I think they just dropped the ball there.
  • Penti - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    The consolidation was with WP8.1 and W8.1, and it's still two different OS's and will continue to be. You will not be able to build WP-Silverlight apps for Windows 10 desktops.
  • JoBalz - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Drumsticks: I agree with the 2nd part of your post. While I didn't like using the METRO UI much on a desktop, I absolutely love it on my phone (and on the Windows tablets I've tried). There as far as I'm concerned the OS shines. And I know people are going to get tired of me posting this, but CORTANA is the crown jewel of Windows Phone 8.1. Having read of it and seen the commercials, I had figured it would be an interesting "toy" but now that I've used it, it has very accurately provided answers to every question I've thrown at it (even a few I selected to see if it would 'understand' some of the words. Looks like Cortana is pretty fluent, especially with my Texas/Arkansas 'twange'. She and I are going to become best buds, I can already see that (and think this might be one Windows Phone feature that I actually would like to see available for the PC desktop as well as tablets. Android has never captivated me and iOS, while it may be a good mobile OS, I refuse to pay the 'Apple Tax' just for the bragging rights for using an Apple product. My little Nokia Lumia was as sleek and useful to me as any $500 plus iPhone.
  • kspirit - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    Desperately waiting for the global release of the M8 with Windows. The 930 with it's lack of glance and the heating/battery issues doesn't justify the $650 pricetag it has in my country. HTC usually gets it right, and all the reviews for this M8 are very positive!
  • Luc K - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    I would have added the 730/735. At least it brings something 'new' with the 24mm wide-angle front camera and it has a better display I believe than the 830. Pricing is around $200 so great value. Only issue is delay being available in US.
  • kspirit - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    This. The 730 is much more bang for buck than the 830 is, if you can forgive the lack of glance and camera button. And IMO, Microsoft did this poor phone wrong; if the 720 could have those things, so could the 730, since they were launched at near identical price points, and that was TWO years ago.
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    I just got the 735 in for review. It's a nice little phone I love the size and the in-hand feel is great. We'll see if the display is "better" but I am a big fan of OLED on Windows Phone. The camera doesn't seem as good from initial impressions (which isn't a surprise of course) and the lack of a camera button is a big omission. The biggest to me though is Glance. The 830 also has the bonus of worldwide availability whereas the 735 may not even come to North America.

    The 830 brings a lot to the plate over the 735, but that doesn't make the 735 a bad phone for the right price.
  • kspirit - Thursday, December 4, 2014 - link

    Oh, then I'm very eager to see your review for it. I am hoping to get it as a second phone for my work SIM + I am a selfie addict! haha.
    With all the details AnandTech articles contain, I look to this site for the best reviews on the web!
    Thanks. :)
  • 3ricss - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    Finally gave up on my 2 year old 920 and just jumped into HTC's One for windows on AT&T. Love this phone. I can see why it was so loved by the Andriod community. Unfortunately for me this might be my last venture with WP. I love WP UI/UX but the app scene which made huge improvements during 2013 has since gone down hill a bit. Obviously it's because developers are holding out for WP10. So, I guess I'll hold on one more time. If it doesn't work out than iPhone 7 will be my next. Fingers crossed though.
  • sorten - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    I don't see anything to tempt me away from my 920. I don't want a 5" or larger phone. I'm probably waiting for the WP10 devices at this point.

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