Even with all the rumors about Microsoft testing Windows Phone 8 (WP8) with various CPUs and smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung hoping to demonstrate WP8 phones by the end of the year, there’s a good chance we won’t see many (or any) WP8 devices this year. If you’re not an early adopter, you’ll probably sit out the first generation of WP8 phones anyway, waiting for any bugs in Microsoft’s next phone operating system to be ironed out before you take a chance on the platform. And now that it appears that there won’t be a direct upgrade path from Windows Phone 7 (WP7) to WP8, if you were ever planning on diving into WP7, that time is now. In fact, right now may be the most ideal time to purchase a WP7 phone, since it is at the peak of its maturity and WP8 isn’t likely to reach that point until sometime after it is released (whenever that is). Since that day appears to be far off on the horizon, it’s still a very good time to own or upgrade to a WP7 device.

I’m in the market for a new phone myself, and I’ve had my eye on a few different WP7 phones for several months now. If you’ve been considering trying out a Windows Phone platform, follow along as I point out some WP7 devices you can buy today — and by the time you qualify for another smartphone upgrade, WP8 will have matured to the point that it’ll be worthy of consideration (unless, of course, Windows Phone 8 turns out to be a very short-lived platform, which I highly doubt).

Everyone seems to know about Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft, and now that some of Nokia’s WP7 phones have landed on store shelves around the world, we can get a fuller picture of how the Finnish phones are fitting into different cultures. In the US, we are clearly addicted to our iPhones and Android phones, but once you drift past the Statue of Liberty you discover that other smartphones have the potential to grab some market share from either Apple or Google; Microsoft just may be the beast to do it. Even reviews of a Nokia phone by different branches of the same review site view potential failures of the phone as potential victories.

Nokia Lumia 710 phonesThe Nokia Lumia 710 is a phone that can be purchased for about $50. T-Mobile today has the phone available for as little as $39 (with a qualifying service plan) and Walmart has even sold the phone itself at no cost with one of its service plans. This is the most affordable Windows phone out of Nokia’s offerings, and it demonstrates Microsoft and Nokia’s willingness to bring Windows phones to a mid-range price market (in order to compete with many Android devices). Just like the upcoming Lumia 900 phone, the Lumia 710 offers a ClearBlack 3.7″ WVGA display (800 x 480 resolution) and runs on a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon Single Core CPU. The Lumia also sports a five-megapixel camera with an LED flash and autofocus; the eventually to-be-released 900 will have an eight-megapixel front-facing camera with Carl Zeiss optics. The 710 also has rounded edges while the 900 has Droid-esque straight edges.

Nokia Lumia 800 phoneThe Lumia 900 has been delayed and is now due to arrive April 22nd, but of course there’s no guarantee the smartphone will arrive by that date. If you want a Nokia WP7 phone today and the Lumia 710 doesn’t fit your needs, take a look at the Lumia 800. The 800 offers the same 800 x 480 resolution, this time using a ClearBlack floating 3.7″ AMOLED display (rather than the other phones’ ClearBlack 3.7″ WVGA displays) running on a 1.4 GHz Single Core Qualcomm CPU. The 800’s battery is rated to last about an hour longer than the 710 and 900’s seven-hour rating.

Nokia will have plenty more Windows phones coming down the pipeline, but these are the phones available today. Though Nokia has been getting a lot of attention this year, another Windows phone maker that has phones available (and some really interesting ones coming out soon) is HTC. Though Nokia is well-known for the quality of its hardware, HTC hit the market before Nokia with its own WP7 phones and is releasing a new (and potentially improved) generation of devices, including the second iteration of its popular Titan smartphone.HTC Titan II The Titan II will be HTC’s first 4G LTE Windows phone, sporting the largest display among Windows phones (a 4.7-inch super LCD capacitive touchscreen) and a 16-megapixel camera running on Qualcomm’s 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S2 processor. This is a beast of a phone; some may find it too big to carry around in their pocket or handbag. 4G phones also tend to eat up battery life much faster than 3G phones, so the Titan II will carry a larger 1,730mAh lithium ion battery. Unless HTC has conjured up a new and significantly improved battery for the new Titan, power will be a concern. Rather than wait for the Titan II to hit stores, I’d either purchase the first Titan today or go with another phone, the HTC Arrive.HTC Arrive The Arrive has a 3.6-inch WVGA capacitive touch screen and a 5-megapixel camera running on a 1 GHz Qualcomm QSD8650 processor. This phone may seem a bit long-in-the-tooth when compared to the new Nokia phones hitting the scene, but HTC’s Arrive has one thing the others still don’t: a killer keypad. Touch displays are all the rage these days but some of us still prefer a decent-sized keypad, particularly when we’re writing something longer than a 144-character text message. Being a writer, I’ve been drooling over the HTC Arrive since last year, and even though it arrived quite a bit before the latest phones from other vendors I still may end up bringing this phone home instead of one the prettier Nokia phones or the beastly HTC Titan.

Samsung FocusLike HTC’s Arrive, the Samsung Focus (in its original iteration, still available) runs on Qualcomm’s 1 GHz QSD8250 processor; Samsung’s Focus Flash and Focus S devices run on a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 CPU. The displays on the Focus phones are all WVGA super AMOLEDs at 480 x 800 resolution and are sized at either 3.7″, 4.0″, or 4.27″, the largest display going to the Focus S and the smallest going to the Focus Flash. 4G is included with the Focus S and Focus Flash models, and each phone has a different quality of camera(s). (If you prefer your feature comparisons in a visual layout, try out Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 comparison to get get a different perspective of the Samsung Focus phones’ differences. You can also compare other Windows 7 phones there as well.)

If I buy any smartphone right now it’ll probably be a WP7 one. The devices are priced competitively and have matured to the point where they are comparable to devices run on other mobile operating systems and won’t be obsolete for at least another couple of years.

If you were to purchase a WP7 phone right now, which one would you buy?

Images discovered at Nokia Press, HTC Press and Samsung Gallery.