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

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Web and Internet: Incompatibilities ruin the experience
Microsoft wants you to believe that IE10 is a modern browser, able to hold its own against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari -- all three of which moved quickly to support HTML5 while Microsoft continued to focus on a nonstandard, proprietary engine. Sadly, IE10 is more of that same proprietary incompatibility. I was shocked how poorly IE10 in Windows Phone works with websites such as the InfoWorld and Cnet mobile sites that the mobile versions of Chrome and Safari, as well as the stock Android browser, handle with ease. Other sites, such as Google Drive, were rendered at unreadably tiny sizes -- unlike in iOS or Android. (Windows Phone 7.5's IE9 had the same poor rendering on the same sites.)

The screens below show how Windows Phone 8 renders the InfoWorld and Cnet mobile sites compared to what you get in Android or iOS.

InfoWorld on Windows Phone 8
The InfoWorld and Cnet mobile websites on Windows Phone 8's IE10 (left) and Android 4.1's Internet browser (right); the sites on iOS's Safari 6.0 look like they do on Android.
Cnet on Windows Phone 8
InfoWorld on Android 4.1
Cnet on Android 4.1

Windows Phone 8's IE10 is the only browser I've ever used that could not at least open our content management system's website. Every Android, BlackBerry OS, Chrome OS, OS X, WebOS, and Windows browser I've used have opened the Web page, even if some had trouble with its JavaScript and AJAX controls.

The website's automated tests bear out Microsoft's browser backwardness. IE10 in Windows Phone 8 scored 320 out of 450 possible points, versus 434 for the stock Internet browser in Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean," 390 for Google Chrome in Android 4.1, and 386 for Apple Safari in iOS 6. Windows 8's IE10 is likewise a laggard for HTML5 -- scoring 320 versus Chrome 23's 448, Safari 6.0's 378, and Firefox 16's 372 -- but it at least renders websites correctly.

The only advanced features in Windows Phone 8's IE10 are its SmartScreen filtering of suspect sites and the ability to configure whether IE10 self-identifies as a mobile browser or desktop browser, which in some cases can help you get around sites it can't correctly render (Android has a similar feature). You get basic bookmarking, as well as the ability to add bookmarks as home screen icons, but no reading list capability as in iOS or Android, no ability to create bookmark folders as in iOS, and no ability to sync bookmarks to other devices.

You can share URLs via email, messaging, and social media, and you can search within a Web page -- as iOS and Android also offer. Like the competition, Windows Phone 8 lets you control how cookies are handled, but there are no options to manage other personal information such as "do not track," browser history, cache, form data, passwords, image loading, autofill, fraud warnings, or debugging. iOS has all of these controls and Android has all but "do not track." Nor does Windows Phone let you choose among search engines -- there's just Microsoft's own Bing.

Finally, the Windows Phone 8 devices were unable to connect to InfoWorld's certificate-secured Wi-Fi network, even with certificate validation disabled in the Wi-Fi settings -- yet Windows Phone 7.5 had no trouble doing so. They all connected fine to regular Wi-Fi networks, such as those using WPA-2 passwords.

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