This review will not be technical, it is a review of the experience.
Microsoft has really made a fluid, fast, and slick OS with Windows Phone 8. The OS has the same polish that iOS does, but it looks much more interesting in terms of design.
Many people claim that Windows Phones are simple, easy to use, while that is true, that doesn't mean it doesn't have all the features you need. Windows Phone 8 has more than enough features for someone from any other smartphone to make the switch. App selection is the only deterrent at the moment(will go into more detail later on)
When you first wake up the phone you are greeted with a lock screen that displays your next calendar event, your text messages count, email, etc. In the setting you can actually change what appears at the bottom of the screen. If you were listening to music and it is on pause, you will see the artist's photo on the lock screen. The lock screen is great overall.
Now when you swipe up on the lock screen you are brought to your start screen, or home screen, whatever you want to call it. Most of the tiles on the home screen update in real time, or 5 minute intervals, meaning you are always up to date on what's going on around you. This screen gives you three icon sizes, large, medium, and small. This allows you to make apps whose live tiles aren't important smaller, so you can really showcase the apps you want information from.
Text messaging also works like one would expect on the device. So I won't go into detail, but I think WP8 has the most emoticons for a stock SMS app. There are literally hundreds. However, they won't send correctly to every phone.
Speaking of text messaging, the new feature, "family rooms" are absolutely useful. Me and my girlfriend are in a room and what it does is use Microsoft's messenger service, but treats it like a normal text message. Using messenger like an SMS app is not the cool part at all. The cool part is sharing notes, pictures, calendar events, voice memos, and even your location in this room.
We have already made use of the note syncing. Updating grocery lists from my girlfriend's HTC 8X syncs straight to my phone. These sorts of features are hugely convenient, rather than having 3 text messages of different items to pick up.
Also the family room creates a social timeline of just the members of the room, therefore you can keep up to date without seeing all the noise of your other friends posts. Groups also work this way in terms of creating a social timeline.
One of my favorite features of WP8 is integration with Twitter and Facebook. I went into this a little in the family rooms, but having contacts tied to Facebook profiles makes checking in on your friends a breeze. If your texting someone and want to check out their Facebook timeline, just click on their name and your there. It doesn't through you over to the Facebook app, it is built into the contact. You can comment, like, view photos all on their contact page.
Grouping friends together makes this feature even better. You can have work colleagues in one group and friends in the other and it will help you keep track of what's going on in the world around you.
There are so many more examples of how this type of integration makes things so much more convenient. I installed the Facebook app, but never use it. The phone has probably the best mobile experience for Facebook. It tears down the walls of the Facebook app and integrates it in various places throughout the UI.
Here is where many people have problems. No Instagram!!!! There are several apps that are missing from the marketplace. For example: instagram, stock broker apps(like TD Ameritrade), various others, and a lot of games.
Most people download a bunch of apps, but only ever use 3 or 4 on a day-to-day basis. Which is why I don't have a problem with the missing apps. I don't really need them. Others can't make it without Instagram or certain trading apps, but those apps will come. If you check the marketplace for apps you use all the time and they have them, then come over and join the great WP8 experience. But if your in love with Instagram or need certain other apps. Then wait, eventually they will come.
I thought I'd miss some features and apps on Android, but I found that everything I needed was already here. I think most others feel the same way.
Overall, I am utterly impressed by this phone. The OS and Hardware is at the Apple level. In my honest opinion, I have been totally won over by Windows Phone. I find it more intuitive, easy to use, and the integration has changed the way I use social media.
This is the best smartphone on the market, and Windows Phone 8 is much superior to iOS and Android. The apps will come once people actually use this device. It's Microsoft and Nokia's first (to use Apple adjectives) "magical" device. I don't want to go back to Android or iOS after using this phone. This comes from someone who was an Apple fan boy at least a year ago.
Go out, try the phone, you will see what I am talking about.
SOFTWARE & HARDWARE
I will be posting some app reviews over the next couple of weeks to go into more detail.