The Icon has been a mystery so far. Having seen the pictures and the specs sheet, I saw a good looking device that, on paper at least, perform as well as the iPhone 5s and the top Android smartphones out there. The problem is specs and looks are only part of the formula for making a good smartphone. Just as important is the user experience which I could not truly test…until now. I have been able to test drive the Icon for a few days now and I can honestly tell you that the Icon is an amazing piece of hardware that will only get better. How is that possible? Let me start with the basics and then I’ll let you in on the big secret.

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The Hardware

The Icon has a 5 inch, full HD, 1920 x 1080 screen which gives a pixel density of 441 ppi, the same as the HTC One (M8). The processor is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800…sorry, I almost went into specific details about hardware. All you need to know is that the Icon has comparable specs that match the other top smartphones on the market. Let’s talk about the differences.

The screen has a sensitivity option that you can adjust so you can use the phone with any pair of gloves on your hands. A neat little feature for those who live in consistently cold climates but have very little use in the warmer climates. Either way, the addition is appreciated, I love when there are hidden features that would actually be useful for someone.

Another hardware feature that you have to talk about with any Nokia phone nowadays is the camera. A 20 MP camera with optical image stabilization and a dedicated camera button makes it simple and quick to whip out the Icon and take a great picture. The Nokia software adds all sorts of easy to access adjustments that make taking a professional picture actually quite easy. It’s detailed enough to satisfy my photography obsessed friend and also simple enough to satisfy the slightly photographically challenged like yours truly.

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The Software

The other key difference between the Icon and the other top phones is the operating system. The Windows Phone experience is definitely a unique take on smartphone software, I’d liken it to simplified version of Android. You get the individual app icons, called Tiles, on your home screen but you only get one home screen. On the other hand, there is no mess of widgets on the home screen because each Tile can be used as a Live Tile which displays any information related to that Tile when it comes through. For example, instead of having a widget for the weather, you just have the weather Tile on the home screen and it will display the current weather. In the same vein, instead of having a Twitter widget, you can just have the Twitter Tile and it will display any relevant information like notifications or tweets. If iOS is too simple but Android is too complicated, Windows Phone 8 is a nice middle ground.

Now to the big secret about the Icon. It ships with Windows Phone 8 which is a great operating system in its own right but just like iOS and Android, it can always be improved. So Windows Phone 8 makes the Icon a great phone but in the next month or so, an update is coming out for the Windows Phone. The update is called 8.1 and it will only make the user experience on the Icon even better. You think the Icon is good now, just wait until 8.1 comes out.

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Final Word

In the end, the decision is yours on which smartphone you should own. Everybody has their own tastes but I feel as though the Windows Phone has been unfairly overlooked by most people. It’s a young software compared to the big boys but it sure has grown up quickly. The Windows Store continuous growth coupled with the Icon’s looks and hardware should make people consider it as a viable option but since it doesn’t have the widespread popularity, it gets set aside as if it were a second tier option. I’m here to tell you the Icon is a first tier smartphone that will only get more impressive with future software updates.

Meet Weston Lanpher

Weston is our professional gadget reviewer. Nothing thrills him more than being able to get his hands on the latest and greatest in electronics.