We continue our review comparing the HTC Windows Phone 8S and Nokia Lumia 820 with a look at each phone's camera and software.
HTC Windows Phone 8S vs Nokia Lumia 820: camera
The HTC Windows Phone 8S has only a single camera - a 5Mp snapper that sits on the back.
There is a dedicated camera button on the side of the phone, and you can add what HTC calls 'lenses' - special add-ons that plug in features and functions to your camera such as a barcode scanner.
There are no scene modes, but you can switch the flash on or off, change the exposure, adjust contrast, sharpness and white balance, fiddle with saturation and ISO. You can capture video at 720p and add effects to your efforts, such as black and white or sepia.
At 8Mp with a Carl Zeiss lens, the main camera on the Lumia 820 sounds impressive. There's a front facing camera, too, which most users will use predominantly for Skype calls. This provides a VGA quality (640x480) image. It's good enough for the task at hand but be prepared for the usual grainy picture of a front facing camera at this resolution.
Back to the main camera and there's an LED flash and we like the fact that here again there is a dedicated camera button to launch the camera app and take photos.
Overall we were disappointed with the images from the main camera, however. While exposure and colour balance were fairly good, we found that photos were nowhere near as sharp and detailed as the Lumia 920 and other 8Mp smartphone cameras.
Video footage can be recorded up to full HD 1080p, although 720p is default setting. We found video to be detailed and smooth at 1080p. The main issue we found was the auto white balance struggling to cope when filming indoors, although switching to one of the fixed settings helped.
The HTC Windows Phone 8S has a decent phone camera, but the Lumia 820 has both front- and rear-facing snappers, and could replace your compact camera.
HTC Windows Phone 8S vs Nokia Lumia 820: software
Okay, both the HTC Windows Phone 8S and Nokia Lumia 820 run Windows Phone 8, so there is litle competition here. But for WP8 newbies here is a brief introduction.
Windows Phone 8 looks similar to Windows Phone 7 but offers a few new features. The Start Screen, made up of live tiles, is more customisable than before with more sizes available. The larger you make a tile, the more information it can display. Other new features include Rooms which enables you to privately share content from within the People Hub and the great Kids Corner which puts the handset into a customised mode for children. No other mobile platform currently offers as good a child-safety feature - it makes your phone a toy, for the duration of your child's interest.
There's no getting around it: Windows Phone 8 is short of apps. Microsoft will say that a good percentage of the most popular apps are in the Windows Store, and that IE10 is a good enough browser to negate the need for many apps. And these things are true, but Windows Phone 8 is a new platform for everyone: even if all the apps you use regularly are already available, you may have to pay for them. Right now it's unlikely all your apps will be there.
Nokia makes the situation a little better by providing its own exclusive apps. Aside from Nokia Maps, which comes on every Windows Phone 8 handset, there are good quality apps like Nokia Music, Nokia Drive, Nokia City Lens and photography focused ones like Cinemagraph, Smart Shoot and Creative Studio.
On the plus side for both phones Windows Phone 8 is, like iOS, a curated app platform. Microsoft tests all the apps it allows in, so you shouldn't fall foul of any scams or malware.
People who like Windows Phone tend to love Windows Phone 8. It's a bit different from iOS or Android, but it looks great and - well - it's Windows 8 on your phone. It's impossible to say whether one platform is better than another. We suggest you try to use Windows Phone before you make a purchase.
HTC adds to the Windows Phone 8S a handful of its own apps including Converter, Flashlight and Photo Enhancer. Another one, simply called HTC, provides weather information, stocks and news. Like HTC's Android smartphones there is Beat Audio 'enhancement'. This annoyingly just cranks up the volume and adds more bass.
HTC Windows Phone 8S vs Nokia Lumia 820: verdict
The HTC Windows Phone 8S is the first Windows Phone 8 handset to fit into the mid-range price category. As such it's not quite the performer of the high-end Windows Phone 8 devices such as the bottom-of-the-high-end Lumia 820, but it's not so poor as to make it a bad deal. It offers solid performance and features for a reasonable price. Whether you prefer it to a similarly priced Android phone will depend on your own subjective preference of platform.
The Lumia 820 is a smaller and cheaper version of the 920. It doesn't pack the same punch as that high-end Windows Phone, especially in key areas such as the screen and camera. But we like the interchangeable covers and decent battery life. It's a better phone than the HTC Windows Phone 8S, but it costs more - to buy outright, at least. In Windows Phones, you get what you pay for.