Windows 10 Mobile vs. Windows Phone 8.1

Zachary Boddy

Staff member
Aug 3, 2014

I recently acquired a brand new Microsoft Lumia 640 with no contract to replace my ailing Nokia Lumia 520 from days gone by. The Lumia 520 was suffering from a dying battery I didn't feel was worth replacing and severe touch issues that at times made the phone unusable. I got the Lumia 640 for a steal and it is now my 'official' Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview Test Device. Or "Really Long Name" for short. However, upon the release of Windows 10 Mobile Insider Build 10586 to the Slow Ring, I decided my daily driver (a Nokia Lumia 830) deserved to try out Windows 10 Mobile for the first time, so when my Lumia 640 arrived I already had a phone on the latest Insider Build. So instead, I decided to do a direct comparison between two mobile operating systems on very similar hardware.


For this test I'm ignoring anything that doesn't really affect performance. The cameras and design are drastically different on the two devices, for example, yet I don't believe either one is going to affect performance. Also, keep in mind that although the devices ARE similar in hardware, slight differences in how that hardware is set up and how the software is optimized could be affecting how well the devices perform. Here's the spec rundown:

Nokia Lumia 830:
5-inch 720p HD IPS LCD display
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor clocked at 1.2 gHz
16 GB internal storage
2,200 mAh battery
Windows 10 Mobile Build 10586.11

Microsoft Lumia 640:
5-inch 720p HD IPS LCD display
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor clocked at 1.2 gHz
8 GB internal storage
2,500 mAh battery
Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 with Lumia Denim

Both phones have double-tap-to-wake and Glance Screen turned on (keep in mind that the Lumia 830's Glance Screen is more advanced) and the Lumia 640 also has double-tap-to-sleep turned on. The Lumia 830 has a Sandisk Ultra Class 10 32 GB microSD card installed, while the Lumia 640 has a Samsung Pro Class 4 8 GB microSD card installed (both of which are filled with music). Both phones have a clean install of their respective operating system, meaning I started completely fresh on both with a hard reset. On the other hand, however, the Nokia Lumia 830 is my daily driver and therefore is the phone I use most often (meaning more installed applications, more personalization, etc.)

Quick Phone Impressions

Nokia Lumia 830:
I've already done a full review on the Lumia 830 and concluded that the camera, design, and build quality are quite simply amazing, yet a slightly underpowered processer and a slightly overpriced, erm, price tag made it a solid 8/10 in my books. The screen is sharp and perfectly usable, with accurate colors and good viewing colors. Blacks could be better but what do you expect from an IPS LCD display? I have noticed a bright spot in the lower left-hand corner of the screen that's really only visible with a backdrop of bright, solid colors, but it's something to keep in mind. Performance is great (as to be expected with a Windows Phone) even if I wish it was better (especially gaming performance). The camera is spectacular, if a little slow. There's a few design niggles like the placement of the microUSB charging port (being on the top is fine, it's the side it's on that bugs me), the questionable quality and feel of the buttons on the side and the capacitive keys on the front, and the vulnerability of the 2.5D screen.

Microsoft Lumia 640
The Lumia 640 is new territory for me, and I'll come right out and say I'm impressed. For the money I paid for this phone (brand new and with no contract) the feel and quality of this phone is great. The phone feels ergonomic and easy to hold, and there's absolutely no creaking in the removable back. The phone is slightly larger in every dimension than the Lumia 830, but it feels a bit larger than that even. This isn't a bad thing, as it doesn't feel too large in any way. It's a joy to hold and use and the screen is probably on par with the Lumia 830 (it might be too soon to say for certain, however). I will say that the polycarbonate does not feel quite as nice as the polycarbonate backs for the Lumia 830, as they seem to show grease and dirt more readily and feel a little rougher to the touch. Overall, I'm very happy with this phone and the performance is on par with the Lumia 830. Of course, you're giving up a lot of extra features and that amazing camera and design on the Lumia 830, but what you gain in value might very well make it worth it. If you can get a Lumia 830 for a steal I'd still suggest going for that (if you value things like a more complete Glance Screen and Qi wireless charging) but the Lumia 640 is a heck of a deal. There's also the case of the considerably larger battery, hopefully leading to noticeable improved battery life (at this point it's too soon to say, however). I don't have any real conclusions regarding the camera, as I've not used it very much. I may come back with a more complete review of this phone at a later date.


Now we get to the comparison between the two operating systems. The majority of this is going to be my opinion on the two operating systems. I don't know how far in-depth I'm going to go yet, but I'm going to be telling you about my opinions of UI and UX design, along with describing performance as I see it, not necessarily how you've experienced it.

