With the HTC 8XT, Sprint sees its first Windows Phone 8 device. For Windows Phone lovers, it's a good thing because the HTC 8XT is a solid phone priced nicely at just $99.99 with a two-year contract.
The smartphone's slim design and light weight are elements that we loved about its predecessor, the HTC 8X. Now Sprint customers get to enjoy that form factor with all the goods from Windows Phone 8.
One thing HTC always seems to get is good design and great choice in materials. This smartphone's build quality is excellent considering its intended audience. For a mid-range and affordable smartphone, we really fell in love with the build and form.
It wasn't too long ago that a smartphone in the $100 range would also mean a huge sacrifice in build quality. Thankfully, that is no longer the trend.
For fans of variety, we have some bad news: the smartphone comes in only one color for Sprint, and that's California blue. It's a very deep blue that almost looks purple, so if that's a huge turn-off, there aren't other options.
Despite being what we'd consider a mid-range smartphone, HTC managed to pack a few nice features into the 8XT. You may already be familiar with HTC's deal with Beats Audio, so the 8XT gets that treatment, too. It also features BoomSound, which can be found on the HTC One. The two front-facing speakers each have their own amp, so you'll get decent sound and volume when you're listening to music through the speakers.
For specs nerds, this Windows Phone 8 smartphone has a 4.3" display covered with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. It's 800 x 480, so don't expect razor-sharp graphics, but it's good enough. Under the hood there is a Qualcomm 1.4GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM. The battery is 1,800 mAh, which seems small compared to what's on the market today, but it got us through the day just fine with moderate use.
You'll find a solid 8MP camera on the back of the device with a small LED flash. Up front, there is a 1.6MP camera for selfies and video calling.
Below the display, you'll find the back, home and search buttons that ought to be familiar to Windows Phone 8 users. At the base of the phone, there is a micro-USB port for charging and syncing, and a small microphone.
On the right edge of the device, there is a volume rocker and a dedicated camera key. The left edge of the device is clean and button-free. Up top, there is a sleep/wake/power button and a 3.5mm headset jack.
The way the device is contoured makes the edges feel slim and sharp, and it gives the smartphone an overall feel of being very thin. Its dimensions measures 5.2" x 2.6" x 0.39", so it does have a very small profile, and it feels like it doesn't weigh a thing at just 4.23 ounces. HTC really knows how to make excellent hardware.
We see this as being the ideal smartphone for those who don't need all the bells and whistles and power of Windows Phone 8 smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 1020. The fact that it's only priced at $100 and has LTE capabilities makes it a bargain. Of course, Sprint's LTE network isn't as large as AT&T's or Verizon's, but it's pretty peppy where available.
The only strike we can really give against the HTC 8XT is Windows Phone 8. Sure, we gave the platform decent marks in our review, and it's an OS that gets the job done, but against Android and iOS there really is no comparison.
To be clear, we don't hate Windows Phone 8, but its ecosystem is struggling against Android and iOS. Apps like Instagram, Google Voice and other big names are sorely missing from the platform. Instead, you find apps that have backwards ways of accessing those services, or third-party apps and solutions that aren't nearly as good as native ones.
But if you're not big on apps, and you use your smartphone mostly to shoot photos, check e-mail, browse the web, use maps and fire off text messages, you won't mind WP8.