Windows Phone 8 review: Str8 up

GSMArena team, 29 October 2012.
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Phone app

The phone application shows you the call history, with shortcuts to voice mail, dialer and phonebook. The phone live tile will show the number of missed calls, as will the lock screen.

The dialer itself is as simple as it gets - a phone keypad with a Call and a Save button. The lack of smart dialing is an annoyance, but the People hub is good at finding contacts.

You could use voice dialing instead - the Microsoft's TellMe did well at recognizing our commands.

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Dialer • The call log

Upon an incoming call, the contact's photo will appear full screen for you to slide up and reveal the call buttons. This will prevent any calls from being accidentally answered or rejected.

A side note - status indicators are hidden by default (except the clock) but you can bring them up with a quick tap at the very top of the screen.

Messaging

The Messaging department is excellent in Windows Phone. Threads are the building blocks of all non-email messaging. Although a sort of conversation view, threads mash together SMS, Facebook and Windows Live messages.

That's the thing about Windows Phone: the Messaging hub removes the old division between texts, IMs, social messages. The other hubs do the same for the other functionality, making the whole thing simple yet powerful.

Anyway, Messaging breaks down into two tabs - threads and online. Online shows you who's online, with the people you've talked to most recently on top.

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Messaging • Threads • Settings

Threads is where this hub's impressive features kick in. A new thread is created for each person you start a chat with. Messages are displayed as speech bubbles and a label on the left shows the type of message - text, Facebook or Live Messenger. Labels are placed only when the conversation moves to a different platform so it's not cluttered.

You can choose which platform to use to send a reply and the text box will remind you what you're currently using with a message like "chat on Facebook". Individual messages can be copied (the whole message is copied to be pasted later, you can't copy only a part of the message), they can be deleted or forwarded. Whole threads can be deleted too.

The visual voicemail functionality is also part of the OS (but its availability is dependent on your plan and carrier). It works as you would expect, by letting you read your voicemail messages instead of listening to them.

Windows Phone 8 offers a unified inbox for email, a feature introduced with 7.5. You can link multiple inboxes (and unlink them individually later), so that you have a single place to check for new messages.

Linking several inboxes will also automatically combine their live tiles. You can browse individual folders for each account, which lets you view messages from only one email account even if it's linked.

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The email client

Conversation view works fine - it lists emails between you and a contact chronologically, grouping them by subject. It's the display style that Gmail popularized and is the best way to keep track of a conversation over email.

Each email conversation is listed with a subject and number of messages, plus how many of those are new. A tap on a conversation expands it to show the messages plus a line from each message.

You can tap on an individual message to read it, as well as skip messages back and forward to navigate the conversation. You can't swipe between the messages though.

You can mark individual emails, make them as read/unread, set flag, clear flag and more. Finally, you can search your entire mail for individual emails - it's a very useful feature, especially for those with large inboxes.

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Marking emails • Email options • Searching emails

Text input on Windows Phone is limited to the default QWERTY keyboard, in either portrait or landscape mode - that's it. The layout remains the same across all WP devices and the only options you have are changing the language of the keyboard and resetting the dictionary that displays word suggestions. Windows Phone 8 supports more languages than its predecessor.

The QWERTY keyboard is very comfortable to use and has sound enabled on key presses. There's no haptic feedback and there's no way of enabling it.

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Portrait and landscape QWERTY keyboards

Selecting text does require some getting used to. You hold your finger over some text for a second or two and then release. The text area gets highlighted and then you can move the beginning and end cursors to adjust how much text you want to select. A little icon pops up for copy and the selected text is available to paste anywhere in the OS.

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