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Best Windows Phones 2015: Which should you buy?

By Simon Thomas on 20th November 2015


Looking to buy a Windows Phone? Want to find out what is the best Windows smartphone in 2015? Then you've come to the right place. 

Whether you’re looking for a flagship smartphone, a more affordable mobile or an over-sized phablet there is a Windows Phone out there for you. We've reviewed all the Windows Phone smartphones released and put together a list of the very best devices in the world today.

Microsoft is currently the primary manufacturer producing Windows Phone 8 devices, which is no surprise given that the company not only created Windows Phone but bought Nokia’s smartphone manufacturing arm.

However, there are still other manufacturers who build Windows smartphones and with Windows 10 for phones almost here the OS is seemingly in the mobile market for the long term.

Windows Phone 8 is a great mobile operating system: it's intuitive, simple yet has all the features you expect and more. Not only is it the perfect starting point for those new to smartphones, but it's also great for business users thanks to its integration with Windows 8 and Microsoft Office.

Since the update to Windows Phone 8.1 it’s got even better, with enhanced features such as Cortana making their way to UK phones. Windows 10 Mobile makes things even better, with a more intuitive layout, upgrades to Cortana and more.

So if you’re in the market for a shiny new Windows Phone handset these are the best available.

5. Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Best Windows Phones

Many of our readers will be surprised to see Nokia's Lumia 1020 coming in fifth place on our list. Especially considering the media attention its stunning 41 mega-pixel Pureview camera has attracted. Don't get us wrong, anyone looking for a smartphone with a great camera should look no further than the Lumia 1020.

The 41 mega-pixel Pureview Camera has a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, a dual LED Xenon flash and optical-image-stabilisation (OIS). It takes snaps and videos that stand up to standalone digital cameras, Nokia's Pro Camera software is excellent and a range of camera accessories are available.

The rest of the smartphone isn't too shabby either. The Lumia 1020 has a 4.5 inch 720p display (334ppi) and is powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor backed up by 2GB of RAM. Its 32GB of onboard memory can be expanded using microSD cards and it supports 4G LTE, NFC, Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G.

However, ironically the Pureview camera lens is also why the Lumia 1020 has missed out on being higher in our list. Its inclusion makes the Lumia 1020 a pretty bulky and heavy device (10.4mm and 158g respectively). Also, its plastic, colourful design - although feeling solid and sturdy - lacks the style and subtlety of other flagship smartphones.

Looking for a camera phone? Then look no further, the Nokia Lumia 1020 has the best camera of any Windows Phone handset and it’s up there with the best smartphone cameras in the world. It's also got a solid if slightly dated all-round specification, but the camera adds bulk and its design lacks polish and subtlety compared to the Lumia 930 and HTC One M8 for Windows.

4. Nokia Lumia 830

Nokia Lumia 830 - Best Windows Phones

The Nokia Lumia 830 is a mid-range handset that comes with a premium ultra-thin design that comes pre-loaded with the newest version of Windows Phone 8.1, complete with the Lumia Denim update. It's due to get Windows 10 Mobile soon too.

Essentially, the Lumia 830 is a more affordable version of the Lumia 930 with a similar build and a toned down specification. You get the same vibrant design with an aluminium frame which gives it that all-important premium feel and at just 8.55mm and 150g it's pretty portable for a device with a 5-inch display.

You also get the very latest version of Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim, 4G LTE support and an excellent 10 mega-pixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and optical-image-stabilisation. The 5-inch display runs at a 720p resolution and the power has been toned down to a 1.2GHz quad-core offering backed up by 1GB of RAM, but it's still super smooth around the operating system.

With a price of around £210 the Nokia Lumia 830 is a great choice for those who are looking for a well-built Windows Phone with a solid mid-range specification. The display isn't as good as on the flagship Lumia 930 and nor is it as powerful, but it's still a great handset that offers good value for money and 4G LTE connectivity.

3. Microsoft Lumia 535

Microsoft Lumia 535 - Best Windows Phones

At around £75 the Lumia 535 is one of the most affordable Windows Phone handsets available and proof if proof were needed that Microsoft taking the reins from Nokia hasn’t diminished the quality of the Lumia brand.

The Lumia 535 has a sizeable 5.0-inch 540 x 960 display, which thanks to its use of IPS LCD has good viewing angles.

Its camera is also very impressive for the money, with both a 5 megapixel snapper on the back and a wide-angle 5 megapixel sensor on the front, ideal for group selfies.

Plus it runs Windows Phone 8.1. That’s true of all recent Windows Phone handsets but is worth pointing out given this is a cheap phone and given all the features that Windows Phone 8.1 includes, such as Cortana and Action Centre.

Better yet as a Windows Phone 8.1 device it will be in line for an update to Windows 10, likely within the next couple of months.

You do have to make some sacrifices with a phone this cheap and in the Lumia 535’s case it’s performance which suffers, as its 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 chip can be a bit sluggish, but for well under £100 it’s still a brilliant bargain. 

2. Microsoft Lumia 640

Microsoft Lumia 640 - Best Windows Phones

Shop around and you can get the Microsoft Lumia 640 for £120, which is half as much again as the Lumia 535 but you get so much more for that extra £45.

The Lumia 640 has a 5.0-inch 720 x 1280 display, so not only is it big but also fairly sharp at 294 pixels per inch. It’s also quite a bit more powerful than the Lumia 535, thanks to a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and it benefits from the inclusion of 4G support for speedy mobile data.

Its front-facing camera is less impressive at just 1 megapixel, but it has a good 8 megapixel snapper on the back, 8GB of storage and a microSD card slot.

Above and beyond the phone itself though you also get a generous number of extras, with a one year subscription to Office 365 Personal thrown in.

That allows you to install Microsoft’s Office programmes on a tablet and PC as well as the phone, plus you get 60 minutes of free Skype calls each month and 1TB of OneDrive storage, which in all is valued at £60. That’s half the price of the phone right there, so it almost pays for itself.

But the Lumia 640 is more than just great value for money, it’s a great phone in its own right and one you’re sure to enjoy using.

1. Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 - Best Windows Phones

The Nokia Lumia 930 is the successor to the Lumia 925 but it’s such a huge upgrade that it hardly seems fair to lump it in with its predecessor. Where to start? How about with what hasn’t really changed. The build is pretty similar, but that’s no bad thing as the Lumia 925 was the most premium looking Lumia phone available until now.

The Nokia Lumia 930 has an aluminium frame with a polycarbonate back, which can be nabbed in either the distinctively bright Lumia colours or a more understated black or white. Under the hood there’s a powerful 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, plus of course it comes with Windows Phone 8.1, with Windows 10 Mobile on the way, so you’ll be able to enjoy Cortana and Action Centre. 

The Lumia 930 also has a mightily impressive 20 megapixel camera. Like other high end Lumia’s it uses a Carl Zeiss lens and it features optical image stabilisation to reduce the effect of camera shake. The end result is highly detailed photos that almost always come out in focus.

And we haven’t even talked about the screen. It’s a 5 inch 1080 x 1920 AMOLED display with a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, so it’s an incredibly sharp full HD affair and with the help of Nokia’s ClearBlack technology it also has superior contrast. There’s 32GB of built in storage, so memory needn’t run low and it supports 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.

Whether you’re after style, power, a camera phone or a great screen for media the Nokia Lumia 930 has it all. It’s a great all-rounder and still the best Windows Phone currently available.

Note: Those in the US should also strongly consider the HTC One M8 for Windows Phone, which would have topped our list if it were available to buy in the UK.

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