Review: It's strike 3 for Microsoft's Windows Phone

The HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 800 series are solid smartphones running a dubious mobile OS

One longtime knock on smartphones has been that you can't set up a separate user account or safe zone for kids; for example, you may want to lend your device to your child so that they can play games when waiting in line. Windows Phone 8 debuts the Kid's Corner feature that lets you set up a set of approved apps for your kid to use, with a PIN code that locks out the rest of your device's capabilities. The new Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" provides separate user accounts on tablets, but not smartphones. Likewise, Apple's less-capable Guided Access feature in the iPad's iOS 6 isn't available for the iPhone.

Windows Phone 8 is designed to compete with Android 2.3, not today's Android or iOSA year ago when I compared Windows Phone 7.5 to Android 2.3 "Gingerbread," I gave the nod to Android, but noted it was a fairly close match. After all, Android 2.3 didn't support corporate security needs, its UI was very uneven, and its app selection sparse. What a difference a year makes. HTC, Motorola Mobility, and Samsung filled in some of those gaps themselves, but first Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" and now Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" propelled newer Android smartphones closer to the iPhone's high level.

A year ago, Android 2.3 and Windows Phone 7.5 were vying for a distant second place in terms of capabilities and usability. Android is now challenging Apple for the smartphone crown, while Windows Phone 8 is offering a modest update over last year's version. It's as if Microsoft is fighting yesteryear's war, not looking ahead to redefine the battle in its favor or make a significant leap forward. Windows Phone 8 is Microsoft's third attempt to get mobile right in the iPhone era. It's also Microsoft's third failure to do so. 

A Windows Phone 8 device is serviceable as a low-end smartphone, for those wanting email, social networking, and instant messaging, with a little gaming and media use thrown in. But it seems a waste to get a device doing only that for a monthly data fee of $30 to $50. The Nokia Lumia 800 series is a decent piece of budget hardware, and the HTC 8X is a credible mainstream device for more demanding users. But both run an operating system that has gone nowhere fast. It's Window Phone's third strike. Against iOS and Android, Microsoft continues to strike out.

This article, "Review: It's strike 3 for Microsoft's Windows Phone," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Read more about mobile technology in InfoWorld's Mobile Technology Channel.

This story, "Review: It's strike 3 for Microsoft's Windows Phone" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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