I’m loving my HTC 8X with Windows Phone 8

I dropped my phone back in September. I was getting my coat and shoes on and accidentally dropped it on the stone tile in our doorway. The screen was cracked pretty badly, but surprisingly everything still worked (well, everything except the proximity sensor). I had a spare screen protector, so I put that on to make sure I wouldn’t cut myself. I dropped into the TELUS store to check out my options, but being on contract I found I would basically have to buy out the old phone and then either pay for a new one or sign a new contract. I kept thinking to myself, why couldn’t this have happened in November?! I had been growing impatient for the arrival of Windows Phone 8 and had been planning to upgrade anyway.

I decided to stick it out with the cracked screen, but trust me, it wasn’t easy. Not just because of the screen either, but because despite Windows Phone 8 being released on October 29, devices were not available until weeks later (at least here in Canada). Being a TELUS customer was even worse – they have only just made the Samsung ATIV S available. I knew I wanted one of the two premier phones – Nokia’s Lumia 920 or HTC’s 8X. As luck would have it, just after they became available, one of my colleagues got the Lumia 920 and another got the 8X. That gave me the opportunity to see and hold each one in person. With its slimmer, lighter build, I decided the 8X was the phone for me (this piece from The Verge helped too).

HTC Windows Phone 8X

I spent a few hours trying to track one down at a Bell or Rogers store, but they either didn’t have any in stock or wouldn’t sell it to me. Thankfully I remembered hearing about OmegaCell, and that’s where I ultimately ordered mine from, unlocked. I picked up a $10 Micro-SIM from TELUS and a couple of hours later, I was up and running (for some reason the online site wouldn’t accept the new phone and SIM, so I had to call TELUS to get it activated, but that was quick and painless). There’s been a huge advertising push lately and I have seen more and more displays for Windows Phone, so I hope it becomes easier to get one of the devices.

I’ve had my “California Blue” 8X for a little over three weeks now, and I love it.

I think it’s a beautiful device. It’s just 10.12mm thick and weighs 130 grams (lighter than my LG Optimus 7 which weighed 157 grams but not as light as my BlackBerry Curve which was 115 grams). It features unibody construction, Gorilla Glass 2, a pixel density of 342ppi, and a soft polycarbonate back (full specs here).

HTC Windows Phone 8X

With its tapered edges, it truly is a comfortable phone to hold. I will say that this is the first phone I’ve owned that makes people go “wow, let me see”.

HTC Windows Phone 8X
BlackBerry Curve, LG Optimus 7, HTC 8X

The camera on my LG Optimus 7 was usable, but it wasn’t very good. The camera on the 8X is spectacular. Here’s a photo I took earlier this afternoon:

Downtown Edmonton

I think The Verge did a great job of highlighting the hardware in their review, so check that out for more detail.

Everything I loved about Windows Phone 7 still applies and in many cases has been improved:

  • Information at-a-glance with live tiles! It really is great to see upcoming appointments and the temperature without having to open separate apps.
  • Easy setup with all of my accounts including Microsoft/Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Hotmail, Google, and Office 365. This lets me sync email, calendars, contacts, and social alerts. It intelligently links contacts, which is awesome.
  • The “Me” tile is still just fantastic. Quick access to post an update or see mentions on Twitter and Facebook.
  • The combination of SMS, Messenger, and Facebook inside the messaging hub means I can use whatever service is appropriate, and I don’t have to open up separate apps to switch.
  • I can take photos and have them upload to SkyDrive automatically, or I can post them to Facebook and other services with a couple of taps. No need to open an app. The new camera saves settings and supports Lenses too.
  • Xbox integration for games and achievements, SkyDrive integration for photos and other files.
  • The keyboard on Windows Phone is just awesome. I’ve used the iPhone’s keyboard, and I don’t know what it is exactly, but the experience of typing on a Windows Phone is just so much better. No crazy autocorrect here! There’s some great detail behind the keyboard here.

WP8 Home Screen There’s a ton of under-the-hood improvements in Windows Phone 8, but there’s some fantastic, more visible new stuff too:

  • It seems like a small feature, but having three sizes of live tiles is great (as you can see in my home screen). For example, I like to keep the calendar tile large so that I can see the full details of upcoming events, but the messaging tile small so I just see the number of new messaging.
  • Internet Explorer 10 is included, thankfully. I’ve had far fewer issues browsing websites than I did before.
  • OneNote has been promoted to its own tile. I use this all the time and I love that my notes are automatically synced to SkyDrive across all my devices.
  • The 8X supports NFC so it has the Tap+Send feature which makes it easy to share photos and files with other devices.
  • I like the improved lock screen. I have mine set to use Bing’s images, so I get a beautiful new photo every day.
  • The new Skype app is beautiful and works really well. My old phone lacked a front-facing camera, but that’s no longer a problem!
  • Xbox Music is the improved successor to Zune. I can make a playlist on my desktop and have it sync automatically to my Xbox and phone.
  • Xbox SmartGlass enables me to control my Xbox 360 with my phone. This isn’t exclusive to WP8, but it is a fantastic feature.
  • I haven’t really used the Wallet feature yet, but it does seem promising.

Yes there’s fewer apps on Windows Phone, but the gap is closing. I would love to see an Instagram app, and maybe a Pair app. I know the lack of a Dropbox app is a big deal for many people. But there are some truly great apps on Windows Phone such as 4th & Mayor, a much better Foursquare app than the official one, and Baconit, a Reddit app. New apps appear all the time (more than 75,000 in 2012), and the improved Store make them easier to find than ever.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Windows Phone 8 and the HTC 8X. As I have said before, you should probably pick your device based on your ecosystem, but if you are in the market for a new phone and aren’t sure what to get, take a look at Windows Phone. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!