TAIWANESE SMARTPHONE MAKER HTC announced its latest Windows Phone handset today, the HTC Windows Phone 8X.
The INQUIRER was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with the top-end HTC Windows Phone 8 smartphone ahead of its launch at the beginning of November, and while we couldn't help but be won over by its vibrant design, we think it might struggle to rival Nokia's flagship Lumia 920 smartphone.
According to HTC the design of the Windows Phone 8X is its main selling point, thanks to the way it "mimics" the look of the Windows Phone 8 operating system (OS) and ties in nicely Microsoft's live tile interface.
We got our hands on the "blue" version of the Windows Phone 8X smartphone, which quite frankly isn't blue. Instead, it features a garish purple plastic case, one that we can't see appealing to too many male Windows Phone fans. Still, there are three other colours to choose from - Graphite Black, Flame Red and Limelight Yellow.
Still, that's not to say we didn't like it, as despite looking oddly similar to Nokia's Lumia line of smartphones, it's one of the most striking designs we've seen lately. It also feels like it could withstand a fair few tumbles, as its casing felt tough, despite weighing just 130g.
In terms of size, the handset's tapered edges make it feel a lot slimmer than it is, as it's actually quite a chunky device at 132.35x66.2x10.12mm.
On paper, the HTC Windows Phone 8X features a 4.3in HD 720p screen. Although not cranked up to full brightness, the display seemed impressively vibrant and boasted decent viewing angles during our hands-on time with the handset.
That's no doubt thanks to the screen's Super LCD 2 technology, which in previous reviews has proved just as vibrant as the Super AMOLED technology found on the Samsung Galaxy S3. We're also pleased to hear that the screen comes coated with Corning Gorilla Glass, which means the display should prove resistant against drops and scratches.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to see the Windows Phone 8 operating system running on the Windows Phone 8X, with HTC telling us that the software isn't quite ready yet, adding weight to the rumours that Windows Phone 8 might be delayed until November.
However, we do know that Microsoft's Live Tile interface will match the colour of the handset's casing, which we thought was a nice touch.
HTC also admitted that it hasn't added many unique software tweaks to the Windows Phone 8X handset. The only app that HTC has preloaded is its HTC Hub application, where users can check out the weather, stock updates, apps and news. Not a major selling point, if you ask us. This could put some buyers off, considering that the Nokia Lumia 920 comes preloaded with several Nokia apps, including Drive, Music and Maps.
Speaking of Nokia, HTC said it the Windows Phone 8X will come preloaded with Nokia Maps, which is excellent news for buyers of the handset.
Of course, that's not all Windows Phone 8 will bring to HTC's latest flagship smartphone. New Windows Phone 8 features also include resizable live tiles for a more customisable user interface (UI) and support for near field communications (NFC) technology.
Thanks to Windows Phone 8 support for multicore processors, the HTC Windows Phone 8X handset features Qualcomm's nippy dual-core S4 processor. Unfortunately we didn't get to put the handset's performance to the test during the short time we had with it.
We were disappointed to learn that the handset has no removable battery or expandable memory via microSD card though, unlike the cheaper HTC Windows Phone 8S smartphone. This means that users will be stuck with the handset's 16GB of internal storage and won't be able to replace its battery once it starts to age and stutter.
HTC looks to be challenging Nokia with claims that the Windows Phone 8X camera is one of its main selling points. It does sound pretty impressive, since it's an 8MP rear-facing camera with an f/2.0 lens, BSI sensor and the ability to capture HD 1080p video.
Although we were unable to give the handset's camera a thorough testing, we were able to fire it up using the dedicated camera key - and while not as fast as the snapper on the Motorola Razr I - it loaded up impressively fast.
There's also a front-facing camera on the front of the HTC Windows Phone 8X perfect for Skype video calling, a feature missing from the cheaper HTC Windows Phone 8S.
While the design of the HTC Windows Phone 8X is flashy, we're not sure that the device itself is. Sure, it's more exciting than the Samsung Ativ S, but we don't think it can compete with the Nokia Lumia 920, which comes stuffed full of unique apps and innovative features such as its Pureview camera and wireless charger.
Check back soon for our full HTC Windows Phone 8X review. µ