Placing both phones side by side and by observing day-to-day response times and any bugs or glitches, I saw a very consistent trend. I doubt very many of you will be surprised to hear that, even on the cheaper Lumia 640, Windows Phone 8.1 is marginally faster than Windows 10 Mobile. This is consistent, in every application I could see. Some applications have drastically better performance than their counterparts on Windows 10 Mobile, such as Messaging and Internet Explorer. Messaging in Windows 10 Mobile will not stay open in the background and is prone to hanging when being opened from a notification. It crashes occasionally and is a tad slow to navigate. Microsoft Edge is a well-designed browser that is frustrating to use because of the slow performance and constant glitches. The auto-suggestions consistently hangs above the browser, only being solved by tapping the address bar and pressing Back. Websites will often refresh repeatedly for no reason, making it impossible to get any work done. In lesser applications like Alarms, or Calculator, the difference is negligible, but still present. Even simple tasks like returning to the Start Menu from an open application is marginally faster on Windows Phone 8.1. I will admit, however, the animations are quicker on Windows 10 Mobile (for example the Action Center), and that there are less "Loading" and "Resuming" screens (besides when Messaging hangs). Some of this speed could be due to the more heavy customization on my Windows 10 Mobile phone and the presence of more applications (or possibly the age and software optimization of the phone) and it's quite possible that if both phones could switch operating systems simultaneously without affecting personal files or stability that the Lumia 640 would perform better, but that's not the case. In this category, I give it to Windows Phone 8.1, for providing a marginally faster, smoother experience.

Many people would argue that Windows Phone 8.1 has dramatically better UI and UX design, and in some situations I'd be inclined to agree. For example, the design consistency and the flow you feel when you truly know what you're doing isn't something found anywhere else. There's a lot of navigational cues in Windows Phone 8.1 using pivots, ellipsis menus and pages that let you know where you are in the operating system. The design is minimalistic, charming, and in it's own unique way, beautiful. It makes using your phone a joy to use. On the other side of this design-flavored coin there's Windows 10 Mobile. Windows 10 Mobile isn't minimalistic, and it isn't as consistent. There's still a lot of areas where things need to be improved and cleaned up, and in other places where things just need to change. The 'fuller' feel of Windows 10 Mobile feels great and refreshing in some places, but cluttered in others. There are a few places where things are quite simply better, like the Settings menu and the Action Center. At the same time, the Settings menu—although very much improved—still relies too heavily on text, isn't very colorful, and still has some organizational issues (sometimes things that should be easy to find are very elusive). The Action Center—although very much improved—still needs some improvements. The gestures are great yet expanding and collapsing the Quick Actions isn't perfect (especially collapsing as it requires a notification to do) and the Quick Actions themselves still need some work to look more consistent and more user friendly. The notifications are—once again improved—lovely yet they don't always work how you want. The built-in keyboard for answering texts from the Action Center looks lovely and keeps in line with being consistent, yet it doesn't always show up and instead is replaced with the usual default keyboard. This is a common occurrence in Windows 10 Mobile. Applications are improved, but there's new issues that didn't exist before and are yet to be resolved. One area that's flat out worse is the Volume Control center. It takes up more space now and just looks a tad...wrong. It needs to be streamlined and some gesture support would be great to quickly dismiss it, expand it, or collapse it. Applications like Alarms and Calculator look nicer and they have some much-need improvements and new features that mean I use them more often then I ever did on Windows Phone 8.1, however there's new issues and inconsistencies that didn't exist before and exist now. Microsoft Edge is a great example, as it's very well designed in both UI and UX (with the exception of the Tabs page which I'm not fond of) yet there's so many little issues that need to be solved (not including the massive performance issues). The Store is another area that's quite simply better than the Store in Windows Phone 8.1, yet here is another case where there's new issues that didn't exist before. The biggest culprit is the missing Update History. I can no longer see which applications just updated in the Store nor do I get notifications telling me an application has updated now. That's a huge negative to me, and something that didn't need to be a negative. All in all, Windows 10 Mobile adds a lot in features and functionality yet takes away in simplistic design and adds some new issues that really didn't need to exist. I could go on for a while about the design differences of Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Phone 8.1, yet I'll wound it down. For consistency, and unique charm, I give it to Windows Phone 8.1. For features, I give it to Windows 10 Mobile. Most of you might consider Windows Phone 8.1 the victor here (although it's much closer than that).

