HTC put Nokia on notice with its announcement of two new smartphones running Windows Phone 8 today at an event in New York City. HTC is going after Nokia’s bread and butter with two large-screen devices that come in several colors and feature improved camera and audio capabilities. So begins the fight for third place in the smartphone pecking order.

The United Colors Of Nokia - um, HTC

HTC’s two new smartphones, dubbed the 8X and 8S, will have 4.3-inch and 4.0-inch screens respectively. Each will come in four colors and be served by a variety of mobile carriers worldwide. The devices will feature a 2.1 megapixel front camera with an 8 megapixel back camera along with Beats audio features. In essence, these two smartphone will be a lot like HTC’s One series but running Windows Phone 8 instead of Android. 

The 8X and 8S are designed to go head-to-head with Nokia’s two flagship Windows Phone 8 devices, the Lumia 920 and 820, announced earlier this month. Like HTC's new phones, the Nokia units come in a variety of colors and boast advanced camera, audio and navigation functions. 

Nokia was the first major mobile manufacturer to start making smartphones in unique colors, starting with the Lumia 800 (and 900 in the U.S.), announced last fall. The Finnish smartphone manufacturer has promoted colors like periwinkle blue to stands apart from the monochromatic world of black-and-white smartphones offered by the likes of Apple and Samsung. But, now that HTC has embraced a variety of colors, the question needs to be asked: Who is behind the color scheme? Is it the manufacturers, or has Microsoft implored its partners to use hue to differentiate Windows Phone from Apple and Android?

War Of Tweets

During HTC’s presentation, HTC’s president Jason Mackenzie said that his company’s devices are “the” signature Windows Phones.

Nokia, which is Microsoft’s primary mobile partner, might take issue with that. In fact, Nokia’s head of marketing (and former head of Nokia U.S.A.) Chris Weber already has. 

On his Twitter account, Weber said, “It takes more than matching color to match the innovation of the Lumia 920.” According to The Verge, Weber said that all HTC has done is “tactically re-brand their products.”

Weber might have a point. HTC released two Windows Phones last year, the Titan and Titan II. A quick comparison does not show much discernible difference between the 8X and 8S and the Titans except for the colors and Beats audio.

The Battle For Third Place

The headlines in the smartphone industry go to Samsung and Apple. Those are the two largest manufacturers in the market and take a lion’s share of the consumer volume and profits. Yet an intriguing undercurrent has evolved between numbers 3 (Nokia) 4 (HTC). In Q2 2012, Nokia shipped 10.2 million smartphones, according to research firm IDC. HTC shipped 8.8 million.

HTC knows its opponent. It does not have the resources to wage a marketing battle on the scale of Samsung and Apple, but Nokia seems ripe for the plucking. For Nokia’s part, its competitors include all the primary Android manufacturers, an army that has depleted Nokia’s market share considerably in the last few years. But, considering the parallels between the two companies, Nokia may have found an archrival in HTC.

Both Nokia and HTC have had a tough time competing since mid 2011. Both have watched their considerable market and mind shares wither as Apple and Samsung have squeezed competitors. Both took a step back in 2012 and completely redesigned their primary products, HTC its signature One series for Android and Nokia its Lumia smartphones. HTC now hopes it can make a bigger dent in the rising Windows Phone market, especially at Nokia's expense.

The emerging front is deployment. HTC announced that its 8X and 8S will end up on 150 carriers in 50 countries including T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T in the U.S. Nokia has not announced availability for the Lumia 820/920 yet, but it hopes to match HTC’s breadth. If Nokia cannot, this battle may go to HTC by default.