Best Windows Phones
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The best Windows Phone you can buy - August 2014

Last December we looked at the best Windows Phone you could buy, concluding that the Nokia Lumia 925 was the top choice for Windows Phone shoppers. The svelte profile, sexy looks, and beautiful display make the Lumia 925 one of our favorite Windows Phones. However, it's hard to recommend buying it brand new today when it's well over a year old at this point. So it is time to refresh on our best Windows Phone recommendations.

Today we're going to look at the Windows Phone landscape and select the best Windows Phone you can buy right now.

The best Windows Phone you can buy – the Lumia 930 / Icon

Lumia 930

The Lumia 930 is the best Windows Phone you can buy right now. It was introduced in the United States as the Lumia Icon on Verizon in February 2014. At Build 2014, the Lumia 930 was announced as the international version of the Icon and became available in June 2014.

Our pick as the best Windows Phone you can buy right now goes to the Lumia 930 because it places some of the best-available smartphone technology into a package that isn't too big nor too small.

Inside the Lumia 930, you'll find a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. In terms of performance, the Lumia 930 will keep you happy for the foreseeable future. With those internals, you'll be able to run all the latest games and apps with no problem.

You'll view those apps and games with a 5-inch 1080p display. This large display and high-resolution results in a Start screen experience that isn't cramped with the third Live tile column. Colors look good, but you can customize the brightness and color profiles in the settings.

We're also big fans of the camera included in the Lumia 930. It doesn't have the same 41 MP sensor found in the Lumia 1020, but it does feature some of the same imaging technology. A 20 MP PureView sensor gives you pixel oversampling technology for better photo cropping and zooming. You'll find Zeiss optics, optical image stabilization, dual LED flash and more. All of this adds up to a stellar photography experience.

32 GB of storage is what you get with the Lumia 930, plus 15 GB of OneDrive cloud space. The omission of a memory card support is the one flaw in the Lumia 930. While 32 GB works for most, your individual needs might differ. The fixed storage will result in you needing to watch your space a little more closely.

In conclusion, the Lumia 930 is the best Windows Phone you can buy today. It has technology that won't make it obsolete tomorrow, but will keep you happy for some time to come. It's also an attractive phone that feels good in the hand and comes in a variety of colors.

The best Windows Phone you can buy with a huge screen – the Lumia 1520

Lumia 1520

Need a really, really big Windows Phone? Then the Lumia 1520 is for you. It has the same specs as the Lumia 930 above but puts them into a larger package. That's right; it's a phablet, and one of the best around.

You need to see the screen on the Lumia 1520 to appreciate truly what Nokia managed to do. A 6-inch 1080p IPS LCD makes up your display on the front giving users ample room for reading and gaming. The ClearBlack technology makes images and content seem to float on the surface of the glass. The Lumia 1520 has a stunning display that needs to be seen in order to be appreciated. Do you need a Windows Phone that will double as a tablet and media device? You won't find a better device than the Lumia 1520.

If you are missing expandable memory in the Lumia 930 you won't need to worry about storage on the Lumia 1520. You'll find a microSD card slot on the device that accepts cards in size up to 128 GB. Making sure you never run out of space for your movies, music and photos.

Imaging is equally excellent, and we've captured some of our best shots on the Lumia 1520. In short, this is the Windows Phone you get when you want a big phone (or little tablet).

The best Windows Phone you can buy on a budget – the Lumia 630

Lumia 635

Inexpensive handsets and emerging markets are where Microsoft has seen a lot of success with Windows Phone. A lot of that can be attributed to last year's Lumia 520 – one cheap and capable smartphone. Earlier this year the Lumia 630 was announced. And while not a direct follow-up to the Lumia 520, it's a worthy successor in a few areas.

The Lumia 630 has a lot going for it. It's affordable, stylish and runs Windows Phone 8.1 without any issues. Pictures don't do this little phone justice. You need to hold the Lumia 630 to take in the design that went into a phone at this price point. The colorful shells are removable and can be made to match your mood or outfit.

