HTC unveils Windows 8 smartphones

Brian X. Chen / New York Times News Service /

As the first manufacturer to support Google’s Android software, HTC, the Taiwanese handset maker, was briefly the top U.S. smartphone maker before it was surpassed by Apple and Samsung. Now HTC is pushing another underdog: Microsoft’s Windows Phone software.

In an event Wednesday, HTC introduced two new smartphones featuring Windows Phone 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s mobile operating system. The phones — Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S — were deliberately named to raise awareness among consumers that Windows phones even exist in a market that is largely dominated by Apple and Samsung.

“Generally speaking, broad consumers aren’t aware of Windows Phone,” Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, said in an interview. “We wanted to increase the awareness of Windows Phone by simplifying that message.”

At the event, HTC and Microsoft focused their discussion on the Windows Phone 8X model, the bigger and more expensive of the two phones, which has a 4.3-inch screen and a wafer-thin body.

Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas, said the company was highlighting the design of the phone, especially its front-facing camera. The camera has an 88-degree viewing angle so that multiple people can be seen during a video conferencing call, as opposed to just one person’s face.

Another main feature of the device is its headphone jack, which has integrated a technology, Beats Audio, which will support accessories designed by Beats, the company owned by rap artist Dr. Dre. The phone will also include software for Beats Audio.

HTC’s new Windows phones will ship in November.