Windows Phone 8X by HTC Review (Verizon): An iPhone 5 Owner’s Perspective

HTC’s Windows Phone 8X by HTC is a great looking, snappy device that relies on the familiarity of Windows, a unique Live Tile interface and a growing app catalog to compete with the iPhone 5, Galaxy SIII and other high-end phones available on Verizon Wireless. In this Windows Phone 8X review we’ll be looking at how the 8X compares to the iPhone 5.

Our full Windows Phone 8X review dives deeper into the performance of the 8X, and is required reading for anyone considering a Windows Phone 8 device.

We’ll also discuss how these features compare to Android, and users looking for a Galaxy S III vs. Windows Phone 8X comparison should read iPhone vs. Galaxy S III review to fill in any missing blanks.

Combined with the new operating system, Windows Phone 8X by HTC users get a quick processor, 4G LTE and better app selection compared to previous mobile Windows offerings. Unfortunately,  Windows Phone 8 is missing out on many standard iPhone and Android features, such as voice integration.

Pros

  • Great design & build quality
  • Great battery life.
  • Live Tiles and groups shine for sharing and communicating
Cons

  • Mediocre camera for a flagship phone.
  • Windows Phone 8 lacking standard iPhone & Android features
  • Non-removable storage and battery.

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The Windows Phone 8X (left) matches up with the iPhone 5 (right).

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Windows Phone 8X vs. iPhone 5 Design

While the iPhone 5 uses beveled corners and straight edges, the Windows Phone 8X relies on smooth curves. The front of the 8X is a large piece of glass that stretches to the edges of phone. The Windows Phone 8X is a joy to hold and look at thanks to bright colors and a compact design. The soft touch finish feels right  and the are curves just feel natural.

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The 8X and iPhone 5 offer different design choices.

The 8X is available in blue, black and red on Verizon, and the colors do a lot to help the phone stand out in the crowd of monochrome smartphones. The Blue HTC 8X we reviewed could easily pass for a branded Detroit Lions or Indianapolis Colts phone thanks to the silver and grey branding on the back of the phone.

The back of the black iPhone 5 is susceptible to scratches, and iPhone 5 cases are a popular purchase. The Windows Phone 8X isn’t impervious to scratches or damage, but after several weeks of use our review 8X doesn’t have any signs of wear.

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The 8X offers three buttons, to the iPhone 5′s one home button.

The 8X is controlled by three capacitive buttons at the bottom of the display, like many Android smartphones. While Apple relies on multiple taps on the home button to access functions, the 8X puts more options out front. Users can go back to a previous app or page with the back button, go home with a press of the Windows button and search Bing with the search key. Holding the back key opens recent apps and holding the Windows key opens a version of voice control, but you can’t do anything like creating an appointment with your voice. The lack of a full-featured voice application like Siri is glaring.

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The HTC 8X is slightly larger and thicker than the iPhone 5.

A small button on the right side of the 8X opens the camera from any screen, even when the phone is sleeping, and acts as a physical shutter button. The iPhone 5 volume up button acts as a physical shutter, but it doesn’t activate the camera or sit in the position most users expect a camera button.

A small notification LED to the right of the 8X speaker grille offers alerts to messages, something the iPhone 5 does not do without turning the camera flash into a notification light.

Windows Phone 8X vs. iPhone 5 Display

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The iPhone 5 and HTC 8X feature great displays.

Text is crisp and sharp on both phones, though the iPhone 5′s display is slightly brighter and whiter than the 8X. Both phones deliver a very good reading experience in the Kindle app.

The Windows Phone 8X display is 4.3-inches, slightly larger than the iPhone 5′s 4-inch display. These displays are small in comparison to the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 2, but the Windows Phone 8 feels right at home on this display. The 8X features a 720P HD display that looks very nice. For comparison purposes the resolution is 1280 x 720 and the pixels per inch sit at a lofty 342. The iPhone 5′s display is 1136 x 640 with a 326 ppi rating.

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Close up of text on HTC 8X.

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Close up of text on iPhone 5.

Colors pop and blacks are deep on both the 8X and the iPhone 5. Viewing angles are similarly good. On paper the Windows Phone 8X has better specs, but in use, the displays are too close to pick a winner as both offer a great viewing experience.

Performance

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Windows Phone 8 user interface.

Windows Phone 8X doesn’t feature a quad-core processor like much of the Android competition,, but the dual-core processor is powerful enough to deliver snappy performance even with many Live Tiles showing new content.

Opening apps on the Windows Phone 8X is not always as fast as on the iPhone, with some lag as the app loads or starts up. This isn’t enough to be a major issue, but it is an area where Microsoft needs to improve Windows Phone 8.

The Windows Phone 8X and iPhone 5 tested both use Verizon’s large and fast 4G LTE network, delivering great speeds for streaming audio and video.

