The budget-friendly HTC Windows Phone 8S

The Windows Phone 8S from HTC will run Microsoft's latest software, sport flashy colors, and won't break the bank.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
3 min read

In addition to the high-end Windows Phone 8X device, HTC also announced its Windows Phone 8S handset at today’s New York press event. Targeted squarely at midrange consumers, the 8S will feature comparatively dialed-down components to HTC’s flagship WP8 handset. Even so, the device will run the same advanced operating system from Microsoft and sport a flashy Nokia Lumia-esque aesthetic. I was treated to a personal audience with the HTC Windows Phone 8S and admit I enjoyed the brief time I spent with the product.

HTC's budget-minded Windows Phone 8S (pictures)

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First impressions and design
When I first locked eyes on the HTC Windows Phone 8S, I had the same tingling sensation of deja vu I experienced when I beheld HTC’s 8X WP8 flagship. The 8S flaunts a similar colorific chassis molded from premium polycarbonates. The phone is also rectangular with edges and corners that are smoothly rounded. HTC will offer the Windows Phone 8S in four color options called Highrise yellowish gray, Domino black-white, Atlantic blue, and Fiesta red. Just like the hues available on the 8X, I’m sure HTC’s marketing team had a field day choosing these titles.

Choose from four Lumia-like colors.

That said, the device looks flatter and dare I say more toylike than the premium 8X. This is probably because of the Windows Phone 8S’ smaller 4-inch screen and wide expanse of smooth plastic placed below it. The area below the display houses three Windows keys for Back, Start, and Search spelled out in Microsoft’s familiar pictograms.

The 8S isn't too thick.

Physical controls are minimal with a button for power (next to the 3.5mm headphone jack) on the handset’s top edge, and slim volume rocker along with dedicated camera key on the right. Around back sits the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash.

While the HTC Windows Phone 8S comes running Microsoft’s hotly anticipated mobile operating system, it’s powered by a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. That’s slower than the 1.5GHz CPU driving the HTC’s 8X. Of course the Qualcomm S4 is a worthy performer and Windows Phone has traditionally proved to be an efficient OS requiring less muscle to push along. It’s likely that WP8 will similarly be light and frothy.

If you snap photos with your phone often, then chances are good the 8S won’t float your boat. Equipped with a 5-megapixel camera that lacks the BSI sensor found in the Windows Phone 8X, I doubt image quality under low-light conditions will bowl you over. Of course HTC says the 8S has the same fancy imaging chip used by the 8X and HTC One class devices, so snapping pictures should be quick. Unfortunately HTC didn’t allow me to open the camera app and test this for myself, or move away from the home screen at all, for that matter.

On back sits a 5-megapixel camera.

Though my time with the HTC Windows Phone 8S was short and sweet, it felt like a compelling product. That said, I felt the same way about the Nokia Lumia 900, which despite being affordable, failed to move off store shelves in great numbers. Hopefully the 8S will also have a wallet-friendly sticker price. This paired with what Microsoft will prove to be its lust-worthy Windows Phone 8 software may translate into a hit for HTC. We’ll just have to wait until after the HTC Windows Phone 8S ships, beginning in November.