We’ve been covering the HTC launch event on Ubergizmo, and now we’ve had a little bit of hands-on time with both phones, including the Windows Phone 8X, which is the device announced today with the most exciting features and specs. At the event, HTC emphasized “hero devices,” high end devices that generate buzz. There’s no mistaking the lower- end 8S for a flagship, so that leaves the 8X as HTC’s Windows “hero phone.”
We knew that the Windows Phone 8X would have an unusual industrial design, but when we got our hands on it, we realized that in person it looks much more distinctive than in preview pictures. This is a quality phone, and the unibody construction was a good design decision. The back is a durable polycarbonate that’s covered in a grippy rubber. This polycarbonate comes in four different colors, which look really great. There’s even a neon-yellow colorway that I’ve never seen on a phone before. Usually, colored phones are a bit garish, but HTC’s designers did a great job matching the colors to Microsoft’s color scheme.
At HTC’s event, it really emphasized the Beats software and partnership, most likely because of its $300 million aquisition, but I’m not sure how much consumers will notice. The onboard speakers are decent and sounded loud, but nothing extraordinary, and neither device announced today–even the “hero device,” the 8X– comes with Beats headphones. Although it’s been said before, the Beats tie-in is simply an improved equalizer, and mostly marketing speak. However, the 8X does have a built-in headphone and speaker amplifier, but we’ll have to try it out with some nice headphones to really do a solid evaluation.
HTC has touted a new “sandwich” construction, where the battery is packed between the screen and the components. HTC claims this allows the 8X to be as skinny as possible, and at least at a visceral level, the 8X does feel like a slim phone. However, this means that the battery is extremely non-user replaceable. Sure, iPhones don’t have user replaceable batteries, but Apple also has great infrastructure–HTC doesn’t have stores. People who like to hang on to phones for years may have trouble with the battery in the 8X’s later years.
The camera module and image chip are the same as the One X, so photo quality should be about as good as that phone’s excellent camera. Also, HTC upgraded the front camera with a wide-angle lens, ostensibly for people who love to take self-shots with a camera meant for videoconferencing.