Monday, December 3, 2012

HTC's Windows phone is flat out cool


It may be hard to imagine Microsoft in the role of mobile phone trendsetter, a company that could produce a new phone that makes both the iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S III seem a little, well, dated.

But that's exactly the impact of the new Windows Phone 8, which I got to test drive on an HTC model called the 8X. Released just a few weeks ago, the Windows operating system is shaking up the Android/iOS landscape. And the sleek design of the 8X phone is giving that effort a big boost.

What's so special about Windows 8 on a phone is it's so different. Microsoft dumps the standard mobile phone look that has rows of apps floating over a techno image or a photo of your favorite child/pet/pop star. Instead, you get a sleek grid of tiles arranged to suit your preferences. It's clean and bold and it says "Dude, I have it together."

You can customize the layout by rearranging the tiles and selecting a new color scheme. If you buy the phone with specific color case, like California blue or Zingy yellow, there's a scheme to match.  

And, the phone is amazingly easy to navigate with a single thumb. You can quickly and smoothly scroll vertically or horizontally to find and launch an app or a function.

The operating system is designed to seamlessly work with the new Windows 8 OS for computers and integrate with Windows Live, Microsoft Office tools and Microsoft's Xbox gaming platform. But you don't have to have a new PC or an Xbox to appreciate the phone. It easily loaded my Google calendar and contact list.

While Facebook and a couple of other apps some pre-installed, the Windows Phone apps store has most of the other top apps. I found most of my favorites including Kindle, Kayak, Amazon, Evernote, eBay, and ESPN's ScoreCenter -- but not Flipboard, Instagram, HBO Go, or my bank's app.

But if you're not app-happy and ready try a phone that's classy, elegant and easy - Windows 8 may by just the your ticket.

The phone is available through Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile at prices starting at $149 with a contract.  



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