5 Days with the HTC Windows Phone 8X

[sc:mobile-category ]So now that I’ve had my HTC 8x for a few days, what do I think of it?

Hardware

First off, physically the phone is quite impressive, light and thin and sturdily built it is bar none the best HTC phone I’ve owned.  HTC has come a long way since my old Windows Mobile 6800.  The phone almost feels too light and thin in your hands, compared to by Wp7 HTC HD7 it is a major step forward.

For some reason Bell decided to get the California Blue model in, which to pretty much everyone I’ve shown it too says that it’s purple.  The case material feels a little like rubber and provides a good grip on the phone.  However it does show up scuffs quite easily and after only a couple of days I have a dozen or more black marks on it.  On the purple they are hard to see but I can image that on the yellow or green models they would show up easily.  I think I would recommend the black version as they would be effectively invisible on it.  I’ll be getting an Otterbox for it when they come out and that should take care of the problem.

One other hardware issue (which has been common on all the HTC phone’s I’ve had) is the buttons.  They really suck.  If you don’t hit them just right they don’t register.

After an hour or so of using the phone I noticed that once in a while if I had it laying flat on a table and then picked up the phone it would go to sleep at unexpected times.  I couldn’t get it to replicate the issue consistently and a few days later HTC released an update to their “attentive phone” application which controls features like muting the ringer when the phone is turned over.  I assume the update fixed whatever was being misread and since I’ve installed it the problem has not come back.

A second issue that still exists is that the auto-brightness control seems to be a little sensitive.  It dims or brightens at what seem like random intervals and but isn’t too bad so I’ve left it on for now, I can always turn it off if required.  A holdover from WP7 that I would like to see fixed is the ability to pin the brightness control to the start screen, but alas it still can’t be done in WP8.

Initial Setup and Impressions

Once I had the phone powered up, I added my Microsoft account and it added by Twitter and LinkedIn feeds to my phone, however it didn’t bring over Facebook for some reason and I had to re-add it manually.

My HD7 felt fast, but this phone feels like greased lightning.  Page transitions are even faster and smoother than in WP7.

Another nice change is the vibration feature, it’s toned down quite a bit for the key presses and feels much better than the harsh buzz from the HD7.

The camera is also a big step up from the HD7, HTC had a bad reputations for cameras but recently has made major strides.  The camera in the 8X takes crisp and bright photo’s, a huge step up from the muddied mess of the HD7.

Windows Phone 7 Apps

Something I hadn’t seen noted before in other reviews is how WP7 apps run on WP8.  Due to the aspect ratio change from 800×480 to 1280×720 when the app is scaled up there is a space at the top of the screen.  This can look a little weird if the application doesn’t use the default theme background colour, but isn’t a big deal.

Battery Life

Battery life is about the same as my old HD7, a day of reasonable usage gets me down to about 20% left.  A bigger battery would certainly have helped out but its no worse than my last phone so no complaints here.

Windows Phone 8 Start Screen

The WP8 Start Screen is very similar to WP7, but there are a few items of note:

  • The resizable tiles are nice, having a row of small tiles for various mail folders is convenient and reduces the amount of scrolling I have to do.
  • Being able to resize the calendar and pictures tiles is long overdue!
  • The slightly larger tile size in WP8 seems a little off to me still but I suspect I’ll get use to it soon enough.
  •  Without the “gutter” area on the right there’s no where for the right/left arrow button, which they’ve stuck at the very bottom of the Start Menu, they might as well have just let it off completely.

IE10

Being able to add the tabs button to the main address bar is fantastic and IE10 seems very capable at this point.  The only think I wish they would add is the ability to select an icon instead of a screen grab of the site to the Live Tile when you pin an address to the Start Menu.

Pre-Installed Software

Beyond the HTC software, Bell installed NO additional software.  Not even their self service app.  This kind of surprised me but I think that due to the lateness of getting the hardware out the door they may have skipped this step.  Perhaps in the next batch of phones they will add some.

Windows Phone 8 Specific Apps

There are a couple of WP8 specific apps that have already made it to my must have list, these are:

  • Battery Level for WP8, this gives you a percentage of battery remaining, both as a live tile as well as on the lock screen.  It has a fee little issues (never reaches 100% for example) but it’s free and ad free as well so no complaints.
  • Skype, this is still a preview but it certainly shows where it is going.

Keyboard/Speech Language

When the phone arrived it had two languages installed, English and French, which is quite typical for a Canadian phone.  After a few hours of use I started a new e-mail and suddenly I found all my words being redlined, it turns out that WP8 had decided to flip over to French instead of English for the input language.  I went over to settings and switched back to English and then deleted French.

The next day I was poking around and found that the voice support wasn’t enabled by default and had to download the language file for it.  By default it selected French again and I changed it over to English and downloaded the support file.  When it completed I noticed my keyboard language was changed to French again.  Not only had it switched the language but it had even re-installed French again.

This is weird but it hasn’t happened again so I’ll keep an eye on it and see what happens.

Final Thoughts

The phone is quite nice and WP8, while much the same, has some nice new touches that makes the experience even better than before.  I would not hesitate to recommend the 8X to anyone, which is more than I can say for the previous generation of WP7 devices.

There is one items I haven’t written about here yet, I’m going to make it a separate post, that’s the sync client for Windows Phone 8.  Let’s just say it hasn’t been a smooth transition from WP7 and leave it at that for now.

Greg

Greg

Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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Greg

Greg

Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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