NEW YORK -- IPhone 5 fever may be upon us but Apple's chief rivals aren't exactly standing idly by. On Wednesday, just two days before the new iPhone becomes available, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer joined HTC CEO Peter Chou at an event in Manhattan to unveil two new Windows Phones, officially dubbed the Windows Phone 8X by HTC and the Windows Phone 8S by HTC.
The former has a 4.3-inch high definition display; the latter a 4-inch lower resolution display. Both rely on Beats Audio technology. Donning Beats headphones connected to the 8X at the event, Katy Perry boomed through loud and clear for me. The 8X has an especially ultra-wide-angle front facing camera lens that would let you show the friends crowding around you, and not just your own face.
HTC is positioning the devices as the "signature" Windows Phone 8 devices, though I'm sure another key Microsoft partner, Nokia, might beg to differ. The "uni-body" HTC phones come in a variety of colors and are built around Microsoft's Windows Phone "Live Tile" software interface
The 8X is coming to the U.S. market in November from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The 8S is also expected in November. Prices were not announced.
Also on Wednesday, LG chose New York City to show off its new flagship Android device, the Optimus G, that had been announced a day earlier in Seoul, Korea. It's built around a powerful "quad-core" Qualcomm processor that among other stunts will let you show off two different screens on 4.7-inch display at one time. It's due out in the fourth quarter.
Not to be outdone, Samsung announced that the Galaxy Note II, the second version of its "phablet" device with a mammoth 5.5-inch high-def display, would go on sale in the U.S. before the holidays. It will run on the fastest networks from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and U.S. Cellular. I was skeptical of the first Galaxy Note when it first appeared but came to appreciate the device the more that I used it. The new Note II, like its predecessor, relies on a pressure-sensitive so-called S Pen device and S Pen apps for taking notes, cropping and clipping portions of the screen and more. It will run the latest version of Android, known as Jelly Bean.
Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg says all the new announcements are getting lost in the midst of iPhone madness. "But there's more to the holiday season than an iPhone launch," he says. "And it's clear that Microsoft in particular is ceding this market to absolutely no one, partnering very closely with both Nokia and...HTC."
Gartenberg says the key question is whether, "Microsoft and their partners can tell a story to consumers and get them to think about buying something else for the holidays."
It's not out of the question. "A lot of consumers may be saying it's time for something different. ... Right now the iPhone 5 is the product to beat. (But) because of the velocity of mobile, how quickly things are changing in this space, everything is up in the air. And what this holiday season is really setting up is how the market is going to look in 2013. Lets not forget -- RIM (BlackBerry) may be on the sidelines now but they plan on getting back in the game in January."