This whole time I've been spouting compliments about Windows Phone 8.1 and how it's a great mobile operating system, and that's because it is. I absolutely love Windows Phone 8.1 and everything it offers. It's far from perfect with a lot of missing functionality, some things that just don't work and some persistent bugs that have annoyed me constantly. However, it has such a beautiful charm and fluidity about it, and I just love using it. On the other side is Windows 10 Mobile, which is, in a lot of ways, Windows Phone 8.1's opposite. Windows 10 Mobile has more functionality, more things that don't quite work, and a fresh round of bugs. It lacks a little of that unique charm and fluidity. What you gain is a more complete operating system, more personalization, and a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo that 99% of people don't really care about. Performance isn't quite as good, either (battery life remains to be seen), and stability doesn't seem to be as, well, stable as Windows Phone 8.1. And yet, when using Windows Phone 8.1 I still find myself wishing I was using Windows 10 Mobile. After promising I'd leave Windows Phone 8.1 on my Lumia 640 until the next Windows 10 Mobile Insider Build was released, I found myself thinking about jumping the gun and installing it today. After all the great things I've said about Windows Phone 8.1, and all the negative things I've had to say about Windows 10 Mobile, why is it I find myself wanting to use Windows 10 Mobile more? Maybe part of it is attributed to the fact that even with the great value the Lumia 640 offers, the Lumia 830 is simply a better phone. But, really, I think it's because Windows 10 Mobile, while deviating massively from the beloved Windows Phone 8.1 that will always hold a tiny piece of our hearts (and in some cases a large part), has now acquired it's own unique charm. There's something great about using those extra features and functions that I never had in Windows Phone 8.1, and most of the things that aren't there anymore I either never missed or no longer miss (with the exception of Update History in the Store) and what I lost with the simple and minimalistic flow of Windows Phone 8.1 I found in a new flow on Windows 10 Mobile derived from well-designed shortcuts and improvements. Things like the new Action Center, the new Store, and yes, even the new Messaging application (despite the performance issues it shows a whole lot of potential) make me want to turn to Windows 10 Mobile instead. Applications like Photos (I didn't really touch on that much) and Settings are organized better and more powerful than their counterparts on Windows Phone 8.1. The new Outlooks applications feel great too (especially Mail, I'm still a bit iffy on the Calendar).
In the end, what I'm trying to say is that despite all the issues Windows 10 Mobile has, and all the great things Windows Phone 8.1 has, I turn to Windows 10 Mobile because it allows me to do more, and do it with a more personal flare, and that's important. I may have lost the simplistic design language of Windows Phone 8.1 but Windows 10 Mobile does have it's own unique flare. Despite Windows Phone 8.1 and Android & iOS being perpendicular to one another, Windows 10 Mobile has managed to be parallel to both. The newly designed Start Menu looks great (with the exception of Live Folders which still need work) and through it all you can see the potential. Oh, I know, you're all tired of hearing the "wait and see" response, but using Windows 10 Mobile makes me want to use it more. Nothing is quite there yet, but now we have the power to tell Microsoft what we want next. Windows 10 Mobile is well on its way to being the most powerful mobile operating system out there, far more than Windows Phone 8.1 ever could've been with it's design language. Windows Phone 8.1 is amazing to use, but there's nowhere for it to go. Microsoft could've thrown in more features but they wouldn't have flowed. Windows 10 Mobile has all the potential in the world, and it's getting better all the time. We always complain about Microsoft telling us to "see what's next" but we never saw this level of commitment and this level of updates to Windows Phone 8.1 or really any version of Windows Phone before that. Yes, I know we're seeing technical previews, but if you look at the consistent updates you can really see where Windows 10 Mobile is heading.


So in the end, I use Windows 10 Mobile before Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8.1 does a lot of things with polished flare and fluid ease, but Windows 10 Mobile simply does more and allows me to do it with more "me." Windows 10 Mobile gives me the power to help build and control my mobile operating system, and gives me the power to help utilize it's great potential. What we're seeing here is an operating system as a baby, like the first iteration of Android or iOS. We are not seeing a new version of Windows Phone 8.1, we are seeing a rebirth of Windows Phone 8.1. The promise of Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile is something Windows Phone 8.1 and every version of Windows Phone before it—and really any operating system—couldn't hope to uphold. We're seeing a new Microsoft with a new vision and I like where it's going.

I'll come back and correct grammar, spelling, formatting and such. I'll also participate in any conversation or discussion that might show up and answer any questions. Thanks for reading (if you read this far).
Last edited:


New member
May 23, 2015
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Completely agree with OP. Ive put latest insider build on l1520 and its pretty smooth. Granted, it gave me hard time for a day or two when it showed the symptoms of what we call "ghost touch" which i'd ,fortunately, never seen before. So, it lasted for a short time and then everythingl fell into place with performance becoming much smoother and I don't know whether its just me but I am seeing improvements in pictures that are taken with win10 camera.

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