HTC launched its new range of smartphones based around Microsoft's yet-to-be-released Windows Phone 8 operating system today. Strategy Analytics’ Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service had some hands-on time with the 8X and 8S, and here are our first impressions.
1. Hardware: Both devices use colourful polycarbonate cases that are not dissimilar to those used by Nokia for its Windows 8 smartphone generation, which are designed to complement the colourful appearance of the OS home screen. The flagship 8X has a 4.3-inch 2.5D display, while the mid-tier 8S has a 4.0-inch screen and a twin-colour design.
2. Software: Both phones, of course, run Windows Phone 8. Microsoft has yet to formally launch the latest version of its smartphone OS, so we were not given the opportunity to try it out. Among the known upgrades are a more customisable home screen and greater convergence with the PC version of Windows, but more details will have to wait until the end of October, when the formal unveiling is due.
3. Components: Both phones run Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC’s, with the 8X having a 1.5GHz variant and the 8S a 1GHz one. Only the 8X supports LTE, but not the 8S, which is a weakness for a flagship model in developed markets.
4. Services: We’re not aware of any HTC-specific apps or services beyond what will be standard on Windows Phone 8. These are, however, the first HTC Windows Phone handsets to feature ‘Beats by Dr Dre’ branding.
5. Operators: 8X will be available in 50 countries beginning in early November with 126 mobile operators. The 8S will be available in 52 countries beginning in November with 146 mobile operators. This is a good level of worldwide distribution that is not far from that offered by rivals Nokia and Samsung.
6. Competitors: The comparison with Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 smartphones is inevitable. While Nokia has a special relationship with Microsoft, HTC is claiming publicly to be the Windows Phone 8 launch partner. The other main competitor is Samsung, which was the first to announce its Windows Phone 8 offering, and which is keen to lessen its dependence on Android. However the biggest competition is with other platforms: Android, iOS and BlackBerry.
* Our First Impression: HTC has produced some relatively innovative designs for its new Windows Phone generation of smartphones, but their success relies more on the willingness of Android and iOS consumers to try a different OS. Being a lead Windows Phone 8 partner should help.