This is my next is a special feature where writers of The Verge sound off on their latest deep, dark desires from the world of technology.
I am a fan of stock software. So much so that when the rumors of a Nexus 4 built out of the LG Optimus G's parts reached the level of near-certainty, I forewarned my colleagues that I would be the one to write a TIMN ode to the latest and greatest Nexus.
As it turns out, I am indeed composing a love letter to stock software today, only to my eternal surprise I am doing so in Microsoft's OneNote. My review time with the HTC Windows Phone 8X extinguished the built-up anticipation for the incrementally improved Nexus and replaced it with a burning curiosity to explore the new Windows Phone OS. The more I used the 8X, the more I enjoyed using it.
Make no mistake about it, WP8 is a lot more than just a new homescreen — though even that change has a greater impact in practice than you might expect. Even today I am discovering new and unique features to this software, such as the ability to zoom in on anything on screen, not just images (screen magnifier, under ease of access).
An all-new Windows Phone is more interesting to me than an incrementally improved Android
I'm under no illusions about the choice I'm making here. I fully realize that I'm buying into a flawed device and a still immature ecosystem — the 8X leaves something to be desired in terms of ergonomics, and the best apps for WP are Microsoft's own cloud services — but when I look at the deluge of smartphones flooding my desk, the only one I care to pick up and play with today is the Windows Phone 8X. Not the new iPhone, not the quad-core Galaxy Note... not even Nokia's Lumia 920, which is almost trying too hard with its laundry list of extras and enhancements.
The 8X has the right size, look and feel for me. Somewhere in its stripped-down design lies the very soul of Windows Phone. Minimalist and utilitarian, yet still expressive and colorful — both the phone and its OS are immediately recognizable from their competitors. This distinctiveness gives the combined whole that is the 8X a certain understated swagger, that elusive je ne sais quoi.
Back when Chris Ziegler wrote of his intention to adopt the Lumia 900 as his primary phone, his desire was admirable but quixotic. Windows Phone 7.5 was only the budding of the ideas and concepts that Microsoft is bringing to maturity with WP8. Those single-size live tiles feel hopelessly archaic when compared to Windows Phone 8's homescreen. The deep OS integration that was then only available for Twitter has now been expanded to include Facebook, and the same will be true of Skype very soon. With Xbox Music already in place, and the excellent reboots of Outlook and SkyDrive over the summer, Microsoft now has a suite of first-party services to rival any other mobile OS.
The more I use the 8X, the more I enjoy using it
It was around the time of the Nexus One that Android made the all-important leap from a scrappy underdog to a legitimate competitor to the iPhone. I started using Android devices for reasons beyond the professional need to be familiar with the software. It's my belief that Windows Phone is ready to get over that same hump now. Android's transition had its signature handset in the Nexus One and Microsoft and HTC have bestowed the same title on the 8X. For once, I agree with the marketing spiel — if you want the purest experience of Windows Phone 8, this is the phone to get.
Every Windows Phone review to date (and at least a few that have yet to be written) has identified the lack of quality apps as the platform's biggest downfall. Still, the conclusion I've come to is that I'd rather trust Microsoft to fix its apps problem than wait for Google and Apple to catch up in terms of simplicity and ease of use.
At least until the next Nexus.