Earlier today, Microsoft partnered with HTC to show what we expect to be the final two Windows Phone 8 pre-launch devices. Initially, WP8 launch was poised to be within a week of the Windows 8 (PC) and Windows RT (Tablet), however, Microsoft ended up delaying Windows Phone 8 to November (possibly a fatal error). At the recent launch event, Nokia was hesitant to talk about the arrival date for their Lumia 920 and 820 until Microsoft had made the announcement themselves, which they did today.
What we find mind boggling is the way how Microsoft launched the Windows Phone 8X
and 8S devices. This wouldn't be surprising considering that the first Windows Phone devices were in fact HTC devices, but the weird part is that Microsoft is claiming that HTC is their launch partner for Windows Phone 8. The HTC Windows Phone 8X and 8S are absolutely beautiful devices which feature high resolution vibrant displays and brilliant cameras. There is no doubt that these phones are stunning, however, they honestly lack any real balls.
The HTC Windows Phone 8X runs on the same processor as the Lumia 920
(all Windows Phone 8 devices do) and features the exact same OS but lacks some really aggressive features that Nokia has. It comes with an excellent 720p resolution using the smallest HD screen size to date (4.3" SLCD), which is unheard of. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this phone, it looks like it will be an absolutely great phone to own, but it lacks any real innovation that could put Microsoft Windows Phone 8 more attractive than Android or iOS. The addition of Beats Audio is just a pull from their Android devices and doesn't really show anything new or unique to the 8X.
The Nokia Lumia 920 features an Beyond-720P LCD on a 4.5" screen with a slightly larger battery than the Windows Phone 8X (2000mAh vs 1800mAh). The real innovation on Nokia's part comes from their extensive investment into the main camera, as the Pureview technology decreases video shakiness and improves low light photography. Nokia did recently receive a lot of flak for their Lumia 920 launch video where it was shown that they had faked the video with a DSLR. There were also accusations of faked photos as well, but that had not been addressed. Nevertheless, Nokia is also innovating with their integration of wireless charging on the battery as well as NFC music capability which is native on the device. HTC claims that their NFC support will be available depending on the carrier, which is unfortunate - but the way today's world works.
The third player, Samsung, was actually the first to show their device, the ATIV S
. The ATIV S does not necessarily show anything drastic in comparison to the Nokia Lumia 920 or HTC Windows Phone 8X in terms of innovation, but it is still a beautiful Samsung phone that has a brilliant display and all the features that the 8X has with the exception of a higher quality front facing camera.
We believe that HTC's and Samsung's phones are the safe bets on Windows Phone 8 and will likely win over some consumers, but not enough to really make any noticeable impact. This is effectively a slap in the fact to Nokia who everyone believed to be Microsoft's premier partners for Windows Phone after the release of the Nokia Lumia 800, 900, 710 and 610. It seemed that Nokia was the only company still making new phones for Windows Phone and was effectively keeping it alive. For Microsoft to essentially cut Nokia out as their premier partner does not bode well for Microsoft or Nokia. We love HTC phones and we're sure to love this HTC phone as well, it simply lacks the innovative hunger that the Lumia 920 has. The Lumia 920 gets people excited, the HTC Windows Phone 8X does not.
While many have written off Nokia, the Lumia 920 shows that the company is still very capable of innovation even when they don't control the OS. Microsoft should be showcasing this type of innovation, rather than rewarding 'more of the same'. Microsoft's window for success with Windows Phone 8 is very narrow, and if they don't promote the most exciting devices they are going to simply be written off as they have been for many years.
What we hope that HTC does not do is to launch different phones on different carriers like they did with the HTC One X and One S. HTC would have had much more success with the One S if they had launched it on all carriers instead of just T-Mobile. Currently, they claim that the 8X OR the 8S will be available on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. The concerning term is the injection of the OR indicating that there will be a mixture of 8X and 8S depending on the carrier. Since the Windows Phone 8 platform is built on the Qualcomm MSM8960 (Snapdragon S4), HTC does not have to build entirely different phones for different carriers and should be able to launch both devices at different price points on all three carriers at a relatively low cost. But we don't think that HTC will do this, and they will once again pick and choose (or the carriers will) which devices will go to which carrier. HTC needs to sell as many phones as they can physically make considering the position they are in right now.
If Microsoft wants to continue to be considered to be a ho-hum competitor in the mobile space they need to take more risks and support the partners that do the same. Microsoft will not gain any market respect from consumers if their premier partner is essentially launching 'yet another' high resolution, Snapdragon based, colorful, thin, light phone. There are simply enough phones that already share the same feature set as the HTC Windows Phone 8X and that doesn't make it or Windows Phone 8 exciting.
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