Editorial

How the HTC Windows Phone 8X could be improved

The Windows Phone 8X by HTC has been out for a few months now, being one of the first Windows Phone 8 devices to launch worldwide. It brought with it a deceptively slim, colorful design, a stunning Super LCD 2 display and decently powerful hardware for a Windows Phone, but not everything about the device is completely perfect. 

After having an 8X in my possession for over a month now, it's time to take a look at some of the things that could perhaps be improved about the Windows Phone 8X. Who knows? Maybe HTC will take some of this advice and use it to make their next Windows Phone flagship even better.

1. Include more than 16 GB of storage

Really, HTC, there are no excuses for using such a middling amount of storage in a flagship device, especially when a) there's no microSD card slot; and b) 16 GB is the maximum fixed storage option. I find it annoying that my entire music collection, just over 17 GB, does not fit on the 8X when it does on both my Android device and the Lumia 920. When you're paying for a premium device, you shouldn't have to micromanage the content on your phone because it's about to fill up.

I understand the choice not to include a microSD card slot, because it would indeed disrupt the unibody design, but at least give me the option to buy a phone with 32 GB of storage. The HTC One X, HTC's Android flagship, comes standard with 32 GB of storage, and if you opt to get the HTC One X+ you can even get 64 GB of storage!

2. Improve the color coating method

I'm disappointed to see this happen to my HTC 8X, as I really like the color and the feel of the polycarbonate body, but it's clear to me just a few weeks after I published my review that the color coating method is not the best. On the top corners of the phone, the blue color has visibly and significantly worn away to a darker black, while near the camera button the soft-touch coating has started to bubble and peel, revealing a smooth undercoat.

Now it should be noted here that I'm always very careful with how I handle my phones, especially those that I have to return after a review loan. In my entire time reviewing phones for Neowin, I've never scratched a display or caused significant wear to any of the phones I've used, including my Droid RAZR that I use in-between other review devices. The wear I'm seeing from just a few weeks of use with the 8X is a concerning one-off, and one that I'm not alone in experiencing.

If you get a black model, the color wear on the corners is not a problem, but you may experience peeling of the coating at some point. It would be nice to see HTC improve their method of coating the HTC 8X and giving it its color, because signs of wear should not appear after just a few weeks of use.

3. Increase the battery size

At 1,800 mAh the battery of the HTC 8X is not quite up to scratch in comparison with other top-end Android and Windows Phone devices; for example the Lumia 920 comes with a 2,000 mAh battery and the ATIV S has a 2,300 mAh cell. At the hands of powerful internals it does, at times, suffer the fate of dying prematurely and often barely makes it to the end of a serious day's work.

Ideally I would have liked to see the 8X's battery increased to around 2,000 mAh or above, without any significant increase in the size of the device, as that sort of size would allow the HTC 8X to adequately last out a day. Either that, or HTC needs to do some serious work on optimizing the phone's software to more efficiently use the battery - it's not too late to make software changes!

4. Put wireless charging in all models

For some bizarre reason, the Verizon HTC 8X that includes CDMA radios also includes wireless inductive charging, while the standard international model does not. It'd be nice if every model of the 8X included Qi-standard inductive charging, not only for feature parity between different versions of the same device, but also for the convenience associated with cable-free charging.

The trade-off? To add the inductive charging coil it has made the Verizon HTC 8X 2.1 grams heavier with no change in thickness. Seems reasonable to me. 

5. Add more camera settings and features

Aside from a few basic scene settings and camera controls, the Windows Phone 8X really lacks when it comes to camera software. It's sorely missing options to control focus in both video and photo modes, and the sort of live effects I've come to love from other HTC phones (like the One X) don't make a showing here. Even the basic camera controls, such as contrast and exposure, just say "higher" or "lower" than a "normal" value, which doesn't say much about what it's actually doing.

I know that Windows Phone 8's new lenses feature is supposed to take care of some of the other missing aspects, such as HDR photography, panoramas, time-lapse and other cool modes, but HTC provides zero first-party options for these sort of shots. The only bundled Lens is Bing Vision, and that does little in the way of changing up your photography, meaning HTC is relying on third-party apps to make the camera better. They don't do this with their Android phones, and Nokia provides many first-party Lenses on their Lumias, so I would have liked to see HTC get their act together and improve the camera software.

6. Tweak the firmware

Now this is something that could actually be fixed about the HTC 8X, unlike some of the other hardware-related suggestions that are a bit too late to implement at this stage. There are two particular things that HTC could tweak in regards to the 8X's firmware that would make the phone a that little bit better to use every day.

The first relates to the phone's auto-brightness mode, which does not ever utilize the full range of brightness levels, instead choosing from a smaller subsection based on the brightness level you set. This means that generally you'll need to set the phone on medium brightness for the best battery life, but then occasionally you'll need to manually change it to high when you're outside in the sun. If HTC tweaked this so auto-brightness actually used the full range of display brightness levels, then it wouldn't be so much of a hassle.

Tweak the camera and this photo wouldn't look as mediocre

The second is that the camera doesn't perform optimally on cloudy days, often taking darker-than-expected photographs even when there is plenty of visible light. Tweaking the automatic white balance, contrast and exposure levels for medium-light situations would make the camera so much better, as at other times (full sun, low light) there is not much to complain about in regards to the 8X camera. Adjusting the autofocus as well to recognize macro situations more quickly would also work wonders.

Got anything else to add? Let us know how you'd improve the Windows Phone 8X by HTC in the comments below.