A 4.5-inch IPS LCD makes up your display on the Lumia 630. It's running at a resolution of 854 x 480; those extra 54 pixels allow for the onscreen navigation bar to go back, go to your Start screen or launch Cortana. Inside a 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor is running everything with 512 MB of RAM. We'll be the first to admit, a full gig of RAM would be nice, but you won't encounter too many apps or games that you won't be able to run.

Speaking of apps and games, 8 GB of onboard storage comes in the box, but you can add an extra 128 GB with a microSD card if you want. The Lumia 630 has a camera with 5 MP and auto-focus to help you capture memories on the Lumia 630.

The Lumia 630 can be found for about $130 USD, though your price may vary by region. It's a whole lot of phone for very little cash.

The future

HTC One

These are the best Windows Phones you can buy today. But in the coming months we're expecting to see an explosion in the number of available handsets running Windows Phone. Microsoft is expected to announce and release two new Lumia handsets sometime in September – the Lumia 730 and Lumia 830.

HTC just released the HTC One (M8) for Windows as an exclusive on Verizon. It's currently limited to just one carrier in the United States, but it is coming to AT&T sometime in the near future. It wouldn't be too hard to guess that we'll see the HTC One appear on more carriers around the globe as well. Early speed tests suggest it is one fast phone, with equally impressive hardware.

For emerging markets, you can look forward to an even bigger number of available Windows Phones. Earlier this year Microsoft dropped the licensing fee for the Windows Phone operating system. Windows Phone 8.1 also introduced a few changes that allow smartphone makers turn their existing Android hardware into Windows Phone hardware with minimal effort. These two semi-recent developments should produce more choice for consumers around the globe. New Windows Phones from Yezz and Blu are just two on the immediate horizon.

It's an exciting time to join the Windows Phone family.

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Reader comments

The best Windows Phone you can buy - August 2014

245 Comments

I would agree with that. The more time I have my 1520, the more I appreciate what a monster phone it is. Everyone says that it is too big... No it isn't. I don't have large hands, but I find using it is a breeze. You get used to the size pretty quickly. Every other phone seems puny in comparison.

Couple that with one of the best screens available (I include all the newest Android '4K' screens in this) and the SD slot.. Just about perfect!!!!.

I love my 1520.3 too, but you "do" have to succumb to using it with two hands on occasion.

Unless one has alien thumbs:

was to big for me , i tried it , sold it , seriously it isnt for everyone and people should appreciate that fact , i dont want to carry a 6" phone with me , its quite heavy as well as large , very very noticeable when you are working a physical job like a delivery driver or postman

its great for sitting at home (like a tablet really lmao) not so good for carry about and using as a mobile phone (like a tablet) for me the 1520 is a small tablet not a mobile phone

its not just me either everyone i showed the phone too loved the spec etc but laughed at how big it was , its a ridiculous size for a mobile phone that doesnt really offer any phablet features , docking fesatures , usb in features , even windows features like snap-to

if you love the device thats great but seriously it is to big for some people and i hope phones dont keep getting bigger

 

I agree. I tried the 1520 and also found it too big. The 5" screens will standardize as the size of choice in a bell curve, 5" being in the middle/bulk of curve/sales. The 6" phablets in the top 15%, and 4-4.5" screens in the bottom 20% percentale. IMHO

Interestingly, I've only ever seen women with the larger phones (Android, Apple, WP)...it sits in a purse most of the time, us guys have a pocket or hand or dropped. Women seem to like looking at themselves in pictures a lot more and the big screem meets that r'qmts. :-) Doubles as compact mirror for makeup.

I have to stay with AT&T and it's killing me that I can't get a decent 5" screen WP with AT&T. The 1520 is a freakin awesome phone btw. If AT&T doesn't get their Windows Lumia flagship phone act together by Christmas, I'm switching to Verizon just to get the Lumia Icon. I HATE this exclusive carrier s**t with phone releases only at certain carriers. Arggggg

Agree with that! Although the 1520 has a 1" larger screen, its PPI is less than the 930/Icon and uses IPS LED technology. For Windows Phone, a lot of black is used in the layout and it's known that LED screens can't match OLED screens for deep black reproduction. I'll take a OLED screen in a Windows Phone any day over a LED screen.