The Windows Phone 8X only comes with 16GB of storage on Verizon, compared to the iPhone 5, which is available in 32GB or 64GB sizes. There is no way to expand the storage on either phone, but 8X users may feel the pinch when loading up movies or TV shows and after taking photos and videos for a year.

Battery Life

The Windows Phone 8X battery life is good, lasting a full day of average use during the time it was under review. The iPhone 5 offers similar battery life. Both phones can charge up quickly to around 70 or 80% in about an hour.

The Verizon Windows Phone 8X features wireless charging with an optional charger. The phone uses the Qi wireless charging standard so there are a number of chargers available. The iPhone 5 does not feature wireless charging.

Call Quality and Audio

Call quality on the Windows Phone 8X by HTC is very good with loud, clear audio on both ends of the call. The call quality is better than the iPhone 5 based on multiple conversations on the phone. Audio quality is good on the 8X, which features Beats integration. When listening to audio over the speakers the iPhone has a slight edge for a better depth to the music. With headphones, both phones sound very good.

Cameras

The HTC Windows 8X features a wide angle front facing lens that includes more in a photo than the iPhone 5′s front facing camera as shown below.

HTC 8X front facing camera

Note how the HTC 8X ‘s wide angle lens captures more.

iPhone 5 front facing

The iPhone 5′s front facing camera cuts out part of the photo.

The rear facing 8 MP camera doesn’t perform as well as the iPhone 5, especially in low light. There is also a fair amount of flare that doesn’t appear in the same photos on the iPhone 5.

The Windows Phone 8X offers a touch to focus mode, but it takes the photo when it focuses instead of letting the owner frame the photo like the iPhone 5 does. The 8X is missing a panorama mode that arrived with the iPhone 5.

Several sample photos below compare the Windows Phone 8X with the iPhone 5 cameras.

Both phone shoot 1080P HD video.

Software and Apps

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A group shows notifications from favorite contacts.

The availability and quality of apps and the usefulness of Windows Phone 8 as a mobile operating system. While Windows Phone 8 improved in many areas it still falls short of the iPhone and iOS 6.

Windows Phone 8′s Live Tiles are the highlight of the operating system, so it’s a good thing that they are how users interact with the phone. The home screen us made up of customizable Live Tiles that show information about apps, contacts and more. This is a nice way to see what’s going on across a variety of apps and messaging services.

One of the nicest features is the ability to create a Live Tile for a group of contacts to see their status updates from all accounts in one place. A Live Tile can also show one contact, which is a great way to keep a spouse or partner’s info close. Tapping on either of these Live Tiles shows phone numbers, Facebook and Twitter updates and their recent photos without the clutter of hundreds of friends. When tapping on a Live Tile the phone doesn’t take you to the photo or update shown. This is confusing and frustrating, but doesn’t take away from the overall value of Live Tiles.

Your Live Tile offers a one-stop place to see all notifications from social networks and messages, check in or post a status update. It’s great to quickly post a status to Facebook and Twitter at once, instead of repeating. When posting a photo to Facebook, if you also share to Twitter, it will pre-load the same message.

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See all your notifications in one spot.

When it comes to app selection, Windows Phone 8 features many of the big names, but is still missing out on apps like Hulu Plus and Pandora. Netflix is on board as well as Audible and Kindle. Pandora is on the way as are many popular games. Dropbox is missing, but Skydrive syncs all photos taken with the Windows Phone 8X.

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Netflix doesn’t take up the entire 4.3-inch display. Note the black to the left.

The lack of Hulu plus is quite noticeable as there is no way to buy and watch a TV show or movie on the Windows Phone 8X without syncing to a PC. Netflix is available and was updates on November 30th, but does not take advantage of the full screen size.

Windows Phone 8 does offer access to Office apps like PowerPoint, Excel and Word, so users can create or open office documents on the go. The apps make it possible to edit a spreadsheet, but creating complex items from scratch is touch on a smaller screen. Still, there is no official Office for iPhone app available.

Windows Phone 8 includes Data Sense, a tool that monitors how much data is used each month, and which apps are using the most data. The iPhone 5 can show data used, but not which apps are using the most data.

Data Sense HTC 8X

Data Sense in Windows Phone 8X shows how much data is used and what’s using it.

It also includes a feature to find nearby WiFi hotspots, but failed to show WiFi at Panera, McDonald’s and many other locations with free WiFi.

Windows Phone 8 does not feature universal voice control or dictation feature like the iPhone 5′s Siri or Google Now on Android. Holding the Windows Button launches voice control that can call or text someone, search for items and open apps by name, but it cannot set reminders or create appointments by voice.

Dictation is available in select apps like Messaging, but it is not built into the keyboard like on iPhone or Android. This is missing form the status update section so there’s no talking to Tweet or update Facebook.

