Long before HTC made Android smartphones, it made its name creating Windows Mobile smartphones with large touch screens in a variety of styles and sizes.
While HTC was once the king of Windows Mobile models, Windows Mobile is effectively dead as a smartphone OS, even though WinMo mobiles are still on sale to enterprise customers that need access to mobile-delivered enterprise apps.
Microsoft’s replacement for Windows Mobile was the equally large mouthful that is Windows Phone, and more so when it is called by it’s full name: Windows Phone 8.
Saying “Windows Phone 8 smartphones” is almost a tongue twister – it’s a shame Microsoft didn’t have the guts or gumption to go with the simpler WinPhone 8, or xBox themed (and yet iPhone-esque) Xphone 8, or something else entirely, but as Microsoft is all about Windows, Windows, Windows, Microsoft does what it wants to and can still get away with it.
Samsung has already “announced” its WinPhone model, as has Nokia with the Lumia 920 and 820, and now it’s HTC’s turn to unveil its smartphones based on Microsoft’s newest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8.
These two smartphones are the HTC Windows Phone 8X and the 8S, and during November, they’ll be available in “50+ countries” on 150 mobile operators around the world, naturally including Australia.
The headline features that HTC has headlined in its press release include “iconic design, studio-quality sound with BeatsAudio and incredible camera capabilities”, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying in a statement that: “Pairing HTC’s beautiful new Windows Phone 8X and 8S with our brand is a big milestone for both companies. Together we are offering customers a clear choice and a truly unique experience. I’m thrilled to take our longstanding partnership to the next level.”
HTC’s CEO, Peter Chou, followed up with the statement that: “We’ve been inspired by Windows Phone 8 to create new smartphones that give the platform the iconic design and personality it deserves. Windows Phone has clearly emerged as one of the top mobile ecosystems and is competitive against any other smartphone platform in the world.”
Featuring a familiar sounding “unibody design”, something HTC has offered in previous Android-flavoured models, HTC says its design is “based on the Windows Phone Live Tiles” and are “perfectly sculpted with a dramatic taper making them feel magically thin in your hand.”
Obviously we’re all going to want to feel these phones in our own hands to gauge this claim for ourselves, but given the fact that “thin is in”, it sounds good.
HTC is also offering its 8X and 8S models in a range of “bold, sophisticated and adventurous colours in a premium matte finish”, with the 8X coming in “California Blue, Graphite Black, Flame Red and Limelight Yellow” and the 8S coming in “Domino, Fiesta Red, Atlantic Blue and High-Rise Grey”.
Next up comes the cameras baked into both phones, with the front facing camera boasting a “2.1mp, f/2.0 aperture, 88° ultra-wide angle” that allows “up to four people and more to be captured at once” while also supporting 1080p video capture.
The rear camera “sports an 8mp CMOS sensor with backside-illumination (BSI) for improved low-light performance, along with an f/2.0 aperture, 28mm lens and a dedicated imaging chip”, and both phones come with a physical shutter button that works “even if the phone is locked”, although HTC certainly isn’t the first to offer that last feature.
Given HTC’s investment in Beats Audio technology, it’s no surprise to see it included on an “exclusive basis”, providing what is claimed to be “authentic, studio-quality sound that delivers the spirit of the original recording”.
The 8X model also makes the claim of having a “unique audio amplifier powering the 3.5mm audio jack and the speaker, boosting the audio signal for even better sound no matter if you’re listening to music, playing a game or watching a video”.
The 8X model has a 4.3-inch “HD-res super LCD 2 screen” with “lightweight Gorilla Glass 2”, including “optical lamination” that “reduces reflections and glare”, while the 8S model has a slight smaller “super LCD 4-inch screen with Gorilla Glass” with “crystal clarity and sparkling colour”.
Although US prices on a 24 month contract have been announced at US $199, no Australian prices are listed as yet.
All we need now is for Microsoft to actually officially launch Windows Phone 8, something it has only previewed to a developer audience earlier in the year, and then for all these Windows Phone 8 models to actually arrive from Samsung, Nokia and HTC.
Until then, iPhones and Androids will be enjoying all the September and presumably October sales, putting Microsoft at least a month if not longer behind the competition, but at least the announcements mean that Windows Phone 8 models are getting ever closer.
Meanwhile, I notice that Nokia keeps on somewhat annoying advertising its clearly completely obsolete Windows Phone 7.5 models in the presumed hope that consumers are “dumb enough” not to realise that new models are but weeks away.
If you see these ads for Nokia Lumia 900s, 800s and other models with stupidly weak supposed "temptations" like matching coloured headphones, please, please – unless they’re giving them away for nothing (without locking you into a contract), why waste your hard earned dollars buying a low-res, out-of-date smartphone that will never, ever be able to run Windows Phone 8?
If you truly want a Windows Phone model over an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy SIII or HTC One X-series, Motorola’s new RAZRs or LG’s upcoming Optimus G, stay away from obsolete, never-to-be-upgraded models and look for HTC’s 8S or 8X, Nokia’s new Lumia 920 and 820, or Samsung new Windows Phone 8 handsets instead.