What's a Windows Phone like, and how does it compare to other smartphones? To answer those questions I spent time with the Nokia Lumia 822 from Verizon.
At 5-by-2.7-by-0.44 inches, the Nokia Lumia 822 is a streamlined yet speedy device. The 4.3-inch, 800x480 WVGA AMOLED display may not be the fanciest, but it boasts sharp colors and good readability even in a brightly lit room. The Lumia 822 uses the 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and it supports MicroSD cards as well as NFC.
The learning curve for Windows 8 isn't as steep as you might imagine, but it's definitely different if you're used to iPhone or Android. Those colorful squares are Live Tiles, your gateway to your phone's features. Unlike other systems, Windows 8's Live Tiles offer the added convenience of displaying status updates for your apps. You can rearrange and resize Live Tiles as desired. Windows Phone is highly customizable, which is great for tinkerers but might seem like overkill for the average user.
I was particularly interested to find out how consumers are supposed to learn this brand-new version of Windows. Good news, everyone: there's a convenient Help & Tips section in the menu, which is only a left-swipe away from the home screen. From here you'll find simple instructions plus videos and other helpful links. Some quality time spent browsing here will save you frustration down the road. You may also find yourself making frequent use of the Back button, as the menus aren't always intuitive.
The Nokia Lumia 822 comes with all the functionality you'd expect, plus a few pleasant surprises. Rooms allow you to create a private place on your phone to share contacts, calendars, and to-dos, for example with other members of your family. Rooms are shared across accounts, whereas Groups allow you to categorize contacts on your own phone. With Groups you can see all status updates from your co-workers at a glance, or send group messages.
Another convenient feature is Kids Corner, which allows you to turn your device over to the little ones without worrying that they're going to email gibberish to your boss. Nokia's own apps include Maps, Music, Drive, and City Lens, an augmented-reality app that helps you find information about local stores and restaurants.
Two features specific to Verizon's Windows Phone are Data Sense and Wallet. Data Sense helps you minimize your phone bill by setting data usage limits and monitoring which apps use the most data. Wallet keeps your credit card info handy and helps you find local deals – but I hope you'll remember to activate your phone's security features like passcode lock and Find My Phone.
Of course, if you already use Microsoft products you can expect excellent integration with services like Office, Outlook, Skype, and SkyDrive. Microsoft notes that you'll need a Microsoft ID to get the most out of your Windows Phone.
If you're in a corporate setting, you'll be glad to know Windows Phone supports crucial enterprise features such as encryption, mobile device management, and Group Policy settings.
While the Lumia 822 performed well in my tests, there have been some reports of poor battery life. I also found the power button inconveniently located on the side between the volume controls and the camera button. And you'll find there aren't nearly as many apps for Windows Phone as there are for iPhone and Android, at least not yet.
The biggest stumbling block may be taking that first leap into the new Windows 8 interface. If you're willing to take that plunge, you'll find that the Nokia Lumia 822 is an attractive phone for everyday use.
• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her Tech Tips blog (http://www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips) offers computer help and social media advice. She can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @trionaguidry.