The 8X is the top-of-the-line Windows Phone from HTC and the 8S will fall in the mid-range. Shared features include colorful new designs forged from polycarbonate. (HTC used polycarbonate for its One X flagship Android phone, announced earlier this year.) This high-end plastic is scratch resistant and light as a feather. Rather than stick with boring blacks and whites, the 8X and 8S will be available in vibrant colors. Both devices include Beats Audio for improved music playback and displays protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass.
The 8X has a 4.3-inch 720p HD display, 1.5-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, and an 8-megapixel camera. It uses the same dedicated imaging chip that HTC designed for its Android devices earlier this year. In addition to the image chip, the 8X has an f/2 lens and backside illumination for improved low-light performance. The 8X's user-facing camera rates 2 megapixels and includes a wide-angle lens for better video chats. Last, it has a dedicated 4-volt amplifier to boost the audio signal being sent to headphones.
The 8X, which will be sold by AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless, will support LTE and HSPA+ wireless networks.
The 8S dials things down a bit. It has a 1-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, a 4-inch display, and a 5-megapixel camera. It loses the user-facing camera entirely.
According to HTC, an LTE 4G version of the 8S is not yet in the works. It will stick with older networking technologies, such as HSPA+. It's not clear which U.S. network operators will sell the 8S.
What HTC didn't share were details about Windows Phone 8. Even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's exuberant presence didn't bring with it any more information about the features that will be a part of Windows Phone 8. Microsoft remains mum on the full feature set for Windows Phone 8.
At first glance, the 8X and 8S seem to be decent devices, though they don't quite hit the mark as well as Nokia did with the Lumia 920. The 8X, for example, has too much phone and not enough display. The 920 also comes with features such as inductive charging, which the 8X does not.
What's most interesting is that HTC is going all out with the colorful designs. Perhaps it's the rampant litigation raging across the smartphone space, but the colorful palette means more customer choice and designs that will stand out against the increasingly drab black-on-gray smartphone crowd.
How well the new HTC smartphone sell will depend a lot on pricing and availability. If they can beat the Lumia 920 to the market, then perhaps they'll develop a bit of a lead. For now, all we know is that they will be available by about November.