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TMCNet:  The giants face off [Gadgets Special] [Times of India]

[December 04, 2012]

The giants face off [Gadgets Special] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are no longer helming Microsoft and Apple, but the rivalry between the two companies hasn't died down with time. Steve Ballmer put it all on the line when launching Windows Phone 8 by touting the HTC Windows 8X. And the iPhone 5 is the first handset to be developed under Tim Cook. Once again...

HTC 8X THE build of the HTC 8X, running Windows Phone 8 (WP8), is a work of art. The device is also a fairly good representation of what Microsoft is bringing to the market with its updated mobile operating system.

Just like the earlier versions of the OS, WP8 looks beautiful. It uses simple fonts and lines to create a clean 2D user interface that's defined by lots of square boxes that Microsoft calls tiles.

These tiles, which replace icons, are much bigger and can also display nuggets of information. For instance, the Mail tile can show the number of unread mails.

After spending several weeks with the phone, we can say that with the 8X, Microsoft and HTC are on a surer footing in comparison to where they stood with WP7 or WP7.5 phones.

What we like HTC 8X is a stylish handset. The most noticeable feature in the phone's design is its tapered edges. This makes it look slimmer than it actually is. Build quality is top class and the phone feels premium. The 2.1MP front camera has an ultra-wide lens. If you use video chat often, you will love how much it can accommodate in its scope. WP8, just like the previous versions of the OS, is fast. There is no lag when you open apps or fire up the camera. Web browsing is smooth. Maps app, for which Microsoft is using Nokia's data in India, is detailed and covers all well-known areas. The design and interface in WP8 is unique and beautiful. It is also quite intuitive and apps like Mail, SMS or People (contacts) are easy to use.

What we don't like While WP8 is a definite improvement over WP7.5, in many ways, it remains the same old OS. It still lacks a proper multitasking system. The apps, barring a few like Music and SkyDrive, don't run in the background. In WP8, apps are suspended. In other words, they are paused. For apps like Rowi, which are supposed to run continuously to pull tweets whenever they are posted, it doesn't work. There is no proper notification center in WP8. The homescreen is limited to show notifications from six apps - and to see or clear these notifications, a user has to go into the respective app. Microsoft says almost all popular mobile apps are available on the Windows Phone platform. But we found only a handful of apps and games when compared to those available on iPhone or high-end Android phones. The battery life is average. On 3G, the phone lasts for around 9 to 10 hours when used for making an hour of calls, some gaming, email, Twitter and some photography. The primary shooter is below average. The pictures captured through 8X had excessive smoothening and lack details.

In conclusion The HTC 8X scores high on design, both in hardware and software. Windows 8 is beautiful and intuitive to use for first-time smartphone buyers. For Windows 8 PC users, this handset will offer tight integration, especially with cloud services like SkyDrive, the People app, etc.

But if you are looking for a phone with a great camera, this is definitely not it. What's more, since the app store doesn't compare to that of iOS or Android, buyers are always going to be one step behind. Power users will be unsatisfied with the lack of a robust notification system and proper multitasking.

Overall, the 8X still falls short of comparably-priced phones like Galaxy S III and HTC One X - and even the iPhones, including the older 4S that now falls in the same price bracket.

iPhone 5 THE iPhone 5 is beautifully crafted and stands nearly a centimetre taller than older iPhones. This increase in height has allowed for a larger 4-inch screen and an extra fifth line of apps in the display.

Besides, with this phone, Apple has ditched its 30-pin dock connector for its new Lightning charging port that's smaller, but works just as well - and it uses a nano SIM that's even smaller than a micro SIM. What's also new is that the iPhone 5 supports 4G LTE networks. Sadly, this capability won't work in India since service providers use a different radio band than the one used by Apple. 3G, however, poses no problem (in our review, we used Airtel services).

What we like The iPhone 5's back is dominated by an aluminium plate that's flanked by reinforced glass strips at the top and bottom, making for a classylooking device. Although light, it still feels substantial to hold; and its 7.6mm profile makes it a comfortable fit in any pocket. Its touchscreen is extremely responsive to taps and swipes; text and graphics look crisp and colours are vibrant. Notably, its display is legible even in direct sunlight, arguably one of the best in smartphones. Calls are clear and loud. Its front camera makes for sharp video calls. And its rear 8MP camera - capable of crisp snapshots and accurate colours - is possibly the fastest shooter we have seen on a handset. The web-surfing experience leaves little to be desired (if you discount the browser's lack of Flash support). iOS continues to remain an intuitive operating system, and its tight integration with the iPhone makes for a great combination; apps continue to remain this phone's USP.

What we don't like Photos snapped with its main camera suffer from a purple flare on the edges due to the out-of-scene light sources; annoying if you're shooting pictures with lots of lights. Panorama mode only works in vertical orientation. The new Lightning port is not compatible with the cables and connectors of any older devices (iPads, speaker docks) unless you buy an adapter. Apple Maps is arguably the worst location-based service we have seen yet. It lacks detailed cartographical data to be of any consequence. Battery lasted around 8.5 hours on 3G with around an hour of calls, gaming and location services like maps. The iPhone's 4-inch display still falls short of what we have enjoyed on devices like Samsung's S III, Note and even the LG Optimus 4X. Closed architecture; iTunes can be cumbersome to use.

In conclusion The iPhone 5 epitomizes tight integration between an OS and smartphone hardware to create a product that's a pleasure to use. The phone's intuitive UI will have first-time users comfortable within no time, while its aesthetic design will appeal even to the most discerning of critics. For users who place equity on app quality over everything else, the iOS-iPhone 5 combination is the way to go. Also, regular updates to iOS make it futureproof , at least for the next two Apple release cycles. Still, the premium pricing - that's higher than any other smartphone in the market today - makes it a handset only for those who're willing to spend that extra moolah. Comparable devices from Android and with larger screens offer more bang for buck. In fact, the iPhone 4S (even with its smaller display) is better value for money. That said, if you're looking to buy a high-end smartphone that promises you work and play in equal measure, this is the phone to buy. And yes, Apple scores over Microsoft in this round.

(c) 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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