Your buying guide for the best Windows phones in 2017
Windows Phone is the third choice of mobile operating system after iOS (which is what the iPhone runs) and Android. It's Microsoft's mobile version of Windows featuring colourful live tiles on the Start Screen.
Windows Phones now run Windows 10, rather than Windows Phone 10, though you can still pick up older models running Windows Phone 8.1. Some - but not all - of these models will be upgradable, so make sure you choose carefully if you don't want to be stuck on an older version of Windows.
Talking of upgrades, you may have heard of the Windows 10 Creators Update. This is also coming to some Windows 10 phones, but it's nothing to get excited about. It will include an updated version of the Edge web browser and e-book support. Notably, the Lumia 930, 1520 and 830 won't get this update, but the 550, 650, 950 and 950 XL will, starting from 25 April, along with the HP Elite x3 and others.
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Windows 10 mobile features
Windows Phone has lots of decent features including the personal assistant Cortana. The vast majority of handsets are now branded as Microsoft Lumia, as Nokia is no longer owned by Microsoft.
The software giant is really the only Windows Phone device maker but HP's Elite x3 is arguably the best choice right now. Also see: Best sounding phones of 2017.
Windows 10 adds features such as Continuum meaning you can use the phone on a larger display with a PC-like experience including the ability to control it with a mouse an keyboard. Key to this are Universal Apps which are app which work the same across any Windows device - PC, laptop, tablet or phone.
There are some good phones available and they are typically cheaper than Android rivals, so you'll find them in our list of the best budget smartphones for 2017.
Performance with Windows Phones is generally good and you'll typically get a good screen and reasonable cameras too. However, the OS is still behind rivals on the selection of apps so make sure you can get everything you need - especially for third-party hardware like multi-room speakers and smart home kit - before taking the plunge. You'll find more information in our article covering Windows 10 for phones release date, features and upgrades.
1. HP Elite x3
- Reviewed on: 7 February 2017
- RRP: £699, US$799
The HP Elite x3 is an excellent smartphone, melding high-end specs with a solid design and good user experience. The Windows app store is still underrated, and the battery lasts for ages. However at £699 without the lapdock, this is not a cheap device.
We can recommend the Elite x3 as it is the best Windows 10 phone on the market, but the 3-in-1 device HP is marketing is best left to the whims of businesses and those to whom money is no object. If you can find a Lumia 950, you'll save yourself hundreds of pounds and get a similar Windows 10 mobile experience.
Read our HP Elite x3 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 December 2015
- RRP: £529
The Lumia 950 XL is an attractive phone for those looking for Windows productivity thanks to features like Continuum and Universal Apps. It's a good deal at the moment with the free Display Dock but he phone itself has nothing major going for it on the design front and simply offers a bigger screen and slightly better processor than the regular model. Overall, we're not blown away with Windows 10 on phones with its bugs and lack of apps but it will be a solid choice for some.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review.
- Reviewed on: 26 January 2016
- RRP: £449
Windows 10 has arrived on smartphones and we're not exactly blown away. Loyal Windows and Windows Phone users will appreciate features like Universal Apps and while Continuum appears to be a real wow features, it requires a lot of extra equipment. The OS is buggy, too. The Lumia 950 itself offers some decent hardware, namely the screen, inside an uninspiring design. Unless you're set on the OS, there is a lot better on the market and for less money.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 950 review.
- Reviewed on: 22 July 2014
- RRP: £435
The Lumia 930 is a step in the right direction with its semi-metal design and decent hardware line-up. We like the screen and camera but it's lacking additional features and doesn't have expandable storage. Windows Phone 8.1 vastly improves things on the software side but the platform is still not a priority for developers – especially when it comes to third-party hardware.
Read our Nokia Lumia 930 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 April 2016
- RRP: £149.99, US$149.99
The Microsoft Lumia 650 is a lightweight, well-built phone that offers a removable battery and Windows 10 Mobile. However, the phone lacks the performance power and software support that business users and power-users will crave. With no Microsoft Windows Continuum and a crippling Snapdragon 212 chipset which limits fluidity, camera performance and display output resolution, we can’t see why someone would purchase the Lumia 650 over a cheaper and better performing Android phone.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 650 review.
- Reviewed on: 16 October 2014
- RRP: £189
The most fun Nokia on the market, the Lumia 735 really is an ideal smartphone for selfies. At just £189 we can picture many a teenage girl - and boy - adding this great-value Windows Phone to their Christmas list. Given the low- to mid-range price its performance is sufficient, and we appreciate the extras such as microSD support, Qi wireless charging and 4G LTE. We just hope the Lumia Denim update fires up that camera a bit quicker.
Read our Nokia Lumia 735 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 March 2015
- RRP: £59.95, US$59
The Microsoft Lumia 435 is the best phone you can buy under £50, even accepting the tired old Windows Phone apps argument. Bottom of Microsoft's line-up and just £49.99 on PAYG it's by no means a great phone, but for first-time or light users it wipes the floor with similarly priced Android phones (and iOS at this price point is just a pipe dream - or a nightmare, but whichever way you look at it, it's not going to happen). Unlike the more expensive Lumia 535, Microsoft has confirmed that the Lumia 435 will get Windows 10 when it is released later this year, which will make this the cheapest entry point for a Windows 10 computer, and that alone makes it well worth a look.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 435 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 May 2015
- RRP: From £13.50 per month, £109.99 PAYG or £129.99 SIM-free
The Microsoft Lumia 640 is a worthy upgrade over the Lumia 630, and this Windows Phone now presents very good value for money. This is the Moto G of the Windows world, with a near-identical spec and a £20 lower price tag. Which phone you choose will come down to your software preferences - many users will be happy with Windows Phone, but if third-party apps feature heavily on your wishlist you may find that extra £20 for the Moto G money well spent.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 640 review.
- Reviewed on: 3 March 2015
- RRP: £99.99
We're fans of Windows Phone 8.1 but the Lumia 535 compromises in too many areas to make it a bargain at £100. You're better off with a Motorola Moto E or - if you want 4G - the EE Kestrel.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 535 review.
- Reviewed on: 22 December 2014
- RRP: £319
There's nothing shockingly wrong with the Lumia 830, but it does feel like a slight opportunity lost. It is a mediocre performer, with a not-great camera. But it is well priced, nicely built and stylish. Better value can be found by dropping down to the Lumia 630, but if you want a 5in Windows phone this is a decent option.
Read our Microsoft Lumia 830 review.