Yet, it continues to irk us that Microsoft stubbornly and, in our opinion, foolishly keeps many significant application menus and screens frozen in portrait mode. It creates a work-flow problem we encountered time and again on the Arrive and on other handsets. For instance, if you're composing something in landscape mode but want to open a complementary app from the Start screen or reference some data in an Office document, you either have to turn the phone to read the portrait-only menu, or get good at reading sideways.
Like any good smartphone, the HTC Arrive provides all the basics and more. Microsoft earns kudos for merging contact information from various e-mail accounts and social-networking sites, such as Facebook, Windows Live, Exchange, and Gmail. As with other mobile platforms, the merge often creates duplicates, though we experienced fewer here than we have with previous Windows phones.
However, we continue to yearn for more features in the People hub, like Twitter integration, automatic Facebook sign-in in case you need to leave the hub to visit Facebook, and a category for viewing and quickly dialing favorite contacts.
Beyond the address book, there's an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. You can access multiple e-mail accounts, as mentioned above, plus Bing Maps, a music and video hub, and TeleNav turn-by-turn voice navigation. In addition to Windows Marketplace, there's HTC's hub for grabbing featured apps, like Sound Enhancer, a stocks app, and a YouTube app. Sprint also gets in the game with a Sprint hub featuring news, a shortcut to your account, and Sprint's own app suggestions.
As with the HTC Surround, the Arrive's 5-megapixel camera has a flash and HD video capture that can record up to 720p. It also has a small stable of editing options, including flicker adjustment, but the Arrive doesn't compare to the Samsung Focus in terms of photo options. Photo quality was decent, producing sharp edges with colors that were usually true to life, even indoors. Some photos were a little fuzzy and grainy, however, and the camera's flash threatened to overexpose. (You can compare and contrast cameras in our photo gallery.) Videos were also hazy. A photo enhancer app lets you add color effects after the fact. In addition to the phone's 16GB storage, there's also the option of storing photos on SkyDrive, the Windows Live cloud-based service that gives you 25GB extra of online storage.
We the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) HTC Arrive in San Francisco using Sprint's network. For the most part, calls were clear on our end of the line, with good vocal fidelity that produced natural-sounding voices. Volume on those calls was loud, almost uncomfortably so. We experienced small amounts of distortion reminiscent of someone tossing pebbles into a puddle. A few calls sounded muffled and indistinct.
On our callers' end, voices sounded mostly clear. Some callers said we were too loud, while another described us as distant. During times of mild distortion, one caller said it sounded like we "gargled."
Speakerphone calls were clear and fairly loud on both ends. We had to boost the volume a bit to hear, but the result didn't sound tinny or hollow as on some phones.
HTC Arrive call quality sample
The Arrive works on Sprint's 3G EV-DO data network. Internet Explorer loaded CNET's mobile site in roughly 5 seconds and the full CNET site in close to 20 seconds. It took 12 seconds to render NYTimes.com.
Other actions were fairly speedy thanks to the Arrive's 1GHz Qualcomm processor. That's not to say there weren't moments where it lagged, but on the whole we had few complaints about slowness.
Windows Phone 7 may face an uphill battle against Android's and iOS' momentum, but reliable handsets like the HTC Arrive will make the OS an attractive alternative for Sprint customers. Although heavy, the Arrive is durable, and its tilting screen and comfortable keyboard lend the phone a more premium feel. While not everyone will love the smartphone's bulk, its reliability and good call quality make it a noble effort as the network's first Windows Phone 7 device. After a $100 mail-in rebate, the Arrive costs $199.99 with an "Everything" plan and a new two-year service agreement.