Windows Phone 8 Review: Good, But Not Good Enough

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The smartphone industry is a little bit like the car industry these days: At more than a certain price, there aren't any bad products anymore. This happened in the last 10-20 years in the car industry, and in the last one to two years in the smartphone industry.

I have now spent a week with the HTC 8X smartphone, which runs the all-new Windows Phone 8 operating system from Microsoft (MSFT) . This is not to be confused with Windows 8 or Windows 8 RT, as those operating systems power PCs and tablets.

General Douglas MacArthur reputedly said, "Behind every lost battle there are too words: Too late."

This applies in many ways to Windows Phone 8. If this operating system (and the related phones) had been launched two or three years ago, it would have been class-leading. Today, the competition from Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) has improved so much that I recommend iPhone and Android/Nexus products for most users.

First, let's take a look at the various phones that will be available for Windows Phone 8.

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Depending on your carrier, your hardware choices are these: Two phones from Nokia (NOK) , two from HTC, and one from Samsung. These will be available in various stages across geographies over the next 30 or so days. The admittedly very few Microsoft stores will supposedly carry all of them.

Nokia: Thick and Heavy

According to camera experts, Nokia is the best. The Nokia also has inductive charging, for those who care about that. Now for the bad news: Nokia is extremely heavy and thick, even with its good 2,000 mAh battery. Unless you're a camera buff, Nokia isn't the best Windows Phone.

HTC: Class-Leading Design

These new HTC designs give Apple a run for its money. I spent a week with the high-end 8X, which is extremely thin and light, and has a curved back, wrapped in a soft-touch material. You absolutely must hold this in your hand. If "feel" were among the criteria for display at The Museum of Modern Art, this phone would be hanging on the wall there.

The HTC 8X has some modest disadvantages as well. The 1,800 mAh battery is smaller than Nokia and Samsung, although I found the battery life to be competitive with the best products using Android, iOS and Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry operating systems. The lock/power switch is very difficult to use, especially combined with the placement of the volume buttons, often causing you to press both. The corners are very square, perhaps not to everyone's liking. Lastly, I have not yet seen how that wonderful soft-touch back/side material works with someone who wants to add an extra cover/case around it.

Samsung: The Bigger Battery