It’s also worth noting that the iPhone 5 accessory market is much larger with everything from shoes and fitness bands to cases and other accessories available. Accessories for the Windows Phone 8X are scarce, and likely will be until the new OS gains more traction.

Is the Windows Phone 8X Worth It?

The Windows Phone 8X is a solid phone that meets the needs of most smartphone owners. There are still some areas where Windows Phone 8 is lacking, such as in app selection and voice control, but the Live Tiles and new take on a users experience could tempt some smartphone shoppers.

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The HTC 8X can stand with the iPhone 5, even if it is behind in some areas.

App selection is improving and users planning to upgrade to a Windows 8 computer may find it appealing over the iPhone. Windows Phone 8 includes mobile versions of Office, including Excel, Word and PowerPoint, which may appeal to some business users not satisfied with office apps on the iPhone.

Windows Phone 8X vs. iPhone 5 Gallery

  

Comments

  1. flud says

    Voice integration has been part of windows phone since it’s inception using Tell Me. Please stop spreading misinformation. How is non-removable battery and no expandable storage a con when the iphone doesn’t have it either

    • Don says

      I think he accurately described Tell Me. It searches, opens apps, dials numbers, and composes text messages. It does not dictate emails or answer questions.

    • Josh Smith says

      It’s a con for the iPhone 5 as well. Tell Me doesn’t match Siri on features. It’s good, but not to the level I expect given the competition. This phone does everything i need, but not everything I want. It is still a very tempting phone, which should come across in the review.

  2. thejenncast says

    Not a bad review but I think you failed to prove that the iPhone was more useful than the 8X. One thing that is commonly missed in these types of reviews is how much faster it is to access and share things with WP8. Truthfully, I didn’t notice it until tonight when I wanted to share photos from Skydrive, show a video shared in by a contact in a group, and share a photo from a Room. The social integration with WP8 exceeds either Android or WP8. Also, it is true that Android and iPhone offer more voice commands, I find the WP voice commands work better and the interactivity of my 8X with my Motorola Roadster was effortless and the hands free functionality far superior to Android.

    • Josh Smith says

      Thanks. I tried to key in on that in the software section, but perhaps could have done a better job. It does offer the fastest access to key people I want to follow in a crowded social network.

      • flud says

        Fair enough

        I emailed the developers of Ask Ziggy as to when the app will be available for wp8. Apparently it’s only currently compatible with Wp7. Ask Ziggy was most definitely a siri competitor

  3. David Santiago says

    Thanks Josh for all the information you provided for a novice like me, its true, there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel

  4. palfor03 says

    Josh, I think something important that is lacking in this review is the glaring difference in price. 8x is a steal compared to the iPhone 5!

  5. Chelsey says

    I have the IPhone 4s and I love this phone it’s easy to use and Siri is fun. I plan to pass it to my 10 yr old when I upgrade. I read this review because I am considering switching to windows 8x because I don’t like the way apple isolates your access and complicates pairing and sharing with non-Apple products. Also, it requires your appleID for everything and requires use of your bank account. I don’t think this is necessary when u r downloading free apps. I don’t have a lot of money, I live paycheck to paycheck and there r times when my account is near 0. My son downloaded an app or something with my IPhone when my account was low and it made it where I had to completely change accounts with my appleID. This was very inconvenient because I could not download, or update anything on my phone until I used a new account number. Apple makes great stuff but The system is impractical. What’s the comparison in this area?

  6. J.J. says

    Does it have a SD card slot to download my own media, please, and to what amount of storage can it accept? I need to move Office documents, mp3s and photos back and forth to my desktop. I’m not emailing documents, Excel selections and PowerPoint slides and music back and forth.
    Thank you.

    • Robert Stephenson says

      SkyDrive, as in the “cloud” is what I’ve found to be very useful here. It’s just the Microsoft version of “DropBox”…… So, the moving of files is not required…..much easier to have the common location to acces files from all devices…..there’s also a MAC version of SkyDrive.

  7. Amir says

    I have the verizon 8x in black. the phone has no decent maps app (bing maps is horrible (try searching for restaurants etc) and it just can’t find them) and there’s no decent navigation app.

    Proof: There’s a bar in manhattan called middle branch. Attempts to search for middle branch (or middle branch nyc) in bing maps put me in the middle of a town called branch).

    I miss google maps

  8. Julie says

    There is an application – free and fun – called “Iris” (Siri” spelled backwards) that is very good for the windows phone and for Android phones, and you can customize it with an avatar. Change the voice, change the look etc. It still will not make appointments for you but it will read out texts, emails and the like, and can do talk to text.
    That being said however, the Windows phone for me is not good because I cannot get to a phone keypad with 1 touch of the phone icon (after turning on, swiping to unlock and entering a password of course – all complicated compared to by blackberry 1-step). iphone and Android is only 1 step shorter, but is is a good step shorter.

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