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Random ramblings of a tech enthusiast
The HTC HD7S is a new 4.3” Windows Phone being offered for $199 on contract at AT&T. I was able to spend the last week with phone and I was pleasantly surprised by it. This was my first Windows Phone 7 review device but I will try to limit this review to more of a handset review than software review.
At $199 on a 2-year contract, this phone is a good alternative to the walled garden of iOS and the fragmentation of Android. The operating system is very smooth and the hardware seemed adequate to handle what I could throw at it. However, it is lacking the app support and advanced features of the other two major phone operating systems. There are other phones at this same price point that may provide a more mainstream alternative, such as the iPhone or Droid X2.
If you are making the switch to Windows Phone 7, then the HD7S on AT&T is a good option with a good screen and phone built for media consumption.
Windows Phone 7 OS, with “No-Do” update (copy and paste)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE Quad-band (world phone)
4.3″ SuperLCD Display (800 x 480 WVGA)
1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor (QSD 8250)
576MB of RAM
16GB internal memory
5 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash
720P video recording camcorder
1230 mAh battery
This phone has a single core processor and does not have 4G, nor does it have a front facing camera.
The HTC HD7S will ship with the Windows Phone 7 operating system, with the No-Do update that provides copy and paste functionality along with performance updates. Copy and paste worked very well everywhere that I tried it on the phone. It did take some getting used to with selecting and editing text from my personal Android phone, but was easy to learn.
With the being a Windows Phone, there are a lot of integration with the various Microsoft services such as Windows Live, Exchange Server ActiveSync, Office, SharePoint, Xbox Live, and Zune. The Windows Live features allow you to sync pictures and One Notes to the cloud and view them from a desktop browser. You can also locate the phone when lost, as well as ring it, lock it, and remotely erase it. These are nice features to have on increasingly important pocket devices, which usually will cost money on other platforms.
I am a fan of the Zune music player on Windows and thus Windows Phone integration with it is a positive for me. Syncing music is done similar to iTunes and thus is an improvement over the Android music mess, even with Google’s launch of their cloud music service. Music, movies, podcasts, and marketplace purchases can be accessed through the phones “Music + Videos” app.
The major drawbacks of the operating system are the lack of multitasking and the lack of third party app support. Multitasking was noticeably missing when trying to use the TuneIn radio app while then attempting to go to the browser. The radio application does not play in the background and stops playing when returning to the main screen. However, preloaded music will continue to play through the “Music+Videos” app. The lack of third party apps was noticeable for me when looking for Dropbox, Evernote, SiriusXM, and Angry Birds applications. There is a paid app for a Dropbox client, but it is not created by the website itself. I did not find an Evernote application in the market, but the phone does come with Microsoft One Note. This is a good product, but would be locked down to only Windows Phones and require a change of software if you already use Evernote. Angry Birds is said to be releasing a Windows Phone app in the very near future, but nonetheless it is not released yet.
The keyboard on this phone was pleasant to use. The 4.3” screen provides a big surface to type on the nicely laid out keys. I was able to efficiently type in portrait mode at high speeds even with my slightly larger than normal fingers. The landscape keyboard was also pleasant, as the keys did not simply stretch to fit the wide portion of the screen. Menus adjusted and keys were pretty square on the screen, unlock some Android keyboards. Editing text involves either clicking at the beginning or ends of a word or to long press the screen until a cursor pops up and then you are able to select which letter to edit.
The HTC Hub is included on this phone since it is an HTC phone. This includes a weather animation similar to Sense on their Android devices, as well as a list of featured apps available to HTC phones. These animations are nice eye candy but seem to be misplaced on a Windows Phone. The pièce de résistance for Windows Phone is its simplicity and the weather animations detract from that.
The kickstand on the phone is a nice feature to have when you want to play that YouTube video for a couple of friends. Having the 4.3” Super LCD screen with the kickstand really make this a media consumption product. I did experience a feeling of the phone tipping over while reading articles with the kickstand and trying to scroll up and down. You’ll have to be careful to scroll lightly or use two hands to make sure the phone doesn’t fall off the surface it is on or slide too much.
The display was sufficiently bright and clear and seemed okay in the sunlight. It performed better than my Incredible in daylight with both displays turned up to the maximum. Neither were as clear as they are inside but the HD7S seemed to be brighter.
Sound quality on the headphones was better from the HD7S than the Incredible, especially when the HTC sound application was installed and Dolby Mobile was turned on. It seemed clearer with more bass than did the same sample songs on the Incredible. However, sound from the speaker left something to be desired. It is a phone, but the sound seemed saturated quickly when turning up the volume while playing media. It’ll play media and let you hear phone calls, but it is not the best speaker setup out there.
The three physical buttons on the device are the power button on the top right, the volume rocker on the upper right, and the camera button on the lower right. The power and camera buttons seemed too flush with the edge and sometimes difficult to press. The camera was easy to focus with the button but at times required precise pressing of the camera button to snap the photo, which can get frustrating. However, the phone would start the camera application once the camera button was pressed even when locked. This allowed for quicker snapshots, especially in those moments where time is of the essence. The camera is 5MP and does okay for a phone, and has dual-LED flash to help with lighting. It will capture the moments that you don’t have a camera but won’t replace a dedicated camera. I liked the placements of the headphone jack on the bottom of the phone since it allows you greatest length of headphone cable while the phone is on a desk, unlike the top placement on the Incredible.
The battery life on the phone seemed okay. I could go the majority of a day using the phone for average use of text messages, web browsing, light phone, and light game usage. It does have a smaller battery compared to other devices in its size class (the EVO has a 1500 mAh battery and Thunderbolt has a 1400 mAh battery while the HD7S has a 1230 mAh battery). It is considerably smaller in physical size than my Incredible battery, which is 1300 mAh.
|HD7S battery (black) compared to Incredible battery (red)|
Common User Recommendation
The HD7S is a good device for the common user. The hardware may be slightly outdated compared to newer Android devices, but it still works well with the Windows Phone operating system. It is a device that still has a lot of room for improvement through future software updates so you would be on the beginning wave if you bought into Windows Phone with this device (Windows Phone 7 came out in October of 2010). That said, not all applications will be designed for it yet. It provides a great experience that is smoother than Android without the obtrusive notifications of iOS.
This device would also be good for business integration for Exchange ActiveSync. It does lack the staple data encryption that BlackBerry has been known for and Apple implemented in 2009.
Power User Recommendation
I would not recommend this phone for true power users. Android still provides the ultimate experience for users who will customize anything and everything. Windows Phone is a platform that fits between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android in that it has tight control of the OS but licenses it to hardware manufacturers to produce various form factors. Microsoft also puts constraints on specs to help fight fragmentation and user experience, but you are able to get a Windows Phone with a physical keyboard, or one with a big screen and a kickstand.
One caveat of Windows Phone is that even with the bloat-ware that can be preinstalled, such as some of the AT&T apps, can also be easily removed through uninstalling. This is in contrast to Android where you sometimes have to root a phone to remove unwanted apps.