Microsoft CEO Ballmer displays the new HTC Windows Phone 8X and the HTC Windows Phone 8S at a launch event in New York.

With 8X and 8S, HTC steals Nokia's thunder

HTC has introduced a pair of new Windows Phone 8 handsets: The 8X and the 8S. Both devices are expected to launch in November. 

If you're a tech news junkie, it's probably hard to hear or see anything but the words iPhone 5 right now, but believe it or not, other smartphones do exist, and a few are even being demoed and released in the run-up to the iPhone 5 launch. Cases in point are Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S, a pair of handsets manufactured by HTC and powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone 8

Both the 8X and 8S were unveiled today by Microsoft and HTC brass. Expect a November launch date, and a wide range of carrier options, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Of the two phones, the 8X is the higher-end of the pair, with a 4.3-inch HD display and a 1.5-GHz, dual-core Snapdragon chip. 

The 8S, on the other hand, is a little smaller in shape and display – it gets a 4-inch display instead of a 4.3-inch display – and a 1-GHz, dual-core Qualcomm S4 chip. So how do the devices handle? Well, over at PC Mag, Alex Colon and Sascha Segan took the 8X and 8S for a quick spin, and they like what they saw – especially the sharp and vibrant looks of the phones. 

"The HTC Windows Phone 8X is made of polycarbonate and comes in blue, red, or yellow," they write. "If you dig the more traditional smartphone look it comes in black too, but these bright colors are really where it's at." The 8S, they continue, cuts a few corners to save cost, but turns in a "solid" performance – "just as responsive as the 8X" in early tests.

Where all this leaves Nokia is a little unclear. After all, Nokia and Microsoft partnered to much fanfare last year – but now HTC seems to be stealing a little bit of Nokia's thunder. As Brian Bennett of CNET notes, the 8S and 8X look very, very much like the Nokia Lumia line. 

"When HTC representatives first uncovered its new products, literally removing a cloth that covered them for dramatic effect, I briefly thought I was in the wrong meeting," Bennett writes. "That's because the HTC Windows Phone 8X could easily be a doppelganger for Nokia's Lumia handsets, either the Lumia 900 or upcoming Lumia 920. Honestly, if I squinted my eyes I could almost make out Nokia's logo above the device's 4.3-inch screen instead of HTC's."

All of which has made Nokia a little cantankerous. In a statement to the Verge, Nokia marketing chief Chris Weber attempted to frame the Lumia line as the true Windows Phone 8 device. 

"While others may choose to tactically re-brand their products, Nokia is driving an industry-leading smartphone franchise – that we call Lumia -- exclusively around Windows Phone," Weber wrote. "With Lumia, we are creating truly differentiated experiences like PureView imaging, location and navigation, wireless charging and Nokia Music. And we’re just getting started!"

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