Australians patiently waiting for HTC’s brand new Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S models to debut on the local scene will be pleased to know their wait is nearly over, with dates in December, from tomorrow, for Aussie availability.
After all, with both 8S and 8X models having been announced by Microsoft as its “signature” Windows Phone 8 models, despite Microsoft’s strong relationship with Nokia, these are naturally expected to be top-notch models ready to duke it out not only with OS platform bedfellows Samsung and Nokia, but all of its other Android competitors (including its own Android handsets), let alone Apple itself with its iPhone 5, 4S and 4 models still on sale at retail.
While HTC had earlier announced its new smartphones were arriving in November, as we covered earlier, an announcement on the last day of November has arrived instead, with actual availability, in Australia at least, pushed to December – a month that thankfully arrives tomorrow, with pricing and availability details on page three.
For those wanting a quick refresher, HTC says its new Windows Phone 8 models were inspired by Microsoft’s own formerly “Metro” and now Modern UI “live tiles”, with the flagship 8X model having a 4.3-inch 720 HD-res “super LCD 2” with an iPhone-5 beating PPI or “pixels per inch” of 341, compared to the iPhone 4, 4S and 5’s 326 PPI.
Meanwhile, the 8S model has a palm and pocket friendlier and “bright super LCD 4-inch” with the original Gorilla Glass (1) protection.
Both models also feature “a rectangular unibody with gently rounded corners” and come in “bold” colours with a “premium matte finish”.
I’ve seen both in action at the recent Australian Windows Phone 8 launch, which we live blogged for readers here, alongside our live blog of the US WinPhone 8 launch event here, with both clearly impressive models, and the smaller 4-inch model particularly slim at the edges and quite cute, from memory.
Indeed, as I quoted HTC stating in my recent earlier HTC 8S and 8X article, “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’”.
Apple says its iPhone 5 weighs 112 grams, so with the larger 4.3-inch 8X weighing 130 grams and the 4-inch 8S and slim-edged model weighing just 113 grams, only 1 gram more than the iPhone 5, HTC has surely done an amazing job in getting the weight of its Win Phone 8 models down.
One catch, with the 4-inch 8S however, which must be noted: it doesn’t have a front facing camera, which makes it hard to do two-way Skype video calls unless you’re standing in front of or have a portable mirror, which is a shame.
It does have a 5 megapixel camera with auto focus LED flash, F2.8 aperture and 35mm lens with 720p video recording, but it’s photographic capabilities are far outstripped by its big brother flagship 8X brethren.
The 8X not only has a rear 8 megapixel camera with auto focus, LED flash, and BSI sensor for better low-light captures through its F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens, it also offers 1080P video recording with the lot processed via its dedicated “HTC ImageChip”, it also has a fantastic front facing camera.
Its new “ultra-wide-angle 2.1 megapixel front camera” lets you capture more – think four friends crowded around someone’s 8X on a Skype call, with the other person being able to see everyone on their side of the call.
It has an F2.0 aperture, offers 1080P video recording too, while also being serviced by HTC’s own ImageChip processor.
Both the 8X and 8S are also equipped with a dedicated camera button, as mandated by the Windows Phone 8 hardware requirements, which also works from the lock screen for obvious greater photo taking convenience.
For comparison, the also impressive Samsung ATIV S Windows Phone 8 model (and near Samsung Galaxy SIII clone) weighs more at 135 grams, with the Nokia Lumia 820 heavier at 160 grams and the Nokia Lumia 920 heavier still at 185 grams.
Compare all that to the original 2007 iPhone with 3.5-inch screen at 135 grams for reference, although naturally, the larger screens in these cases obviously does make a difference.
That said, it’s still nice to see HTC coming under that 5+ year old benchmark for its 8X model and almost equalling Apple’s iPhone 5 featherweight effort with its 8S, off by just a gram, albeit also obviously achieved by omitting a front facing camera.
Nevertheless, at least the 8X compensates with a stunning front facing camera, which is very promising for any future 8S successor, with HTC also having plenty of other features, capabilities, a great new OS and good design on offer to make up the difference.
HTC also pumps up the volume on its Beats Audio technology, promising “authentic, studio-quality sound that delivers the spirit of the original recording”, through a “spectacular” sounding “unique, dedicated audio amplifier powering the 3.5mm audio jack and the speaker”, with another description being a “dedicated amplifier that pumps out a full range of dynamic sound from both the internal speaker and headset”.
This is claimed to “boost the audio signal for even better sound no matter if you’re listening to music, playing a game or watching a video.”
HTC promotes the “Xbox Live” music service along with the Windows Phone Store for both 8S and 8X devices, for video, music, games and apps on the go, while also touting business credentials.
“Seamless integration” with Microsoft’s “back office applications” along with “automatic configuration for simple setup” is the pitch, with the added Windows Phone 8 OS hook of having Microsoft’s “Office Mobile” suite built-in, letting you easily open and edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, with the best fidelity of any Office-compatible app on any smartphone – at least, according to Microsoft, as it demonstrates at its blog posting on the topic.
Full HTC 8S specs can be seen here at HTC’s site, while HTC 8X specs are likewise detailed here.
Criticisms of Windows Phone 8 in general from the web and, Telstra and Optus pricing and links to specs all conclude on page three, please read on!
It’s also worth noting there are Windows Phone 8 critics in general, like at this article at Time, but with apps like Navigon now on Windows Phone 8 I don’t know if I can agree with his GPS criticisms, and some of this other issues are open to question.
He states Mobile IE is a ‘second class citizen’, with Google mistreating it when mobile IE is used to visit some Google services, like Gmail and Google Docs, which are out of Microsoft’s control (and with its own Office solution and Outlook email the obvious alternative), and the inability to set the default search from Bing, something Microsoft could fix.
The article also states a notifications system is missing, but misses the point that the “live tiles” are your one-look notification system – without having to put up with cascades of endless new notifications, but a tile system that keeps everything in its place while keeping you updated as you scan the screen and each live tile.
Site owners and even Google can’t ignore Mobile IE forever – heck, it might even be anti-competitive to continue doing so, who knows?
So… there are the critics, but there’s always at least two sides to any story, if not more!
In the meantime, if you haven’t already purchased a smartphone for 2012, and have been waiting for the HTC 8X or the 8S to arrive, the very, very long wait for this particular Windows Phone 8 is very, very nearly over.
HTC hasn’t provided outright pricing, but has instead pointed to the monthly prices Telstra and Optus are charging.
Optus is officially first out the gate with the 8S from tomorrow, Dec 1, in “Domino Black & White” and “Atlantic Blue” on the $35 “Optus plan” over 24 months, for a total minimum cost of AUD $840, with no other detail provided – obviously it’ll all be online at the Optus site.
The Windows Phone 8X by HTC comes in a variety of colors including California Blue and Graphite Black while the Windows Phone 8S by HTC is available in Domino Black & White, and Atlantic Blue.
Meanwhile, Telstra is carrying the 8X, which HTC says “comes in a variety of colours”, while highlighting only two, being “California Blue” and “Graphite Black”, from the 4th of December online, here for consumers and here for businesses.
The 8X also arrives from the 11th of December at Telstra stores.
It’s consumer based “Every Day Connect” costs $60 per month, as does the business-oriented “Business Performance plan” monthly plan, with both having an addtional $5 monthly handset payment over a 24 month contract with $600 p/m of calls, unlimited text and 1GB data for a total min cost of $1560.
No doubt plans options are available on both carriers with more calls and more data at a higher monthly cost.