The HTC 7 Mozart strives to set itself apart from the Windows Phone 7 pack with a xenon flash and 8-megapixel camera. But that's really just gravy on top of a solid, shapely phone that offers a simple, slick user interface. If you buy the Mozart, you'll have to wait for Microsoft's app store to fill up, and the operating system has a few early quirks, but the Mozart sings a happy tune overall.
The Mozart is available for free on a £32.50-per-month contract, exclusively on Orange. You can also buy it SIM-free for around £470.
Have we met before?
The Mozart has the challenge of differentiating itself from the other phones that launched alongside Windows Phone 7. Because of Microsoft's strict minimum specs, each launch phone has around 8GB of memory, a 1GHz processor, at least a 5-megapixel camera, and a large screen.
Since all Windows Phone 7 handsets have the same user interface, we invite you to read our full review of the new OS. In a nutshell, we think it's very finger-friendly and simple, but has plenty of room to grow. The Xbox Live, Zune music and Office features are already crave-worthy, but the app store has plenty of catching up to do.
Both HTC and Orange have contributed to the OS in the only way they've been able to -- by slapping some of their own apps on there. None of them are worth buying the phone for specifically, although the Orange Wednesdays app is definitely worth having. Not only does it offer a quick way to grab two-for-one cinema tickets, it does a great job of displaying movie reviews, trailers, show times and nearby cinemas.
Although the Mozart has a 1GHz processor, we found it slightly less perky than the HTC HD7. Occasionally, the screen didn't unlock on our first swipe, and apps didn't open as quickly as we expected. It's not a terrible problem, but it does slow down the swoopy Windows Phone 7 OS somewhat.
Taking the shot
The Mozart sings a slightly different tune to rival Windows Phone 7 handsets, thanks to its 8-megapixel camera and xenon flash. This type of flash is brighter and delivers better results than the LED photo light typically found on mobile phones, but it will drain the battery faster and can take a second to warm up.
Indeed, in our tests, the Mozart's camera wasn't particularly fast to capture shots, with or without the flash. We found the delay between pressing the dedicated camera button and capturing an image to be longer than with some of the Mozart's competitors, like the Android-based HTC Desire HD, although we still think you'll see an improvement if you're upgrading from an older camera phone.
The xenon flash also can't be using for shooting video, since it can't be left on like an LED can. In general, however, LED lights are so unflattering and harsh that we prefer to leave them off anyway.
To test the xenon flash, we retreated into the dark, mysterious cave that is the CNET UK TV testing room. We pitted the Mozart against a Desire HD, which has an 8-megapixel camera with two LED lights. (For more on the Desire HD's camera, check out our Desire HD camera test.) We also pitted the Mozart against a decent compact camera, the Fujifilm FinePix J150w.
We've collated the images so you can compare them more easily. Click the pictures below to see larger versions, or click the following links to see the original, full-sized camera photo, Mozart photo and Desire HD photo. All the photos were taken under fully automatic settings.
In the photos above, although the camera soundly beats both phones, and does a better job of exposing Ian's massive napkin collection, the Mozart's xenon flash trounces the Desire HD's LED lights. Although the colour isn't accurate, the flash is less harsh and delivers a better image overall. It's worth noting that, with the flash turned off, the Mozart refused to even take a shot in very dark conditions, while the Desire HD made a valiant effort to focus.
In this shot of an Intel employee sharing a cupcake with a Mountie, the Mozart's poor colour reproduction is less forgivable. We also prefer the sharper definition of the Desire HD shot. We gave the Mozart plenty of chances to get the shot in focus.
Overall, we weren't thrilled with the Mozart's camera, although the xenon flash is definitely an advantage. For shots in good light, we'd put it on par with the rest of the high-end smart phones out there. If you love taking shots in the dark, the Mozart could edge out the competition.
Music to our ears
With a name like Mozart, we had high hopes for this phone's musical abilities. It comes with a pair of flimsy free earbuds, but we tested it with a pair of fabulous Audio Technica ATH-W1000 headphones, and we were perfectly happy with the Mozart's performance. The SRS Wow HD sound algorithm can take the credit for sound that feels accurate and warm. The only downside could be the volume -- we had to keep it pumped up to maximum to get our rock on. It's possible to buy headphone amps, but we'd rather be able to notch the volume up on the phone.
The Windows Phone 7 music player, like the rest of the OS, has a fresh design with plenty of white space. It looks good and feels fun to swipe around with your fingers, but we do have a few complaints. For example, when listening to a playlist, we found it too easy to skip through songs by touching the screen while the player was still displayed, or when we were scrubbing forwards or backwards in a song. We also would have liked to be able to scrub through songs with a slider, rather than just using the fast-forward and rewind buttons, although they helpfully speed up scrubbing as you hold them down.
Finally, we weren't thrilled with the tiny music player that's displayed at the top of the screen when you're listening to music and doing something else. As far as we can see, you can only bring it up by hitting the volume buttons, not by tapping or scrolling. At least you can skip or pause from the mini-player, but you can't tap it to open the full player. We have a similar complaint about the status symbols that show up when you swipe the top of the screen -- seeing the Wi-Fi strength is great, but we'd love to be able to tap to open the Wi-Fi settings, for example.
The Mozart has 8GB of storage, and no more -- Windows Phone 7 doesn't support using extra memory cards. If you think you'll want to pack more music and video onto your phone, it may be worth looking at a handset with expandable memory, like the HTC Desire.
On the plus side, we love the Zune software that helps you sync music with your phone and your computer, although it did take a few attempts for us to get connected via USB. You can even sync your phone wirelessly, if it's on the same Wi-Fi network as your PC. The Zune store on the phone also makes buying music on the move straightforward, and you can stream music too if you pay for a £9-per-month Zune subscription.
We hoped the HTC 7 Mozart would blow us away with its camera and music prowess, but our feet remained firmly on the ground. The phone's xenon flash should help out when you're in a dark club or on a spelunking trip, though. Overall, the Mozart is a perfectly sound, solid showcase for Windows Phone 7. Its decent pay-monthly price and pocket-friendly size should tempt those who find the HD7 too big and expensive, even if the Mozart feels fractionally less responsive.
When it comes to apps, the iPhone and Android platforms have a massive head start over Windows Phone 7, but Microsoft's OS is still fun and finger-friendly. Add a pair of decent headphones and a Zune account, and the Mozart will keep you entertained just like its Austrian namesake.
Edited by Charles Kloet