A few months back, a HTC exec told me that the reason store shelves are replete with identical black slabs nowadays is because manufacturers just can't afford to take a gamble on high dosages of colour, like the pre-smartphone days. Well, you know what they say -- when in times of crisis (if you do believe HTC is in dire straits), try a different gambit. A daring one. A colourful one. HTC's two first WP8 handsets, the 8X and 8S, are gambles that should pay off nicely.
First up is the 8X, which, following the One series' naming pattern, should tell you something about its status next to the lower-specced (but far from undesirable) 8S. The "Windows Phone 8X by HTC," to use its correct name (I'm not even joking) has a 4.3-inch Gorilla Glass display (1280 x 720 rez) with nary a bezel, making it an extremely compact and thin phone (we're talking 132 x 66 x 10.12mm). Running on an S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, it has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of inbuilt storage (no removable memory, I'm afraid). Battery is a 1,800mAh affair.
With the Beats logo on the back, it's obviously being positioned as something of a media machine, but what's not immediately obvious (at first glance, anyway) is the presence of two new amplifiers; one located on the audio jack, at a higher-than-normal position (to make it louder, sure, but more importantly so it can power bigger cans), with the second amp on the speaker, to improve the audio quality.
On the camera side, both the front and rear-facing cameras shoot 1080p video, with the front lens being a wide-angle (88-degrees) affair, so -- and I quote HTC here -- self-portraits can fit three friends in alongside you. Hey, we've all been there. The rear cam is an 8MP lens with f/2.0 aperture and 28mm angle.
Available early November, it'll be available in a really lovely deep blue/almost purple shade; yellow, and black. (Also red, for our Americanese brethren). What I haven't mentioned yet is just how nice it is to hold -- while HTC wouldn't let us flip past the homescreen, the whole physical experience is just stunning. The volume buttons are metallic; the chassis feels so tactile, and the slim shape is really unlike anything HTC's done before.
Speaking of new steps for HTC, if you thought that blue/purple shade of the 8X was daring, the 8S' four colour options ("domino black," aka, black dipped in white; "high-rise yellow" aka grey dipped in neon yellow; a red and orange dipped model, and blue/purple variant) are even bigger risks. They may not appeal to everyone, but personally, that yellow and grey variant has gone straight to my most-wanted list. But then, I wanted Leica's Paul Smith X2 special edition camera, too.
This phone is seriously thin -- the way it's angled almost makes it look like a slim wodge of cheese that's been cut with a piece of wire, straight off the block (exact measurements are 120 x 63 x 10.28mm, so it's not the thinnest on the market, but it sure feels like it). The 4-inch Gorilla Glass screen (800 x 480 rez) is coupled with a 1GHz dual-core S4 processor; 512MB of RAM; 4GB of internal storage (this one has a removable microSD card slot, though), and 5MP camera on the rear. Unlike the 8X, it doesn't have a front-facing camera, nor audio amplifiers (though it does have the Beats equaliser.)
For both these two models, the generic WP8 theme setting will match their chassis colours -- the "high-rise yellow" of the 8S will come with a yellow tiles theme; the blue 8X a lovely blue theme, for example.
But perhaps the most interesting take-away from today's announcements? Microsoft has chosen HTC's 8X as its signature Windows Phone 8 handset. Not a Nokia Lumia.
Apologies we didn't show more than the homescreen in this video; HTC wouldn't allow us!