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Monday
Nov122012

HTC Windows Phone 8X - Early Impressions

Last week I upgraded from a Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7.5 to the HTC Windows Phone 8X running Windows Phone 8. I'm not going to write a full review of the hardware or the OS, but I am going to brain-dump some initial thoughts on them both. 

The Pros:

  • Great screen - increased resolution really helps.
  • Very responsive. Much better performance than Windows Phone 7. Could be the hardware or the OS, probably both.
  • Changes to the home screen are good - I'm very happy with the increased data density.
  • Camera is very decent (I don't need it to be a DSLR replacement).
  • Audio is great. The speaker is loud and clear; Beats Audio makes my (Bose) headphones sound better than ever!
  • The phone looks and feels much slimmer than it actually is. It's also light enough that it practically disappears in a jean pocket.
  • Screenshots! This is a big deal for those of us who want to document and write about Windows Phone.
  • You can move content between WP8 and a Windows RT tablet. That might not help many people, but you can't transfer content directly to an iPhone from an iPad.
  • Kid's Corner works very well (although I did experience a bug which made it still ask for my PIN to unlock the phone the first time I set it up).

The Cons are mostly to do with Windows Phone 8, rather than the 8X hardware, so I'll get my one gripe with that out of the way first:

  • The case isn't tight enough around the screen - there's a thin gap at the top of the screen big enough to get dust and lint trapped. That's going to constantly annoy me (although not a lot - it's very much a 1st world problem).
  • Podcast support is a disaster. It might be fine in the USA, but given that there aren't regional licensing issues with podcasts, it's totally unacceptable to leave it so completely broken for everyone else!
  • Not all Windows Phone 7 apps are compatible (TuneIn Radio, for example). I don't think that has been made clear.
  • Auto-updating of the lockscreen with Bing images doesn't seem to be working for me (it does work with the HTC option of displaying the weather). UPDATE: It does work, but it's around 12 hours later than updates from the Bing My Lockscreen app on my desktop and Surface.
  • I'd like even more live tile sizes (2x1, for example).
  • Data Sense was much-touted, but isn't there yet, and maybe it never will be on your carrier.

So basically the one thing that annoys me the most about Windows Phone 8 is the totally abysmal podcast support.  It wasn't wonderful in Windows Phone 7 outside the USA, where you had to sync via Zune before you could subscribe to over-the-air updates on the device, and you could only browse the podcast directory in Zune if you used a registry hack. That said, even if the only thing we could do was enter the address of an RSS feed, that would be better than what we have today in WP8.

I'm sure there are lots of people who will buy one of these phones and never care about podcasts, but for me they're really important - they're how I stay current with tech and where I get new music. I usually listen to upwards for four a week while I'm commuting.

On Windows Phone 8, if you open up "music + videos" and then "podcasts", you get a helpful message suggesting that you add some from the Store, except that there aren't any podcasts in my Store!

Now, I fully understand why there are regional differences in marketplaces for music, video, books, even some apps. There are content distribution agreements that need to be signed with different regional organisations. That's fine. It absolutely doesn't apply to podcasts!

The podcast directory that Microsoft maintains for its US customers is just as valid for customers in the UK, India, Guatemala and everywhere else. I'm sure they'd say that they want to localise the experience so that it highlights podcasts in the right language or of greater local interest (football vs football, etc). Nobody wants to wait for that, especially since they could've done it in the last two years if they were going to. If the option is the US podcast store or nothing, then guess what - the most popular podcasts in the world are from the US and are consumed worldwide, so we'd rather have the ability to subscribe to them.

Maybe it's just that on-demand digital media isn't the future. Oh… hang on a minute…!

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Reader Comments (6)

If you have gaps around your screen you should probably take the handset back, mine certainly doesn't have any gaps "big enough to get dust and lint trapped" - it's been kicking around in my for a week, and been bounced off the floor once, and it still looks pristine.

The Bing wallpaper was working for me, but only seemed to changes when it was plugged in and on wifi.

The podcast situation is completely ridiculous though - I'm currently filling the gap with an app called "Podcasts!", but I shouldn't need a 3rd party app for that. It's particularly daft that you can get an "infinite music" pass, which must have had some hideous legal nonsense to work through, but can't download free podcasts.

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrumpydev

The podcast thing is an issue. Yes here in the US it works but unlike Zune where you can add a podcast via URL this is currently not an option with Zune-less WindowsPhone 8. I have seen alternatives (i.e. using iTunes) and I have looked at apps, but in this area WindowsPhone has taken a step back. I do have the NEBytes podcast on my 920 via the Store by the way.

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjkavanagh58

I'm currently using the SlapDash app for podcasts, but it's far from ideal. The fact that Paul Thurrott suggests you use iTunes and sync podcasts to your phone just goes to show how ridiculous this situation is.

I'd be tempted to say that Apple would never release a product in this state, but maps happened.

I'll try to be more patient on the Bing lockscreen thing.

November 12, 2012 | Registered Commenterjonoble

@jkavanagh58, thanks for the support, but we're not releasing another podcast until the whole world can listen on WP8 - because I know they want to! ;-)

November 12, 2012 | Registered Commenterjonoble

One question, how did you decide on the HTC not the Nokia!

November 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter@thommck

Thom, that's a good question. There isn't a single answer; it was a bit to do with size and weight and a bit to do with availability, but mostly because I care more about audio than I do imaging. The HTC with it's amplified speaker and the Beats Audio processing on the headphone output has the best sound I've heard from a pocketable device in a long time. I get the extra volume that I've been longing for when listening to audiobooks on the train, and my favourite trance tracks have a more rich and full range.

November 16, 2012 | Registered Commenterjonoble

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