Windows Phone 8 has been having a hard time cracking the stranglehold that iOS and Android have on customers at the moment. The Nokia Lumia phones have caught the eye with their bright colours and pretty, big icons, but the fact that they weigh the same as a VW Beetle probably hasn’t aided their adoption. HTC though have a much slimmer offering for those who fancy their digital bread buttered Windows side up.
The 8X is the champion set to battle it out among the Finnish heavyweights and from the outset you can see that the design ethos is very different. Whereas the Lumias feel sturdy and fat in the hand, the 8X is light, very thin, and far more of an elegant approach. It isn’t all smiles though as the flush buttons can be tricky to find and holding the unit in your hands sometimes feels a little uncomfortable due to the subtly sharp edges of the slight design.
The software itself is probably the area that will decide whether you like the phone or not. Windows 8 Phone is very pretty, and the fonts used in the apps are beautiful, but after a while the novelty wears off and you realise that it just seem to take more user selections to get things done than feels necessary. Many of the built in apps are fine for light use and the range is slowly growing to include more mainstream favourites, but when compared to Android or iOS the functionality seems restricted by the absence of high quality applications. The phone does integrate well with other Microsoft software, and the Skydrive app is as useful as ever for storing and sharing files online. A continuing area of concern though is Microsoft’s inability to get developers interested in its mobile platform. In these days of app centric customers this could be damaging in the long run to the success of the OS. One advantage that Windows 8 phone offers is that all the handsets I’ve used that run it are fast and smooth due to the singular implementation of the software – something that isn’t generally true on Android. At the moment Windows Phone 8 does feel like the poor cousin of the other main mobile platforms, but Microsoft is an immense company and has far too much artillery to be counted out easily.
Otherwise the 8X offers a reasonable camera, all day battery life, and a rather fetching purple livery. Performance is snappy and the 8X does catch the occasional eye when you’re out and about due to its unique appearance. With Windows Phone 8 not yet drawing the crowds it also means that you can pick one of these up rather cheaply (we’ve seen them go for £150 barely used through online retailers like http://www.smartfonestore.com). As long as you’re happy with the currently limited nature of the platform, then the HTC 8X is a smartphone that’s dependable, cool, and will run Facebook, Twitter, while gathering your emails without fuss. Pretty much what most people need, without the big bills to match.