Although we have our hang-ups about Windows Phone 8, we actually ended up liking the HTC 8XT. We're fans of HTC's design and materials choice for its smartphones, and for a $99 device it feels like a premium handset.
With the 8XT, you're getting a solid mid-range smartphone. At its budget-friendly price point and with everything it has to offer, you really can't go wrong with it if you're looking for a capable smartphone without a load of bells and whistles.
Windows Phone 8 isn't quite as robust as iOS or Android, and its ecosystem is lacking the breadth and quality of apps found on the other two platforms.
WP8 is also missing a simplified and unified notification system--one that would allow you to see all of your missed notifications, calendar events, weather and more in one place. Microsoft promises that those features will come in Windows Phone's next big update, but that's still some time away.
We like the fact that Sprint now has a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, and that it is LTE capable, too. The design and build quality of the HTC 8XT is excellent, and it doesn't feel like HTC made any sacrifices in that department to get to this price point.
We also liked the front-facing speakers and the inclusion of Beats Audio. It gives both the speaker sound and headset sound (headset included) a little more punch and bass.
There isn't much to complain about when it comes to the hardware, as it is excellent. But again, as with many of our Windows Phone 8 smartphone reviews, it comes down to the platform and its accompanying ecosystem.
Apps that we love are missing from WP8, and it can sometimes be a little maddening. Why doesn't have Instagram or Vine or Snapchat yet? Where is Google Voice? Why should I have to download a third-party solution instead seeing an official app there?
Fans of WP8 can go on and on about how the platform has everything you need, but then again that all depends on your needs. In terms of convenience and overall user experience when it comes to apps, you can't do much better than Android or iOS.
Despite our qualms about Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft's efforts, the HTC 8XT is actually a good smartphone for those who don't need tons of apps and aren't glued to their phones all day.
At $99, it's hard to do better than the 8XT in terms of hardware and intuitive software (lack of notification system not included).
We would recommend this phone for the person who wants to do a bit of social networking, some e-mail here and there, listening to music and taking pictures. But if your smartphone habits include more intensive activities, this budget smartphone may not be for you.