I admit I’m an Apple “Fanboy”… I’ve got an Apple credit card and at least one of almost everything they make… heck, I started out with an Apple IIc in the early 80s and haven’t looked back since. I was even at the Newton launch party at Infinite Loop 1. So, there’s my Apple cred for you. However, I’m not completely blinded. Sure, I’ve had every iPhone since the first one (even had a 4gb iPhone for a few days… remember those?). So it would take something “really big” — not literally — to get me to switch.

Yep, my marriage to iPhone has had just a few hiccups, and I’ve strayed a couple of times. I often get filled with an urge to “go Android” although I’m not sure why. I’ve spent some time with the HTC Thunderbolt. I’ve even had a Droid for awhile. The thing about Android is it just doesn’t “feel” as smooth as iOS. Especially when it comes to texting. I want to like Android, really. But I spend so much time texting that it’s gotta be smoother before I fully commit. So, I’ve always gravitated back to iPhone. However, last month I got sucked into the Palo Alto Microsoft store — it’s close to the little Apple store and I have to admit, I like Microsoft’s advertising. Their store is just inviting. And the salespeople are kinda like missionaries: very clean-scrubbed, smiling, shiny, happy people. And pretty well-informed as well. In the store I put my palm around the new HTC 8x Windows phone and instantly fell in love. I had thought the Nokia Lumia would be the one for me if I ever dared get a Windows phone, but there’s no way I’m leaving Verizon for AT&T, which has the Lumia exclusive. So after a Microsoftie did an “iPhone photo shootout” with the HTC, I was convinced I wanted to spend more time with it. I plunged in, and bought it off-contract, paying the full price of $599 + the Microsoft Assure warranty add-on for a total of $695.

I like the 8x’s edgy design, its bright colors, smooth back and its light weight. But more than the device, I was also intrigued with the Windows Phone OS. After spending a few days with it, I found it to be a solid, reliable OS that rarely crashed, was zippy, never bogged down, and texting was a flat-out joy. There’s no usual bloatware that you see on HTC’s Android phones. I was initially concerned about the “lack of apps” that I’ve heard so much about. However, the basics are available in the Windows App Store (Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, etc.). I was easily able to download the critical apps I use on iPhone. Adding my web-based email (Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.com) was easy, as well as adding my business email/calendar via an Exchange Server. In fact, after Verizon initialized my SIM card, I was fully operational in less than 30 minutes.

Moving between the iOS and Windows ecosystems is not easy. Texting to the HTC was complicated because of my iMessages account on iOS. Apple doesn’t like you to traverse between ecosystems — so a lot of my texts were lost in translation for awhile. The HTC’s battery life was excellent — easily matching the time I get on iPhone 5. However, the recharging time with the Micro-USB connector takes twice as long as Apple’s new Lightning connector. The 8x comes with what it calls “Beats Audio” which automatically “turns on” when you plug in headphones. The music sounds crisp, sharp and, as described, has a solid bottom. Adjusting the volume isn’t easy, however, ‘cause the volume buttons (as well as the power button) is so flush to the body they’re hard to push in. It would take me a few times to hit the power button to turn the phone on. I was able to get into the groove of Xbox Music, however, it’s not real intuitive, and it’s really NOT iTunes. Music is a big smartphone experience for me, and not having iTunes is a definite minus for me. Xbox Music provides a subscription service for $9.99 a month and lets me download all the songs I want and play them on my phone, Xbox, or computer. It needs a lot of work from the usability perspective, but when I’m so “bought in” to the iTunes ecosystem, it’s hard to transition.

Probably the best feature for me is the 1-2 combo of uber-easy bluetooth connectivity to my car and headset. Much easier than HTC Android phones. And, in the car or on my headset, the 8x would read me my texts and then ask me if I wanted to respond or call the texter. Woot! Say goodbye Siri. The 8x with Windows Phone is able to keep me truly hands-free and it never misunderstood my commands. I’ve basically given up on Siri — what a complete waste of time it is trying use Siri. By focusing on the tasks I really want to perform with voice commands, the HTC and Windows Phone makes it much safer to drive my car and be productive at the same time.

So now, I’ve two smartphone bedfellows — it’s real easy to log-on to my Verizon account and turn one off and the other on. I’m still vacillating… I love iPhone, but there’s cracks in the armor at Apple. Heck, I’ve already had to replace my 2-month old iPhone 5 because a button stopped working. And now my HTC 8x is causing me to question my Apple fanboyism. Microsoft is a contender in the smartphone world now. And HTC, albeit suffering a bit, has created one the best smartphones available today.

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Brandon Carson

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