Microsoft isn’t the biggest player in the mobile market. But since the company launched its first serious contender, the Lumia 800, many moons ago, it’s gathered a small, but very loyal fan-base – and for good reason.
Despite having hit numerous roadblocks, Microsoft has always managed to innovate and try something different, which is something that can’t be said about its iOS and Android competitors.
Past highlights include the stellar Lumia 1020, which in our minds ignited the current race in mobile camera tech that resulted in such superb handsets as the Galaxy S7, Huawei P9, HTC 10 and LG G5. More recently, the company took a bold leap when it launched its converged Windows 10 software, which – according to Microsoft – will run the same core code across mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
Before Windows 10, Canonical with its Ubuntu operating system was the only company close to achieving this.
To help avid Microsoft fans and potential newcomers interested in trying an alternative to Android and iOS, we’ve created a definitive list of the best Windows Phones currently available.
Before taking the plunge, make sure you check out our buyer’s guide, detailing the benefits and pitfalls of jumping onto the Windows 10 ship.
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Why you want a Windows Phone
The first question you should ask when contemplating a move to a Windows Phone is: what do I want to do with it?
Despite efforts from Microsoft, Windows 10 Mobile’s application offering still comes second to those of Android and iOS. Newer apps will be slower to launch on Windows 10 Mobile and many of the third-party apps currently available aren’t updated as regularly as they are on competing platforms.
As a result, if you’re a an app junky then a Windows phone may not be the best choice.
However, for folk looking for a work phone, or those who want only basic smartphone functions, the platform is pretty good.
Microsoft services such as Skype, Office 365 and Outlook are baked directly into Windows 10 Mobile as Universal Applications. Universal Applications are a new breed of app designed to take advantage of the fact Windows 10’s core code is identical on mobile and desktop.
In theory, they make it easier for coders to develop only once and release their wares on multiple device categories. They also allow for Windows 10 Mobile’s most interesting feature; Continuum.
Continuum lets you turn any mobile running Windows 10 into a desktop computer using a specialist Microsoft Display Dock, if the phone has sufficient memory and a suitably powerful CPU.
The dock costs £70 and lets you connect a Windows 10 phone to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. Once connected, it casts the desktop version of Windows 10 onto the external monitor. In theory, Universal Apps should also switch to their desktop layout when being used in Continuum mode.
For people who want only core services, such as music, video, Twitter, Facebook and email, Windows 10’s apps are more than up to task and will meet 99% of people’s needs.
Windows 10 Mobile doesn’t have the same OEM support as Android, and as such the number of smartphones running the operating system is limited. We’re not talking iPhone level, where only Apple can make iOS smartphones, but for the most part, if you want a Windows Phone then you’re probably going to have to pick a Microsoft handset.
So, if you have specialist needs when it comes to hardware – such as a desire for a Huawei P9-like dual-lens camera setup, or LG G5-like modular connectivity – then you may want to look elsewhere.