Reviewed: Windows Phone 7 on HTC HD7


21 Oct 2010

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HTC’s first release for the Windows Phone 7 platform aims at strong multimedia capabilities. How good are both the handset and the OS?

Look and Feel

The HTC HD7 is a large enough phone, though it’s pretty slim and its curved design at the back is quite sleek. Weighing 162 grams, I found it just a little bit on the heavy side. The layout of it is similar to other Windows Phone 7 devices – it includes a back button, a home button and a search button.

On the right-hand side, there’s a volume button and a camera button that, if you hold it even when locked, will send you straight to camera mode. Fortunately, the button’s sturdy enough that it won’t accidentally activate in your pocket, so it’s a useful feature.

At the base of the phone, there is a 3.5mm jack and a USB port. At the back, there’s a 5MP camera with an auto focus function and an LED Flash.

Interface

The HD7 has a 1GHz processor and runs on Windows Phone 7, which has a universal look across all its phones. Windows Phone 7 has gotten a lot of praise and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very sleek interface. The home screen has large tiles, which updates on the fly. It’s fast, responsive and is beautifully animated. However, while its minimalistic style looks good, often, information can be a bit lacking.

The messaging tile, for example, displays a number for what amount of messages you received, however, it doesn’t say who sent them until you go into the function and see for yourself.

Speaking of options, its simplistic style can make it difficult to truly customise some settings. When syncing accounts, the OS immediately syncs the phone with contacts from the account, which can be annoying if you hadn’t initially intended on mixing them up with your phone contacts. Similarly, I had trouble trying to remove a Windows Live account that I had synced to it.

There were also a few features that made it a bit behind from the current contenders in the mobile OS market. For example, you can’t multitask with apps, which seems rather necessary on newer smartphones. It will probably be integrated as time goes on, but for a brand new smartphone OS for 2010, it seems like a large oversight.

The keyboard, however, is great, one of the best I’ve used. I usually find touchscreen keyboards to be somewhat of a chore, but this one was refreshingly accurate. I found typing on this phone effortless.

Overall, as an OS, Windows Phone 7 has an awful lot of potential, but it still needs a little bit more work in order to be a very strong contender in the market. It’s heading in the right direction – its flaws can easily be solved with a few updates.

Apps

Similarly with other Windows Phone 7 phones, this one does not include a built-in Twitter app, oddly enough. It is available on the Marketplace, but for such a popular service, it’s strange that it was omitted.

Many of Microsoft’s built-in hubs work well. The Zune Hub is a standout one, which looks great and works well, allowing you to synchronise content from your PC. Bing search and maps are included, both of which loaded fast and were responsive.

A photo enhancer has been included, providing some quick enhancements, such as vintage or antique styles. It’s mostly for colour or texture overlays, so if you require more in-depth photo work, you should find another app for it.

HTC’s influence is shown through its own Hub, which displays its featured apps and its weather options. It includes its weather animation style, which looks great on the display, if a little elaborate.

Internet

iExplorer is included on the phone and works well. Thanks to its processor and fast connectivity through Wi-Fi and 3G, browsing the internet is a breeze. The large screen works wonders for this purpose and proves to be highly responsive, though at times, it was a little bit jumpy for me.

Media

Its 4.3-inch widescreen includes a 480 x 800 WVGA resolution, making it a bright, vivid screen. However, viewing it at a sharp angle was not as impressive – it made the screen rather unclear. Content looks brilliant on it normally, however, and it’s another area where its screen size shines.

It has an 8GB memory, which is not upgradeable. It may be a downside for those who want to put all their media content on it then and there, but for me, it’s not a huge issue.

The sound wasn’t particularly awe inspiring, though pretty good. There are some nice details on the design of the phone which can add to the media experience, such as the kickstand to prop it up.

The camera was very sharp, with HD recording capabilities and a 5MP picture quality. I found the auto-focus was a bit hit and miss, though when it hit, it hit big.

The HTC HD7 is a strong multimedia phone. While there are certainly a few downsides to it that may not make it completely groundbreaking, it’s still a very attractive device with some great features. The Windows Phone 7 platform may still need a bit of work, but once that work is done, it will be quite a contender in the market.

The HTC HD7 is available from O2 bill pay, priced from free to €289.