I will disagree, just due to the fact that the OLED screen takes away the glance screen.  I love my glance, and with that, Ill take the 1" glass, and much more of an upgrade from the 920, than the 930 is.

Plus, hello 128 gigs of SD miracle that will house all the pictures I can take.  Why would I mess with 32 Gigs?

Or not....

Cannot edit my post. Should read "The Lumia 1520 is the best Windows phone out there. Regardless of screen size". (in my humble opinion)

I don't know who takes the photographs of these phones on WPCentral, but they are the best on the web. They're always so bright and clear... and just make the OS & the hardware shine. :)

Me too. It's beautiful. Would love it in green (with updated internals, 5" screen and wireless charging). Come on MS; make it so!

Me too. If they could make a 5 inch screen phone with better specs and 925 design, that would be great. Oh and if it wasn't exclusive to a carrier.

But that is locked down to Verizon, once the M8 hits international markets it would be the first WP available globally that has an ir blaster.

I think they designed it so it wouldn't catch any attention. If you saw someone carrying a black 930 next to a person carrying a bright yellow 1020 I think you'd notice the 1020 more lol

it feels less rehased. I have a 900, 920, 1020, and recently a 1520. Basically it is the same basic design with slight touches but looking at phones like the G3 and some of the newer HTCs, I have to say nokia's design has grown repetitive. The design is like a good joke that was great, then ok, then meh, and now it is getting annoying.

Well, what design would you recommend? How about a 1520, thin as it is, with one of those bendable screens we've seen, with the ability to fold it in half, allowing for a large phone to be pocketed easier? The size being the biggest (no pun intended) gripe, would be reduced ( no pun again). Be cool if we could answer it while folded as well. Maybe.

So many designs have been tried. Very difficult when you think about it because everything needs to fit and work.

not ugly, just meh... compared to the 928

-unless you look at its back in a diagonal angle, that fat plastic shell looks completely out of place

Verizon likes phones that look basic and boring. I think they're afraid of stepping outside of their comfort zone. You can have black or you can have white. Or get to steppin'

ugly may be a bit strong. Certainly not Iconic, and certainly does not 'look like a lumia'. I am certainly not going to buy one, mostly because of it's looks, but the lack of SD and glance certainly don't help either.

Probably not. Then again I showed a demo Lumia 930 to some and the all said: wow, what a beautifull phone. So, I again prooves taste is a personal thing.

Those are two pretty big catagories though. Arguably the most important two next to performance and a person will be hard pressed to feel the difference in performance I think. Looking at the two screens though (I have both too) the Icon screen is just so much better. Enough that I may not keep the M8 for that reason alone. 

No, biggest category for me is ergonomics. The M8 just sits well in the hand and the pocket. The Icon is a beastly tank of a phone, just a hair from being a brick. Second for me is annoyance. Having to manage memory, WiFi issues, not a single problem with the HTC so far. We'll see when it comes to updates. Auto-answer when you hold it up to your ear is damn nice too.

It is still a better phone pound for pound. That's the point of the article. If the m8 had a better rear cam, then it would win. But the other spec edges it has over the 930 don't make it better overall.

They are about the same as they should. WPM8 a bit faster. Bing "basemark os ii htc m8" and compare against WPM8 in earlier article.

well, I mean you chose just about all you can. this means a nokia model of sorts. It's not like WP has an actual device ecosystem like android does where choosing a phone is hard. what's the best 6 inch windows phone? pfff well the only one. What's the best cheap windows phone...well the only one. What's the best 5 inch windows phone...well the only one!

basically you can't go wrong in windows phone because...you can't go!

All Lumia's as expected. Although after all this time I, and I bet Microsoft, thought they'd be more manufacturers battling it out.

exactly. I think it is essential for these guys to sell nokia's assets and get out of this market for good. Open the OS to OEMs for android-like customization and give then an alternative to android.

MSFT has tried everything, yet google seems to have found the only model that works. it doesn't mean MSFT will succeed but when you tried everything and failed, that which you have not tried must be the correct next step.

