Windows Phone 8 handsets hit stores today

Handsets running Microsoft's latest mobile operating system—Windows Phone 8—began selling in AT&T stores Friday, and Verizon began taking pre-orders for the smartphones.

AT&T began selling the 8GB Windows Phone 8X by HTC for $100, with a two-year contract, and the 16GB model for $200. It is also began offering the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 handset for $100, with two year contract, and the Lumia 820 for $50.

Meanwhile, Verizon began taking pre-orders for the Nokia Lumia 822 for $100, with two-year contract; and the HTC 8X for $200.

T-Mobile, also in the Microsoft fold, says on its website that the Nokia Lumia 810 and HTC 8X will be "coming soon" and has not posted any prices for the devices.

windows phone 8

The Nokia Lumia 920 is an AT&T exclusive, much as the iPhone was when it was initially introduced. It has a large display—4.5 inches, 1280-by-768-pixel resolution—as well as proprietary apps for turn-by-turn navigation and ad-free curated Internet radio, 32GB of storage, dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor which runs at 1.5GHz, and an 8.7  megapixel rear-facing camera. It also has wireless charging capabilities.

The other Nokia models—the 820, 810 and 822—share specs: 4.3-inch display with 800-by-480 pixel resolution, 8GB of storage, 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor, and eight-megapixel camera, but do not support wireless charging.

For Microsoft, which has failed to gain any traction in the mobile phone market despite numerous attempts to do so, the arrival of handsets running its Windows Phone 8 operating system into the retail channel is a big moment, one that some say will determine not only Microsoft's fortunes in the smartphone space but those of its partner Nokia, as well.

As Amber Bouman argues in TechHive: "If Microsoft can’t manage to use its recognizable brand, history, and capital to pull together stunning hardware, a fluid user interface, exciting features, a stable of must-have apps, if it can't provide a solid reason for consumers to choose Windows Phone 8 over Android or iPhone, then it's never going to be able to compete in the smartphone market."

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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