NEW YORK – HTC and Microsoft introduced the Windows Phone 8X and 8S at a Sept. 19 event, marking the next phase in what the pair said was a 15-year relationship.
Exceptionally thin and featuring soft-to-the-touch materials, the smartphones are wrapped in primary shades of red, yellow, blue and black that bring to mind Nokia’s Windows Phone efforts.
“HTC built this hardware from the ground up to really showcase the Windows Phone software,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the crowd. “It’s a Hero product with incredible cameras and killer, killer sound.”
HTC head of design Scott Croyle described the phones as featuring “3D Gorilla Glass that wraps and flowers over all four sides.” The front camera, he added, is “more than an afterthought.” It can shoot 1080p HD video, while the rear camera features a f2.0 lens, so “your photos will be great, even when the lighting isn’t.”
HTC again leaned on its partnership with Beats Audio, bringing the technology to Windows Phone for the first time.
The devices were spoken of in terms such as “crisp,” and “simple, crafted and human.”
The 8X has a 4.3-inch SuperLCD 2 720p display, a 1.5GHz processor, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel backside-illuminated camera, a front-facing 2.1MP camera, a viewing angle of 88 degrees and a weight of 4.6 ounces. It also has two dedicated amplifiers, one for the headphone jack and one for the speakers.
The smaller 8S has a 4-inch SuperLCD, a dual-core 1GHz processor, a 5MP rear-facing camera, 4GB of internal storage, a microSD slot for adding on, and a weight of 3.98 ounces.
The iPhone 5, to compare, weighs 3.95 ounces.
While U.S. consumers are more likely to associate the brand with Google’s Android platform, HTC CEO Peter Chou told the audience, “We have sold more Windows Phones than anyone.”
Chou, explaining the catalyst for the devices, said he met with Ballmer to discuss how the two companies could go “bigger and better than ever” and then told HTC’s designers, “We have to take a completely fresh approach; we need a breakthrough!”
Here, investors might offer an “Amen!” As the Google platform first gained popularity, HTC enjoyed success in the U.S. with devices like the HTC Evo and Droid Incredible, but ultimately was unable to compete against the Apple iPhone or out-Android Samsung’s Galaxy lineup. In April, Chou announced that, given the difficulty of fighting for U.S. consumers, HTC would focus more heavily on markets in Asia and Europe.
Earlier this month, Jason Mackenzie, HTC’s president of sales and marketing, told Reuters that alongside its Android efforts HTC planned to “go big on Windows 8.”
At the New York event, Mackenzie said HTC and Microsoft plan to bring these devices to market in “a big way,” and that they will “position the 8X and 8S as the signature Windows Phones.” This might come as not great news for Nokia, which likes to call itself Microsoft’s biggest partner in Windows Phone.
Starting in November, the 8X and 8S will be available from more than 150 wireless carriers in more than 50 countries. In the United States, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless will offer them. Pricing wasn’t announced.
“Beautiful design is at the heart of both the hardware and the software,” said Ballmer. “These phones are magically thin, and [as Windows Phones] are the first phones to, from the inside out, put people first.”