Right because we now have "One" option outside of Lumia.  Using your "Android does it and it's successful" logic, I could counter that Apple doesn't allow ANY customization and they are even MORE successful. 

 

I might change from Nokia to HTC.
Lets be honest here,has anyone even seen the speed of HTC camera APP? It's way faster than Nokia camera.I mean ALOOOT OF RESUMING IS BEING SEEN IN THE NOKIA APP WHY???? Then comparing 5MP vs 4MP, picture taking speed is also way faster too. At first i though it was due to low hardware in 1020 but even in 930/1520,there is slight delay but it ain't important factor for me.
Then HTC exclusive apps, we got Blinkfeed which is great,HTC CAMERA too,A storyteller like application too just I don't remember the name but there is one. And finally creative studio alternative too. When you take a pic,there is Ufocus effect,filters etC. EVERYTHING IS THERE. MicroSd card, a great battery.
I am getting this bad boy once it hits international!

The story teller-like- app is called video highlights :P, I admit I am leaning towards the M8 myself...now waiting to see what next year brings.
 

Yup same here. HTC has really nailed it this time and I am truly waiting for it.
Edit: Thanks for the app tip.

Your welcome and they truly did, windows phone needs variation from all those polycarbonate and cheap grade plastic phones "cough" Samsung "cough". It will be interesting when the phones from the other OEMs hit the market. Market share is bound to go up significantly.

Well that's your opinion but personally,I am tired of Nokia and giving HTC a chance they truly deserve. And seriously seeing other phones capturing fast photos,I can't live with it.

The 920 is a paperweight, it is not that heavy lol. Since little kids have no problems using it, I am starting to think most who complain that the 920 is heavy are malnourished :P.

lol um...I'm a 920 fanboy as far as most of its features, but let's call a pig, "a pig."  i dropped it on my bare foot and it hurt.  i'm not saying i cried, but yes, it did hurt.  i bet if i dropped in on a little kid's head, they would cry.  for its screen size, it's too heavy.  it's almost as heavy as the 1520.  but i still love my little pig, because i love bacon. 
 

Same here. All those talks about hero phones, where IMHO midrange phones have the best balance of all things. Somehow I started to like my Lumia 820 more and more during his time of use. A.o because of the nice WP software upgrades. Like SD card support. 8 +64 on mine. Fast and RGB screen. Sure, less resolution, but who really cares besides in reviews. Less camera. Yep, I'd like a 13-20MP Pureveview camera. Therefore I'm really looking forward to see what the 730 and 830 have to offer.

Cool article. It's a shame that in FOUR YEARS, we haven't been able to even nominate much less choose a Windows Phone for BEST WINDOWS PHONE AVAILABLE ON ALL CARRIERS.

Not one Lumia. Not one HTC. Not one Samsung. 

Such a huge stumbling block for a nascent platform. 

Untill now we don't have a competing flagship the best WP. Now is the 930 and the gs5 specs is far beyond the 930 , what's Microsoft doing !!

Yeah that's great but what about that xiaomi which is providing big specs with snapdragon 800 processor. That phone is getting sold within seconds. Lumia 520 sold well due to great ads. Now we need great ads first

I bought a Lumia 630 for my kid (I have an Icon) and I must admit I am impressed by it. It beats the 520 when it comes to speed and overall smoothness and it just feels great to use. I hope it can become as big a hit (well, within the WP world at least) as the 520.

On a side note: MS is doing a lot of TV advertising for the 630 right now, where they put it with Cortana against iPhone with Siri, and those ads are very good. I just wish they'd emphasize the "$130 WITHOUT any obligation" aspect of it. Saying a phone is $0 down is nice, but that has been the case for a long time with many phones with a contract. I think they have a chance to get through to those who want a good no-contract phone for less. WP8.1 is finally an OS where you can say "Yeah it's good, BUT..." There is no "but" involved anymore as far as the OS goes.

waiting for the next generation. I really want to see new designs come out. the nokia shell is wearing old after so many variations. I think LG and HTC are doing some really nice work while nokia and samsung are stuck with the same old. the 930 is a good indication but needs to go farther. time to evolve.

