Is it smart to buy a Windows Phone

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With BlackBerry retreating back to the services and keyboard-toting handsets that made it successful, and Windows Phone scraping by on a sliver of market share, few users have taken the time to look beyond what Apple and Google (and its hardware partners) have had to offer. Yet there’s change in the air. Microsoft has a new CEO at the top of the tree, fresh ideas about how the company’s different properties should slot together – and most importantly, a massive redesign of its phone OS hidden in a ’0.1′ update.

While the global market share of Windows Phone continues to be tiny (up to 3.2 percent in 2013 from 2.5 percent in 2012), it is making significant gains in some areas. It’s now the fastest growing phone OS in Europe, accounting for 10.1 percent of the market, for instance, and outsells the iPhone in some developing nations. What’s more, Windows Phone 8.1 is about to be pushed out to users, bringing with it an improved interface, better apps and a digital assistant to take on Siri and Google Now.

Hot Search: DVD to WP8, DVD to Nexus 5, DVD to Nokia Lumia920, DVD to Microsoft

It’s easy to spot a Windows Phone app from some distance. The same chunky buttons, elegant lettering and design aesthetic cover everything from Spotify to Facebook. When compared to the weird and wonderful interfaces that pop up across iOS and Android it is a welcome change to dive into a mobile platform that’s consistent and recognisable. Even if it’s not to your taste, you have to accept that Windows Phone has succeeded in bringing a unified look to its apps and menus.

The cloud storage platform (formerly known as SkyDrive) is in direct competition with iCloud and Google Drive, and has plenty to offer. It combines file backup, photo management and document editing, and of course it’s baked into Windows 8.1 too. There’s even a Mac client, giving it a Dropbox level of ubiquity across computers, tablets, mobiles and the Web. Its rivals all have their own key features and advantages as well, but OneDrive is a maturing platform that’s all set to go as soon as you sign into your phone.

This is more down to Nokia’s engineering than anything Windows Phone does, but there’s no doubt that many of the current Lumia handsets take dazzling pictures. The dedicated hardware button helps, as does the Nokia Pro Cam app, and the Windows Phone experience is proof that you don’t have to settle for average snaps from your mobile. And that’s not the end of it, as there are other features in WP8.1 that we haven’t had time to mention too, such as the Battery Saver and Wi-Fi Sense apps that help you get more juice from your handset and connect to open networks more easily.