Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ll have heard about Microsoft’s return to the mobile phone space with Windows Phone 7. And boy, have they returned. Combined with the hardware of the HTC 7 Trophy, it delivers in spades.
Initial impressions were good; not only am I fond of the mini-tablet format, the design very much reminded me of Sony’s Clie TH55, probably the greatest PDA of all time, so the Trophy had some big boots to fill. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint; this is a lovely smartphone.
When you get the phone out of the box and into your hand, there’s a little weight to it, giving a quality feel. It’s a relatively big device at 62 mm x 119 mm but this is a benefit when you start using the Trophy for more than making phone calls.
The 3.8″ screen has a lovely silver bevel which I initially thought was refraction at the glass edge. It’s not; it seems to be the milled edge of the metal casing and I think it looks great. As you’ll see from the picture, aside from the HTC logo, there are just three buttons at the bottom of the screen for back, home / start and find.
Round the back, there’s a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. The Trophy is the first phone I’ve used that has the shutter button in the right place – when you hold the phone in landscape to take a picture, the button falls perfectly under the right forefinger, just as if it was an ordinary camera.
The sides and back have a soft rubber touch to them, giving a bit of grip. The last thing you want is for the phone to slip out of your hand and plunge to the floor, which will inevitably be concrete, tile or solid wood. It’s never a sheepskin rug.
Finishing the exterior, there’s a power button on the top, plus volume buttons on the left side. A micro USB port and 3.5 mm earphone jack complete the physical connectivity.
In use, the phone is fabulous. The 480 x 800 pixel screen is bright and detailed – there’s only the slightest hint of “jaggies” when you look very closely. The response to the touch screen is excellent and the scrolling is super smooth. I guess that’s where the 1 GHz processor comes in.
When it comes to the Metro user interface, you can choose your own adjectives. I thought it was a stylish mix of two dimensional buttons contrasted by three dimensional effects. One colleague suggested Fisher-Price and another thought it was bit like a tourist map where you’re not quite too sure what the symbols mean as there’s no legend.
However, there is no denying that the overall presentation is luxurious. Screens appear as if they’re a page being turned. Deleted emails drop into oblivion off the bottom of the screen. Screens can present as if they’re part of bigger montages, with individual elements scrolling at different rates. I like the equivalent of the hourglass – it’s now a couple of dots that zip onto the screen, dawdle in the middle and then zip off again.
Certainly, there is a bit of initial head scratching or accidental discovery of features. “How do I….?” becames, “Ahh, so that’s how it works.” And I’m still not 100% certain about whether apps run in the background.
I’m not going to review every single app in turn because pretty much everything that you’d expect is there. Email – check, calendar – check, address book – check, Office support – check, maps – check, web browser – check. So what are the highlights and lowlights?
Regarding email, there’s no consolidated application. Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, etc. are all treated as apps in their own right but I was able to use EAS without any trouble, with emails, appointments and contacts all synchronised perfectly with Exchange.
Contacts are brought into a single place “People” but it’s not perfect with regard to duplicates brought in from different sources, e.g. Gmail and Hotmail. Sometimes phone numbers are repeated even though they’re the same.
The Phone app is very responsive when you are tapping out numbers – I didn’t get any missed digits or double digits when I was dialling. An iPhone-toting friend thought that the phone app was much better than the iOS equivalent. Call quality was good.
I was unable to connect to my workplace’s wifi network because there’s doesn’t appear to be any way to make adjustments to the security settings etc. To be fair, it’s not possible to connect on an iPhone either. Connecting up at home was a doddle.
The virtual keyboard is ok. I’ve got fairly large fingers but on the whole I was able to tap out the odd short email or enter search terms without too many mistakes. Definitely more successful in landscape than portrait (obviously) but nowhere near as good as the keyboard on a Palm Pre, for example.
The Zune side of things was a hit. The sound quality was good and reproduction was well-defined. While the bass could be a little better, it was better than average for a portable device (and the limitation is often the encoding of the track). I was listening using Sennheiser eH 1430 headphones, not the the supplied ones.
The Zune hub was easy to use and great for browsing. Videos were smooth and easy to watch. I’m not a big gamer so I didn’t really pursue the Xbox Live side of things but the Trophy is the gamer’s phone in the HTC line-up. What I did see was pretty slick and it was easy to download games, although it seemed to be quite slow at downloading, even over wi-fi. I tried a few of the usual suspects such as Bejeweled and they played well.
Obviously the application marketplace isn’t nearly as big as the equivalents for iOS, Android or even WebOS. But for an OS that’s months old, there’s a fair selection of apps and more will come over time.
Web browsing was excellent….as long as the web page didn’t have Flash. The big screen and Internet Explorer reproduced most web sites really well and with the hi-res screen, you didn’t have to constantly zoom in and out. Even quite small text was still legible. I did find a couple of websites that had mobile or PDA versions and these recognised that the web browser was on a smartphone. However they didn’t recognise the particular browser on Windows Phone 7 and consequently defaulted to a very basic version. Switching to the full website version usually solved the problem.
Battery life was perfectly acceptable for a device of this type. I found that I could go a day or two without recharging the Trophy and by that I mean a couple of phone calls, email from EAS, some music listening and a bit of surfing. Once I started playing games and watching video, the battery life took a hit, but this is hardly unexpected.
That’s about it. The HTC 7 Trophy is a very good phone and Windows Phone 7 is impressive. The whole feel of the device is quality, the screen is great and the OS is modern. Consequently I would recommend that anyone thinking of a new smartphone should give the Trophy a very long look.
Thanks to HTC for the loan.