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Windows 8 isn’t just about Windows anymore. It’s integrated with Microsoft’s online services, including Bing, SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype, Xbox Music, and even Office — although the Office apps are sold separately.

These services technically work best when you use Windows Phone 8 along with Windows Phone, just as an iPhone works best with a Mac. But most of Microsoft’s services are actually cross-platform, so you can easily use an Android phone or iPhone along with a Windows 8 PC and not miss out on much.

Windows 8 with Windows Phone 8

If you use the new Windows 8-style apps, you’ll probably want to stick to Microsoft services. You just don’t have that many options — Google doesn’t make Windows 8-style apps, and Apple certainly doesn’t. Search, online file storage, email, voice and video communication, streaming music, productivity — Microsoft provides a complete suite of online services with Windows 8 apps.

What’s really convenient about Windows Phone 8 is that all of these Microsoft services will be installed and configured by default. You log into Windows Phone 8 with the same Microsoft account you use on your Windows 8 PC and you’ll be automatically logged into apps like Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Skype, and other Microsoft services that come installed by default. The whole environment also feels similar, with live tiles and a similar interface design Microsoft once called “Metro.”

Windows Phone 8 also has a built-in version of Microsoft Office. Office Mobile is free to use Mobile Working with Windows Phone - Microsoft Office Mobile 2013 Mobile Working with Windows Phone - Microsoft Office Mobile 2013 Since its initial release in 2010, Windows Phone has generally had a reputation as the "other". Neither iOS nor Android but something else entirely, its curious and fast user interface has led to it experiencing... Read More , whereas the competing Microsoft Office 365 apps for iPhone and Android require you pay a monthly fee. If you want Office on your phone, it’s a nice advantage.

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Windows 8 isn’t as integrated with Windows Phone 8 as it looks, however. The Windows Store for Windows 8 apps and the Windows Phone Store are separate, so you can’t buy an app and use it on both your phone and tablet, as you can with an iPhone and iPad or an Android phone and tablet. Even Microsoft’s Halo: Spartan Assault game Windows 8 Gaming Hits Second Gear With Halo: Spartan Assault Windows 8 Gaming Hits Second Gear With Halo: Spartan Assault One of the greatest video game franchises, Halo has been shy of Windows PC since Halo 2 was released in 2004. Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows 8 changes all of that – but is it... Read More , which allows you to save your progress and move between a Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 device, requires you purchase a separate copy of the app from the store specific to each device you want to play it on. (If you also want to play the game on the Xbox, you’ll need to purchase it a third time.)

Internet Explorer also doesn’t yet sync like Chrome or Safari do on Android or iOS. Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 Make Internet Explorer 11 Work for You With These Tips Make Internet Explorer 11 Work for You With These Tips Internet Explorer 11 isn't terrible! In fact, if you've got a Windows tablet and have bought into the whole Metro -- sorry, "Modern" -- interface, it's probably the best touch-based browser out there. Read More syncs your favorites and other browsing data between Windows 8 PCs, but Windows Phone can’t sync your browser data. The mobile version of Internet Explorer is cut off from the other versions of Internet Explorer for some reason.

No discussion of Windows Phone would be complete without pointing out that Windows Phone is still way behind on apps, just as Windows 8 is. The situation is improving somewhat, and Windows Phone is clearly in third place ahead of crumbling BlackBerry, but Windows Phone still doesn’t come anywhere near iOS or even Android in app selection.

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Windows 8 With Android or iPhone

Windows 8 works surprisingly well with an Android or iPhone as long as you’re willing to embrace Microsoft services. While Google and Apple aren’t going to release their own apps for Windows 8, Microsoft has been steadily releasing more and more apps for iOS and Android.

For example, Microsoft provides official Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Skype, Xbox Music, and Bing apps for both Android and iPhone. There’s no official way to sync Internet Explorer favorites and open tabs to an Android phone or iPhone, but you can’t even sync IE browser data to Windows Phone anyway.

If you’re really dependent on Microsoft’s online services, these solutions are a bit less convenient. You’ll have to install them each after setting up your phone and log into them separately. They’ll feel more like separate apps than a complete and integrated experience, but you’ll have the benefit of being able to use the larger ecosystem of other apps available for Android and iOS. If you love the tiled Windows 8 environment, Android and iOS won’t feel the same.

Microsoft even makes a version of Office for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The Office Mobile for Office 365 apps, available for all these platforms, requires you pay for an Office 365 subscription that costs $100 per year. After you subscribe, you get access to the latest version of Office on Windows and can install the mobile apps on your Android and iOS devices. Office Mobile for Windows Phone has the benefit of being included and having no subscription fee, but it’s possible to pay for Office and use it on other mobile platforms anyway.