Was this done before the HTC One?  I think this will give the Icon/930 a run for the top spot.  My only concern is the support from HTC.  I have a 8X and i missed out on a lot of extras that Nokia/MS provided.

Not cramped with third row of tiles? Are you kidding me? I wanted to buy it following owning a 920 and previously 800 as I love the build quality of Nokia phones but looking at the screen with three rows of medium tiles DOES make it looked cramped and decreases the visibility of even large tiles which defeats the whole point of having live tiles in the first place. This wouldn't bother me AT ALL if you could just switch the setting back to the normal view just like in WP 8.1 preview, but the option has been removed here. Why on earth would you REMOVE options and functionality for the consumer? Microsoft is losing customers by making stupid decisions which are totally unnecessary and which do not cost more to implement. That plus the fact that there are next to NO apps for medical professionals on WP is making me go for a SonyXPERIA Z2 even though I really don't want to go back to Android. I need the apps for my work and I have waited long enough for apps to become available on Windows phone and its still not happening. Now what they have done with the 930 is take their best and most beautiful phone with regards to hardware and make it look ugly and cramped due to a stupid software option. With tiles that small even the iPhone looks better, especially when you have a background image which decreases legibility further.

I completely agree on all accounts.

Though I'd recommend you to wait on buying the Z2 until 3 September. Sony is underling the Z3 and Z3 Compact at IFA. Even if the Z3's don't improve much on the Z2, they'll make the Z2 price fall ;)

You know, it's not a crime to switch, if you need and want those particular apps on your phone. I agree that apps like these would be essential to have for WP to be more popular, but you can always come back to WP at a later time. Despite the negative things people say about WP and some are true, it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I think it will keep gaining share, especially as MS continues to make quick wanted and needed improvements. WP has come a LOOONG way from what it was and more dev support of apps that people want is key to that.

At this point, the argument that WP isn't as good is not so much of an issue anymore. It's a different flavor and it shouldn't try to be like Android or iPhone, only features that just make sense should be added and unique OS features to be improved.

The third column of tiles being locked is actually a problem with 1080p displays. If you've got a phone with a 720p display or lower you have the option of both. That's why I'd like to see the 830 come with a 4.5" 720p display rather than a 1080p display. The classic two columns of times is what makes Windows Phone look like WIndows Phone. It looks weird with three.

The 1520 and 1320 are the only phones which look ok with them though, since they're fucking huge.

Yes!  Add active stylus and removable battery.  Boom.  Sadly, the earliest it may be is next year, if at all.  I'm concerned that Satya doesn't view high-end WP devices as a priority.

The 930 is the best you can buy if you manage to get one of the rare units that DOESN'T come with hardware/software (often both) defects.

The 930 is the single most bugged phone I've seen coming out of Nokia. Never ever in 15 years have I seen a Nokia with so many defects.
It's also a good testament to the "Fuck it, we don't care anymore" attitude that took over the D&S division once MS announced their plans to swallow it.

Nope, that was the Lumia 800. Understandable looking a the time of development. So you need to check Nokia history :)

I'm here because I'm still using my 920 since the morons at Microsoft haven't replaced my 930 yet. That was 5 weeks ago.
Also because Sony hasn't announced nor released the Z3 compact yet. Once they do, I'll be buying one. Yet even then I'll be around as my 1020 week continue to be my dedicated camera. I won't be bothering myself with Microsoft's ineptitude and lack of support for Windows Phone though. They'll be offering me their services on Android too and with better apps.

I would get the 1520 over the icon if I could. I was looking forward to the icon but it looks like there is a good chance of getting one with hardware imperfections.

It's not available worldwide. The others are. Your lack of sense is disturbing. No bias here at WPcentral at all. It's all about the OS not the hardware manufacturers.

Really happy I signed up for T-Mobile's JUMP plan.  Been paying for that for a year now and still nothing better now or in the near future to JUMP to from my Nokia 925.  Sigh.

It's not a big deal for most, but yeah it would be nice if it had it. Most selfies are in mirrors anyway. :)

You forgot to mention that both of these have SensorCore, a feature not included with the previous recommendations.

