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Windows Phone 8 Internet / Web Browser

Windows Phone 8 largely offers a very nice web browsing experience, though there is one irritable flaw. First the good stuff, though.

One of the reasons we like browsing the web on this OS is a very simple thing indeed – the address bar is at the bottom. This makes it infinitely quicker and easier to reach when using the phone one-handed. Down here is also the refresh/stop button and the menu, which gives access to the tabs menu, overall browser settings, favourites and an option to pin the webpage you’re on to the homescreen.

Also good is the speed and accuracy with which the browser renders webpages. We’ve so far noticed no problems with pages being incorrectly formatted, nor has the interface become slow due to a graphically rich website.

Windows Phone 8 8 Windows Phone 8 9

However, part of the reason for this is because it doesn’t support Adobe Flash or embedded HTML5 videos. In particular, you can’t view the embedded videos that, for instance, we use for our video reviews or the BBC uses on its website. Both of these work on both Android and iOS.

Still, back on the plus side, you can specify whether the browser should default to showing mobile versions of websites or desktop versions and there are comprehensive controls over security features too.

Windows Phone 8 Maps

Microsoft has teamed up with Nokia to create the Windows Phone 8 maps experience. Like most equivalents it offers a line-map style and a satellite image map too. It also has a turn-by-turn navigation system and a local services search facility called Local Scout.

Starting with the basic maps, the line-map looks like a cross between the Apple Maps and Android GoogleMaps interfaces, making for arguably the best of both worlds. Like Apple Maps, it uses vector rendering making it incredibly fast both to download map data and move around it, with the pinch-to-zoom action being super smooth. Meanwhile, like Google, there’s much clearer road-type colour-coding and place labelling is clear and intuitive – Apple Maps is awful for this side of things.

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We also quite like that when you zoom right in the map changes to the satellite view for a more detailed look. It’s a bit of a cheat to mask the fact that Windows Phone 8 doesn’t offer an even more detailed vector based view – such as the 3D buildings available on GoogleMaps – but nonetheless it’s a fairly practical tweak too.

The full satellite view, meanwhile, seems to provide a decent amount of detail and overlays road and place markings onto the images so it’s easy to track where you are. Again, there are no ‘extra’ modes though, like the 3D buildings in Apple Maps or Google Street View. We’ll have to have a bit more of a play before we find out just how good coverage is.

As for the turn-by-turn navigation, it’s very nicely presented and seems to offer sensible routes, putting it at least on par with its competitors.

Windows Phone 8 9 Windows Phone 8

However, there is one very strange missing feature, and that’s a compass. More specifically, you can’t get the maps to rotate to match which way you and the phone are facing. This feature is incredibly useful for getting your bearings when in an unfamiliar place and we’re quite baffled as to why it’s not included.

What you do get, though, is Local Scout. Like many such local services search facilities, it will lookup restaurants and places to drink, things to see or do and places to shop. It seems to have a good selection of places, with restaurants particularly well covered, though we did note that despite being just down the road from the Globe theatre, it didn’t appear on the See Do list.

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October 29, 2012, 11:17 pm

I'm happy to read that you think this is a competitive long last.

But after Microsoft sucker-punched me with the shockingly poor combination of the Lumia 800 and Windows Phone 7, I will not be even considering investing in this platform for at least another 24 months until it has a proven track record and mature app infrastructure & support.

Oh, and they must ditch the terrible toddler-tile design too!


October 30, 2012, 12:34 am

Was really looking forward to Windows Phone 8. I saw a live stream from the press conference and thought, hey they have done it. But after reading this it almost seems a step backwards. Missing simple key elements, screen wastage in many places, most offensivly in the app list. Email app looks horrible, search function is ridiculous. Call app taking me to the history is strange, messaging looks pretty good however.

I can lay criticism almost everywhere. I just wrote a huge list of things about the Email app specifically, but nobody actually wants to read that. But theres lots wrong with it. Mostly the swipe menu at the top. Text size and screen wastage, lack of option there to expand a single email whilst remaining in that list.. woops there I go again.

MS, read this review, delay release by a month, fix everything and you'll have a winner.


October 30, 2012, 1:52 am

picture caption says "The Nokia Lumia 920 is the flagship phone of the Windows Phone 8 launch."...erm...that's the htc!! ;)


October 30, 2012, 6:42 am

SMS notifications /text message receipts were never sorted out on Android (issue 2305)

I have stuck with my Windows Mobile 6.1 for years due to text message receipt confirmation which works internationally (as per the old pre smartphone era)

1 )Does this function correctly ?

2) Also, does this synchronise with the Outlook Suite ok (unlike windows 7/7.5 which has to go via the cloud as opposed to Windows Mobile Device Centre) ?

Thank you

Martin Daler

October 30, 2012, 3:21 pm

don't know about the rest of it, but Samsung Android phones can sync to Outlook on the PC (no cloud etc) using Kies. It is a bit klunky, there are endless updates to Kies and it can get its knickers in a twist, but I do use it successfully to keep my contacts synced to Outlook. If you have advanced requirements it might not satisfy however, I already notice that it muddles the order of street address fields etc.


October 30, 2012, 7:39 pm

Thank you Martin. Have you been able to check the SMS/text message receipt functionality ?


November 1, 2012, 1:47 pm

Agreed, the UI looks like it is trying to be a slot machine! Unless it's designed for the younger crowd - looks far too busy.

Richard Mulholland

May 24, 2014, 3:03 pm

If Windows Contacts is the best MS can do in 2014 they will fail. Awful functionality for Contact set up. Soft Reset not really my idea of fun with 523 unwanted contacts. Lazy engineering. They'll all be buying Samsung S5s....the market will not put up with contact garbage in 2014.

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