HD7 and Window Phone 7: Glance & Go or Hit & Miss?

(originally posted: 2nd Dec 2010)

So… back in June I decided to betray my love for all things WinMo and converted to the iPhone 4.

This was a decision was based on many factors and not something I took lightly. At the time I had a HD2 the flagship of WinMo at the time, but the OS was out dated and I just couldn’t find a ROM (stock or otherwise) that had everything I wanted. Coupled with my phone I always used to carry my iPod Touch finding myself using that more than my phone for emails, twitter, and gaming. Enough was enough, time to trade in the HTC, a brand who I have loyally stuck by since the Canary. I sat and waited outside the shop, ready to be one of the first to jump ship to HMS Apple, and I have to admit that times have been good, we all know what the iPhone can do and that’s great. But then the release of Window Phone 7 encroached, something that even when purchasing the iPhone I knew looked good. So here we are, Friday morning, nice and early I walked into O2 and purchased myself a HD7, HD2’s younger more athletic brother.

Specs of the HD7 include: 8GB/16GB internal memory, 4.3” 800x480 S-LCD display, Stereo front-facing speakers and something which many people neglect is an FM radio.

So the dimensions for the HD7 come in at 122 x 68 x 11.2 and 162g, a large phone too many but when you consider the screen size to dimension ration, it is, in my opinion, better than even the very popular Desire. The buttons on the side of the phone fit almost flush with the fittings and apart from the camera button there is no discernable click feel to them. I sometimes wonder whether I’ve pressed a button, the only upside being that with WP7 you can tell immediately if you have, rather than having to wait for two or three seconds like a WinMo device. I would definitely recommend a case and screen protector though as the materials don’t look too scratch resistant. HTC’s own leather pouch for the HD7 is well designed and allows your phone to fit snuggly inside, without being over-incumbent.

Each of the HTC WP7 phones is designed to occupy a niche and the HD7’s focus is on its video capabilities. The 4.3” screen coupled with speakers left and right when in landscape mode ensure this can provide a top quality mobile video experience. The kickstand at the back of the device was a concern before purchasing this phone, but after using it I found it to be excellently engineered, the firmness of the click when folding it in leaves me to trust that there shouldn’t be any issues of it catching and snapping off.

To partner the large screen is a 5MP camera with Dual-LED flash; this is a pretty much standard camera inclusion, and a pretty basic interface. I have seen videos which demonstrate all sorts of settings but for my HD7 the settings menu has been greyed out. The camera’s saving grace however is that video recording resolution can be set to 720p, which when view on the screen is absolutely brilliant.

Now to the OS

Windows used to be a great force in the Smartphone world, but when Apple and RIM stepped up their game, Microsoft just couldn’t keep up. They tried, don’t get me wrong, but they were always two steps behind the rest of the pack. They needed a brand refresh and here today, we now have Microsoft’s latest edition to its Smartphone range. By renaming the OS Windows Phone, you can see that Microsoft wanted to distance itself from the failing WinMo platform and give itself a new pedestal to stand on. They have done this very well, but let’s not forget, there may have been a few influences along the way. The biggest failing of WinMo was that it could be put on a device that just wasn’t capable of performing the tasks that was being asked of it, this meant slow load times and a system that all too often would just crash altogether. Microsoft has done a lot to combat this by producing a detailed list of the minimum specs required that manufacturers must adhere to. This has meant that the WP7 platform works as intended to all users providing a great interface which is as quick as its rival’s.

As for the interface: it is excellent, it is very easy to use with nothing ever being too far away. The navigation is very intuitive and allows users to negotiate the OS in a very easy and straightforward way. The ability to pin almost anything to the Start screen is very useful if not, a bit similar to the iPhone. Then again, if the simplest way is the best, that’s always the option I’d take.

Microsoft has gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that you know how to navigate on any page. A strict set of guidelines have been published to ensure developers create an interface that mirrors the platforms own UI. This means that even with third-party apps such as Facebook and Twitter, the application menu bar, the panoramic tiles and other UI features are present and laid out in the familiar format. Already the market place is brimming with apps, having already reached the 1000 apps (I know it doesn’t sound much but just read this http://wmpoweruser.com/windows-phone-7-marketplace-hits-1000-apps/). The best part of this is that instead of having to produce two apps (full & trial), Microsoft have developed an API which allows the user to trial the full app, with the developer detailing how much usability there is. This is something that most developers have taken on board and already has swayed me into making much more informed decisions on which apps I purchase.

I am a little disappointed with the Bing Maps, it has basic functionality and turn-by-turn navigation, but I just feel it somewhat lacks usability. To be fair I am comparing it with Google Maps, but as no other navigation software, such as CoPilot or TomTom are on the market yet. I’d have hoped for something a bit better.

From a development side it is disappointing that apps cannot be side-loaded onto a device for testing, without having to pay Microsoft for the privilege. As a newbie in the WP7 development arena it put me off a little but I suppose eventually once I’ve straightened any kinks out of my program, I’ll have to purchase a license anyways, making this point null and void.

Many people have been quick to criticise Windows Phone for lack of certain features which it’s competitors may have. However this is only a 1<sup>st</sup> generation model and when compared to the competition’s 1<sup>st</sup> gen models blows them out the water. Coupled with the knowledge that Microsoft are going to roll out their first update in January to include Copy &amp; Paste facilities and that Adobe have mentioned Flash integration to come soon as well. I think Microsoft have got it right and iPhone may have some serious catching up of their own to do.

Finally, am I happy with my purchase? Absolutely, it’s slick design and great UI means I’m back on the band wagon and loving every minute of it.