When we reviewed the HTC apps as part of our HTC 8X review we noted that the apps did provide extra functionality, which was welcome, but lamented the lack of updates in the last eighteen months.
They do provide extra functionality out of the box, and these are functions that are being added to the Windows Phone environment. What they don't do is provide a complete package for any of these applications (apart from possibly the flashlight, which really is an on or off situation - see what I did there?) Anyone looking for a serious photo app or a serious news reading app is going to have to head into the Windows Store... for everyone else, these apps probably offer functionality that you'll never need.
In that sense, these apps do brand HTC. These apps are showing the potential of the Windows Phone platform, and encourage you to look further afield to find out what is on offer in the Windows Phone Store. But these apps are the same package as I first encountered on the HTC Trophy some eighteen months ago. It doesn't feel like HTC have given the software the same loving attention as they have given to the physical design of the 8X.
Today's updates don't do anything to change this view, and its hard not to compare them to the various app updates that Nokia also published today. In Windows Phone 8 terms HTC is certainly competitive on the hardware and design side, but in terms of the value added by exclusive software Nokia is a very clear winner.