A lot has changed in the smartphone game in the six months since Microsoft launched its Windows Phone 7 platform. Many of the major manufacturers have launched products with dual-core processors, and many other upcoming handsets feature HDMI connectivity and DLNA media sharing. We knew Microsoft had some work to do with its OS after the launch, with several key features to add before it fell too far behind, but has it done enough so that phones like the HD7 remain competitive?
As with several of its competitors, HTC has settled recently on a design profile that is instantly recognisable as an HTC product. The HD7 follows in these footsteps, offering its 4.3-inch display within the now-familiar black bezel with a soft-touch matte grey battery cover behind it. Side-by-side with its other WP7 releases, theand the , the HD7 is much the same aesthetically, only bigger.
This large screen display is a fitting centrepiece, with nice deep blacks and rich, vivid colours on show. HTC positions the 3.5mm headphone socket on the rear of the base of the handset, which is handy for game players, and has the usual array of volume keys with the camera shutter on the right hand side. Interestingly, HTC has included forward-facing speaker grilles at both the top and bottom of the screen and a kickstand on the back, so that when you are watching movies you have the experience of a mini flat panel TV.
The HD7's kickstand is a pretty handy feature.
All in all, HTC does a nice job of delivering the big screen experience without weighing the phone down or making it uncomfortably heavy. At 162-grams, the HD7 is still extremely portable, and its 11.2mm thickness is only marginally wider than the thinnest phones in market, though its curved back makes it seem a little chunkier.
Though tech pundits maintain a laundry list of missing features in Windows Phone — including the team here at CNET — no one can fault the performance of the system and the user experience this offers. This is one of the fastest, slickest mobile platforms available. It is also one of the simplest to use, making it an excellent choice for first-time smartphone shoppers.
Microsoft call this its Metro UI, with shortcut tiles on the front-facing homescreen and a list of all of the installed applications accessible with a horizontal swipe on the screen from right-to-left. The same gesture applies in the core applications; swiping right-to-left in the "People" menu takes you from your address book to your friends' latest Facebook updates, for example.
All phone settings and limited customisation options can be found under a single Settings menu. This is great for those who are new to the system as you won't need to spend hours setting the phone up the way you want it. There is a lot of the fine-tuning that we expect in Android smartphones that simply isn't available in Windows Phone, but for some people this will be a plus and not a minus.