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October 31, 2012

What are the critics saying about Windows Phone 8?

Some actors claim they don’t care what reviewers think. But I can tell you that several hundred engineers who’ve poured sweat and soul into software code sure do. Since we launched Windows Phone 8 on Monday, the reviews have been pouring in. If you haven’t had time to keep up, I thought I’d share a few personal favorites.

An impressive piece of work

“While 2010′s Windows Phone 7 was good; last year’s Windows Phone 7.5 was really good. And Windows Phone 8, from my brief time with it, seems to be really, really good.”

That’s the verdict of Time’s Harry McCracken, who spent some time with a Windows Phone 8X by HTC.  In his review, McCracken specifically called out new “people-centric” features we’re introducing like Rooms and Kid’s Corner. Taken together, he said, the new features and improvements in Windows Phone 8 “all adds up to an impressive piece of work.”

In fact, McCracken said the first thing he was planning to do after publishing his review was head to the nearest AT&T store and “ask someone there to switch my account over from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus I’ve been using for the past few months to the 8X.”

Kid stuff: Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demoes the new Kid’s Corner feature, a reviewer favorite.

PC Magazine’s Sascha Segan was also impressed. Windows Phone 8, he wrote, “absolutely shines for those who use their smartphones for a lot of calling, texting, and Facebooking, and especially people who connect to Microsoft anything—whether that’s Outlook, Hotmail, Exchange, SkyDrive, Office 365, or Xbox.”

He added: “If iOS bores you and Android intimidates you, Windows Phone will likely dazzle you.”

‘That’s a really pretty phone’

Speaking of being dazzled, in her review today, Katherine Boehret of the Wall Street Journal said that her Windows Phone 8X actually inspired some outright shoulder surfing: “Someone who glanced over my shoulder and looked at the user interface of Windows Phone 8 said, ‘That’s a really pretty phone.’ He was right.”

Boehret said she particularly enjoyed the look of Windows Phone 8 apps, calling them “stylish and refreshingly different.” And boy does she like her apps. The ones she reported trying out included Amazon’s Kindle app, Zite, All Recipes, WSJ Live, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN ScoreCenter, Evernote, Weather Channel, TripAdvisor, Daily Beast, BBC News, USA Today. Many of them, she wrote, “mimic the overall look of the Windows Phone software, displaying extra menus and features as I panned horizontally.”

She also noticed some of the subtler design touches. “The animations in Windows Phone 8 are smooth and playful. When you send an email, the email message appears as if it is backing away from you, then shoots up….Tiles on the Start Screen fluttered with info.”

Summing up her time with Windows Phone 8, she concluded: “Its combined good looks, functional features and sexy new hardware make it a winning smartphone.”

“Refreshingly different”: Windows Phone 8-optimized apps also pleased some reviewers.

Taking the lead

All the parents here love the new Kid’s Corner feature of Windows Phone 8, which lets you choose which apps, games and other stuff your kids can access, so they don’t (accidentally?) mess up your important stuff. The feature also resonated with Laptop reviewer Michael Prospero. “Windows Phone 8 does more for parents out of the box than Google’s OS or iPhones.”

That wasn’t all he liked.


“Welcome features like Rooms, Kid’s Corner and Lens apps makes us feel like Microsoft is taking the lead, rather than following others.” His final recommendation? “If you’re looking for a smartphone experience that’s more personal than iOS and more intuitive than Android, Windows Phone 8 will delight.”

Ditto for Wired’s Alexandra Chang. Like any good reviewer, she did have a few nits with how we designed one thing or another (she didn’t love the new Internet Explorer address bar, for example, and also wondered why we weren’t more clever and offer 8GB of free SkyDrive storage instead of just 7GB.)

“But that’s the great thing about Windows Phone 8: All of my complaints are pretty minor and quirky. I’ve grown to really prefer Windows Phone to Android, and can imagine people switching from there.”

The new Start screen is what really wowed The Verge’s Dieter Bohn and Chris Ziegler. “Windows Phone 8 has the best home screen — the perfect combination of flexibility, design, and simplicity — of any major platform right now,” they wrote.

Who would have thought?

I could go on. “It’s spare, colorful, clean, and simple, but also hip and a bit exuberant,” wrote CNET. “Microsoft’s phone software is fast, simple and beautiful,” noted David Pogue of the New York Times.

But my favorite line of the week so far came from the notoriously tough-to-impress Josh Topolsky of the Verge, who tweeted:

“Who would have thought that in 2012 Microsoft would be the company with the boldest phone and software design?”

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