Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the HTC HD7.
Introduced at CTIA 2011, the HTC HD7S is AT&T's fourth Windows Phone 7 device, joining the Samsung Focus, HTC Surround, and LG Quantum. Like the rest, the HD7S has a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel camera, but it most resembles a smartphone from another carrier: the HTC HD7 for T-Mobile. In fact, the two are exactly the same except that the HD7S features a sharper 4.3-inch Super LCD, which was much needed. It certainly adds to the choice of Windows Phone handsets, but is it the best option out there? That depends on what you're looking for.
When we reviewed the HTC HD7, one of our only complaints about it was the outdated hardware, so it's nice to see that HTC addressed at least one aspect of that problem in the HD7S. Switching out the old TFT screen for a WVGA Super LCD brings a sharper and more vibrant picture. The pixels aren't as visible as before and colors look richer. Plus, the 4.3 inches of screen real estate is great when you're viewing Web sites and video.
The touch screen also felt responsive, as we easily navigated through the various screens and menus. It is a fingerprint magnet though--more than most--and if we're comparing screens, the Samsung Focus' Super AMOLED display is still better, as it offers even more saturated colors, finer detail, and better outdoor visibility. That said, you're not going to have problems seeing what's on the HD7S' screen and we very much appreciate the improved display.
The rest of the smartphone's design is pretty much the same as the HD7's. You still get a built-in kickstand on the back, this time with some metallic gold accents. The handset is on the larger and heavier side, with HTC's solid build quality. One thing we noticed, however, is there is a slim gap between the bottom of the battery door and the rest of the phone, leaving room for dust, dirt, and other debris to get in there. We wouldn't say it's a dealbreaker, but it's definitely not something we were expecting from a company that pays so much attention to detail.
For more on the smartphone's design, please check out our review of the HTC HD7. AT&T ships the HD7S with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
The HTC HD7S ships running the Windows Phone 7 operating system with the latest NoDo update, which includes copy-and-paste support and performance improvements. As a phone, the HD7S offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone is 3G-capable and has Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1, and GPS, but Windows Phone currently doesn't support tethering capabilities.
Though customization is limited in Windows Phone 7, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and carrier partners can still put their own spin on the devices, and AT&T and HTC have done so. HTC has added its own HTC Hub (also available as a live tile) where you will find some old HTC favorites like applications and its animated clock and weather widget.
Meanwhile, AT&T has preloaded the smartphone with a number of its services, including AT&T U-verse Mobile, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, and AT&T Family Map. Unlike on the carrier's other smartphones, you can actually uninstall any of the unwanted carrier apps--not just remove them from the Start menu but actually uninstall them. To do so, just select the app with a long press and choose the uninstall option. This is great news if you don't like all that bloatware tying up precious resources. Just note that if you hard-reset the phone, the apps will reinstall after the reboot.
Of course, you can download more apps from the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. There are currently more than 18,000 apps in the catalog. Just be aware that the HTC HD7 has 16GB of internal memory but no expansion slot. This should be enough for most people, but if you've got a huge multimedia library or like to load up your phone with apps and games, keep an eye on your available memory.