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Scorpus said,

I know that, I was more referring to the focus mode - eg. macro, single, continuous, dynamic area, etc.

Lets face it, if you want to take proper photos on a smart phone then you are dreaming. The 920 is the closest you will get to a proper professional camera simply because pin hole cameras mounted on PCBs just aren't going to cut it.

Well of course a smartphone is no subsitute for an actual camera, but I've seen options to set at least a macro mode on basically every other smartphone. I could choose continuous/static autofocus modes during video capture on the Galaxy S III from memory. I don't really need dynamic area/single point but the more options the better

Lies, all lies!

I agree with the battery and maybe the storage. I survived with 16GB in my HD7 though, so the 8X shouldn't be any different.
Maybe you just got a funky phone from the factory, as my cover has barely even taken a fingerprint, let alone a chip/scratch. And I have kids!

Also, bought this on the strength of your review. Plus now the 920 looks/feels/is very bulky.

yeoo_andy_ni said,
Also, bought this on the strength of your review. Plus now the 920 looks/feels/is very bulky.

It's definitely a great phone, but it's not perfect. And yes it does make the Lumia 920 feel huge.

16GB is fine for storage. Where HTC really messed up was putting only 4GB in the 8S with 1.3GB free for apps. Makes it an utterly pointless smart phone. You can literally install maybe 5/6 apps before the "other" section takes up all the storage with cache!

It's fine if you are not using the phone to listen to music.

I have a relatively small music collection and it takes over 9gb ...

Many of your concerns and especially #6, is why I bought the Lumina. After having 4 HTC phones for in excess of 2 years each in the house, I felt it was time to change.

HTC support seems to me of one that says, "Here's your new Phone, Thank You and Good Bye".

Nokia appears to be much more into your total life of the phone. Though it has only been 2 months, all the software updates, present a much more friendlier experience.

I bought this in Australia because the Nokia Lumia 920 was exclusive to Telstra and they still have no stock! (I was also interested in the Samsung Ativ-S, but that's yet to be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.) Having said that, I completely concur with all your points and would add that not having the much vaunted OTA updates available in every country simultaneously is another major bummer. Also, what happened to the rumour that Nokia Drive+ would be available to all WP8 devices? Still, the single biggest let down with this OS is the lack of really good quality apps.

I just don't understand why they chose such a cheap manufacturing method for the shell. My two year old HTC Trophy hasn't worn anything in the plastic parts (The soft touch plastic on the rear). It looks brand new. Why couldn't they have used that same plastic, but in different colors? I'm glad I went with the Nokia Lumia 920, despite its minor issues compared to the 8X.

A flagship device with flaws like this feels more like a budgetphone on steroids. In light of this I have decided not to purchase the lower-end 8S. I'm already having a hard time spending this much on a phone, but if the coating is going to discolour or even scrape off then I don't want it. Since there are no other decent WP8 alternatives I have to say Android here I come.

Phacoid said,
A flagship device with flaws like this feels more like a budgetphone on steroids. In light of this I have decided not to purchase the lower-end 8S. I'm already having a hard time spending this much on a phone, but if the coating is going to discolour or even scrape off then I don't want it. Since there are no other decent WP8 alternatives I have to say Android here I come.

I got a cover at T-Mobile that fits like a glove and I'm not worried about color peeling off or anything of that sort, loving this phone, what I'm really worried about is screen scratches, the so called gorilla glass on this phone seems to have issues, I already got a tiny little scratch ( very hard to see, must put at an angle against light to notice though) so I put a screen protector on it.

Storage is my main complaint. I have an MP3 collection that's nearly 40 GB, but I'd like to put somewhere around 20 GB or so on the phone.

I'm actually fairly pleased with how long the phone lasts. After your review I was expecting to get really poor battery life (especially since it was only slightly better than the Optimus G in the battery test), but Windows Phone 8 seems to have pretty good battery management. Listening to music doesn't kill my battery, and WiFi usage doesn't either. It'll typically last me the whole day (whether or not that's because of the update I don't know, however).

I had 8X (California Blue) for a month now and I really love it. As for the concerns:
1. 16GB is more than enough for me. I am not a heavy user or one who download many apps. My last WP was HTC Radar 4G (8GB), and I still had some GBs left. I realize that this is more of personal need or preference. As for me, 16GB is more than enough.
2. Blue coating - I use Diztronic case that fits like a glove, so I do not have to worry about painting peeling off. Even if it did, I still be using a case, so it is invisible.
3. Battery life. Interestingly enough, 8X is better than Radar. 8X lasts one full day PLUS another half day. I turned NFC, bluetooth, internet sharing, kid's corner, and find my phone OFF. I also use "Low" screen brightness (and not automatic). Low setting has been more easy on my eyes. Med. brightness was too bright for me. So at least for me, I do not worry about battery life. And I use my phone moderately (email, web, text, OneNote, music, etc).
4. Wireless charging. I do agree that, 8X should have one. It will be very convenient.
5. Camera setting. I agree totally. 8X camera is so basic that I am little disappointed.
6. Firmware. I agree. If they could improved the user experience by updating a firmware, they should.

But overall, I love my 8X.

I just wrote a blog yesterday about the 8X , I've only had if for a week but so far I'm extremely happy with it. Check out my profile if you want to check out my blog.

I can't believe the shoddy paint job! I am still using an old Android phone by HTC and even it has a proper design. Seems like HTC just wanted to cut corners.

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