Just replaced my old 920 with a 1520 and love it.  Just an amazingly fast and beautiful phone.  Little too big for my wife to upgrade her 920, hopefully AT&T will pick up the 930 soon.

you must either have really baggy pockets, or some other way to carry this monster because "better" can simply mean: "it fits".

The 520 is like a Toyota Corolla. It's not the fastest thing in the world, or the highest end, but it's reliable as fuck. I love my 520.

I like the 925 design and it could be found today with a very good price but 930 is very interesting and attractive if it weren't for the price that is still expensive for me.

Seriously considering the HTC M8 after reading the reviews. Excellent specs, good speed, and removable storage. I'll miss Nokia's camera, but I'll admit that I don't take most of the pics in the family so will leave the 1020 for my wife. Now if Nokia comes up with something like the 930 with a microSD slot, I'll seriously consider changing. 32GB of storage sounds like a lot until you start taking lots of pics, video, and then also want to store music and apps.

"mid range segment is empty...i want 5inch mid range Lumia....now i m super excited for 830 & 5mp selfy 730....i want 7 inch Lumia tab too...."

1520 top Phone! Love it.
Why would anyone buy a htc with wp if you can buy the same hw with android and a zillion apps?

Give me a 1520 with a newer processor and a 41 mp camera. Ideally have a dedicated processor for the camera.

Custom-built phones! We've bveen doing with PCs for years. I'd love to have a custom-built phone. I'd pretty much spec up a Lumia 1020 with a Snapdragon 800 and an SD card slot with a cyan shell. Perfect imo.

Looks like, if you want a pocketable Windows phone in America that is not either obsolete (925) or having received the black spot "End of Life" designation (1020), you need to go to Verizon. Maybe that will change in Q4.

I love ❤ the design quality of the 930. I have the black version.photo s have good colour balance and the refocus app produce interesting arty pictures. I hope the htc m8 will be available in Europe,as it is a solid build phone simular to 930, but with out wireless charging

I have a Lumia 1020 and I can soon get a new one for free so I really hope they will release a 1020 successor like 1030

They would have to pry my Icon from my dead hands!! I love my phone....and don't see myself upgrading anytime soon. Best WP (if not phone) I've ever owned....period. :)

My girl friend has the icon and I'm rocking the 1520 hulk.. Both devices rip in terms of specs.. However my lady is showing obvious signs of screen envy lol.. She said Damn your big.. I mean it's big hahaha!!

The 630 is a dual-sim model and is lacking LTE.  The 635 is single-sim and supports LTE.  All else is the same AFAIK.

I recently purchased a 635 and couldn't be happier with it.  For the money ( I paid $99 ), it's hard to beat IMO.

It has to be a Nokia, because Nokia apps are plainly loyt better than any other OEMs software.

But Nokia needs to adjust their designs to compete with HTC better looking slimmer more rounded hardware.  The Nokia Lumia phones are too blocky slabs.  Many of us just want 4.25 inch displays, not big excesove 5 inch  phones. We are not all big fat yobs.

My wife has been complaining about the size of her 920. She likes the phone except she'd prefer a high-end phone that fits better in her smaller hands. I suppose one of the larger phones might work if they, as you say, work on making them feel slimmer.

The size of the 92x and 1020 were perfect, 4.5". They weren't too big or too small. If the 830 has that size screen, glance and an SD card slot it'd be a better flagship than the 930 in my opinion.

So basically the best phone out isn't even available in American retailers. The worst part of the Nokia-MS deal is how slow phone development has been. When news broke Maclaren was cancelled, I was pissed. I don't want a 6 inch phone nor do I want some phone originally built for Android. Where's my new high-end Nokia phone announcement??

"It's an exciting time to join the Windows Phone family."

Sam, that is shameless propaganda. We both know this is not even sort of true.

What's the best t-mobile wp? 635 that's a little overpriced?

Sprint? Nothing.

What if you are on one of the 3 carriers, not verizon, and want a phone smaller than 6". Entry level 635?

If you had qualified your statement be adding "If you are on Verizon...", then I could not agree more.

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