Both of device is Windows Phone, Aaron puts the Sprint Samsung ATIV S Neo up against the Sprint HTC 8XT. Both available now, the ATIV S Neo packs a 1.4 GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 CPU, 4.8-inch 720p HD display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, 2,000 mAh battery, and 4G LTE connectivity. The HTC 8XT offers the same 1.4 GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 CPU, along with a 4.3-inch WVGA display (480x800 pixels), 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, 1,800 mAh battery, and 4G LTE.
Features-wise, the Samsung Ativ S Neo sits in the center of Sprint’s lineup, neither the high-end, high-priced smartphone on the premium side of spectrum, not the entry-level smartphone trying to keep it all together. A mass market phone like this occupies an important, if less exciting, place in any carrier’s roster. Yet this particular middle-of-the-road performer struggles to justify its $149.99 introductory retail price, particularly when the HTC 8XT price in at $50 less on contract. (Days after this review originally posted, Sprint lowered the Ativ S Neo to $49.99 on contract. The 8XT is now free with a two-year service agreement.)
HTC has been in the news a lot recently, and unfortunately it is as much for the gorgeous, all-card-on-the-table One as it is for their poor financial results. But last fall HTC made another newsworthy announcement that didn’t get too much attention: their recommitment to Windows Phone. That this news flew mostly under is no surprise; much like HTC itself the Windows Phone platform has been praised for its beauty and critically well-received, but that praise hasn’t translated into market adaption.
In the end we found ourselves enjoying the HTC 8XT, and are glad to see Windows Phone 8 finally make its way to all four major carriers. We once again are impressed with HTC’s ability to design a phone, but the device is not without compromises such as the decreased display resolution. What it really comes down to is your affinity for the Windows Phone OS; as pretty and smooth as it is the ecosystem just isn’t there and market share shows that. If you’re looking for a good mid-range Windows Phone device the 8XT gets our blessing, but in the end we’d imagine most users will look to a different OS, something the phone has no control over.
With all Windows Phones running nearly identical software and Microsoft employing strict hardware minimums it can be challenging for manufacturers to differentiate their products. Nokia has already chosen to focus on the camera, and HTC is producing their typical top-notch hardware. Samsung’s Android approach has been to include an excess of niche software customizations, but with the less open Windows Phone platform they are not able to do this. They seem to be struggling to find their niche, and instead are just trying to impart the Galaxy S design and hope familiarity will lure customers. Unfortunately, the phone’s good but not great performance makes it poor choice for Windows Phone customers, and makes it especially hard to justify the switch from another smartphone ecosystem.