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Windows 7 or Windows 8 Desktop Users

If you use Windows 7 or you just use the desktop on Windows 8 and don’t use any of the new Windows 8-style apps, there are no big advantages to using Windows Phone 8. If you use the built-in SkyDrive integration on the Windows 8.1 desktop How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 Storing data remotely and syncing them across devices has never been so easy, especially if you're using Windows 8.1. SkyDrive received a significant update, improving its integration with Windows and adding interesting new features. Read More , you can benefit from SkyDrive on Windows Phone — but you can always just install the SkyDrive app for iPhone or Android.

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Windows Phone 8, iPhone, or Android?

Windows Phone 8 definitely has advantages for dedicated Windows 8 users, and we’ll likely see Microsoft add a combined app store, Internet Explorer syncing, and other obvious improvements over time.

Microsoft wants everyone to use their services, so they’ve made it very easy for Android and iPhone users to use Microsoft services without getting a Windows Phone. Of course, after you start using those Microsoft services on your current phone, it’s easier to switch to Windows Phone in the future. That’s part of Microsoft’s plan.

Image Credit: Mack Male on Flickr, Filip Skakun on Flickr, K?rlis Dambr?ns on Flickr

  1. Javier
    February 2, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I have to say I agree with you totally. But you have been quite polite on referring to Windows Phone. I use windows 8 in 2 computers(Including my own no-touchscreen notebook) and it's awesome. Haven't gone to Windows 8.1, but Windows 8, for me, is totally awesome, it makes my computer totally stable and agile, as well as fully featured(and really good looking). It boosts my productivity in so many ways. But... Windows phone, oh god, why did they make it so so so LIMITING. It limits you so much! Starting with the integration and connection. It has nothing to do with the so very customizable Android OSs. Only thing I liked from Windows Phone, actually, is office integration.

  2. Tyler Cole
    February 1, 2014 at 5:32 am

    "If you use Windows 7 or you just use the desktop on Windows 8 and don’t use any of the new Windows 8-style apps, there are no big advantages to using Windows Phone 8."

    I'd have to disagree with that, although I may be wrong but my personal experience is that Windows 8 is better. With both my main laptops (both were upgraded from W7 to W8, one even had Vista on prior to W7) I've seen noticeable improvements since installing W8. The startup and shutdown times are faster, searching for files seems to be quicker and I have had far less issues running music production & DJ software on W8.

    • Javier
      February 2, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Agreed!

  3. Howard Allshouse
    January 31, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    In regards to the lack of apps for windows platforms, if Microsoft were to create apps aimed at corporation interests such as the banks and retail sales companies that already offer iOS and Android apps, I think that might overall help in app programmers embracing and the general public, the Microsoft products more than they presently do. I use a Lumia 920 and love the way it works with my desktop machine but, it is so frustrating when my wife can get an app from our bank for her Galaxy phone and I have to use the browser just to see what is in the bank. Not easy for 65 year old tech guy on any screen smaller that 7 inches.

  4. Tim J
    January 31, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Windows 7! thats all i gotta say :)

  5. likefunbutnot
    January 30, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    The biggest problems I have with "Modern Style" Windows 8 apps is that the concept of sharing data is almost completely foreign to them. Cut/Copy/Paste don't exist. There's no way to easily shift the context of a file management app to a photo editing app, and Cloud Storage services other than Onedrive (nee Skydrive) don't interoperate with Desktop-style apps on Windows RT. Many Windows 8 style apps choose to entirely avoid even the concept of saving data, even in places where doing so might make sense, such as Podcasting apps that don't bother to save data in your local Music library, or an Imgur client that doesn't allow users to save pictures.

    If I'm living entirely in the world of Desktop Windows 8, most of that stuff really isn't a big deal; desktop Windows 8 users can more or less completely ignore "Modern Style" apps and be perfectly content with an environment that works exactly the way Windows always has.

    Ironically, I've just spent a big chunk of the last two weeks living with a Surface2 (the not-Pro version) and I have to say that for every time I appreciated having real MS Office, USB support and local printer access, there were probably 10 times that I cursed at how many hoops I'd have to jump through to do something that would've been dead simple on Android or Desktop Windows. Since Skydrive isn't my Cloud Storage of first, second or third choice, just getting data someplace where I could interact with it was a major challenge. My takeaway from this is that if you need to live in the world of Modern-Style Windows, switch all your stuff to @Outlook.com and use Onedrive for your cloud storage, or you're going to have a bad time.

  6. mika
    January 30, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    I like running them on both desktop and tablet because they are integrated well together.

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