Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Windows HTC HD7

This is the first Windows 7 phone I've managed to get my hands on, and having completed the training several weeks back, I must confess, I'm a little excited. Microsoft have certainly managed to capture some of the anticipation and hype that is usually reserved for technology that bears fruit for it's logo. Although I appreciate that I'm most likely a minority. The build up for windows 7 has had far less of an impact on joe public. We're a few weeks late with these products rolling in and we don't have people forming disorderly and frantic queues. It's a sombre launch at best. No matter, the proof is in the pudding as they say.

Upon booting up the device, I'm greeted with an attractively scrolling windows 7 logo and I click the 'get started' button. I choose to set the phone up the 'recommended' way and have to set time date etc. First impressions are superb, even setting the time and date are an elegant process. I see my first glimpse of 'tiles' in action as I swoosh days and months up and down past the screen. I'm then asked to input my windows live details and the first negative point become apparent. Obviously there is no swype, and the keyboard can't auto correct my login, so I make a couple of typing errors inputting my email and password. The capacitive touch screen is responsive though and errors are easily corrected. You could blame my fat fingers. I click sign in, but I've a sim with no data connection in, so after blue boxes of thinking pass (tiny little blue squares sweep back and forth across the very edge of the top of the screen whilst it's busy), I'm alerted to a connection problem. So I skip this stage and click done. The main screen loads and I hunt for wifi. Within seconds, I've found the settings and wifi tab and a click later, it's connected. Simple. I click settings again and click 'accounts', I log in to Windows live, and facebook. The unit synchronises. Several times I hit the .com button instead of @ and s instead of a, I will see if I can calibrate the screen as I appear to be making too many typo's. I hit the windows button and wait to see the tiles come to life and they have. Friends profile pictures are fading in and out on my 'people' tile, My FB profile pic has appeared on 'Me'. I hit the People tab and I'm presented with my last facebook update and, er, peculiarly a list of unrecognisable phone numbers, I scroll further down the list and see my list of normal contacts. Although it appears to be outdated. (I confess, I don't use Windows live for my contacts), I whizz across to hotmail on my Mac and click contacts there, then I notice a 'clean up contacts' option. This gets rid of all my duplicates; perhaps I'd underestimated windows live? I check the phone but can't see an option to 'clean up contacts' on the device. Scrolling across to whats new I see other people's updates, and a comment to my last. Reading it is child's play.

From the home screen I click on the messages tile and there's a short message from windows that urges me to click the link for 5 hot tips. I play the video and learn that you can search for things and pin people to the start menu. The video looks good, but the speaker on this device is poor.
I click the Me tile, which displays my latest facebook and email updates, I figure this may be useful, so I move it, with ease (tap and hold, to the top of the menu). I click email and see that my X-Box live membership ran out; today! Doh.
Time to get back on expert training zone methinks. Tapping to zoom works as well as it does on other leading smartphones and reading the email is easy. I trash the message and it deletes elegantly. Which is some respite I suppose from the bad news that it delivered. I turn the phone to the side and again, like other smartphones, it transitions beautifully to landscape mode. Bizarrely the main menu stays in portrait mode. I expected it would transition as well. I boot up the browser and navigate to a page displaying a link to a movie, as it's a quicktime movie, the browser won't talk to it. Obviously there's no download option, so this is a no go. This is noteworthy, on an iPhone I can navigate to the MS or Apple website and watch movies on products. On the windows 7 phone, I can only go one way, the Microsoft way. I navigate to the BBC news website and click a flash video. It too won't play and there is no flash player available to download. For You tube.... I need to install the app. I download the free app and find, oh... where is it? I see a right pointing arrow on the windows start menu, click it and find You tube at the bottom. I click and hold and sure enough, I get the option to pin it to the start menu. I also find lots of options I hadn't seen before. I boot up the youtube app and, well, er, it appears to be a link to the website, although now I can play the videos. Playback is smooth and clear, but the sound is quiet. After some frustration trying to find a mapping app in the marketplace, I find that there is one lurking in the (arrow) menu (why isn't this pinned to the start menu?). This pinpoints my location on rather unattractive 2d map. I click what I assume is the navigation arrow and enter a nearby town as my destination. After a while a route is calculated and the top half of the screen displays the 2d map, while the bottom has the instructions. It's impressive the way it leaps from instruction to instruction, but this is no google maps, or in car sat nav. I also find, curiously, that it wants to send me to a golf club, which is a good few miles outside of the town centre. Perhaps it knows my social standing needs improving? Bizarre.

I click the camera button and the screen quickly jumps to camera mode, the screen is clear and the button is a two stage button as found on the best camera's, halfway for focus, all of the way to zoom. It pings to tell me its focussed, but the cursor stays white. The picture quality is excellent. On first impressions the video doesn't seem to be as good although its apparently 720p. By comparison to other 720p hardware, it lacks the wow factor, that's most likely the hardware more than the software. The xbox tab shows me logged in as me, and has links to some xbox games. Oddly the screenshots are in landscape, but they rotate away from you when you turn the device!
The extras show me that I have Office pre-installed for dealing with spreadsheets, word documents and presentations, A calendar, which, like everything else, is elegant, impressive and easy to use, a Calculator, Alarm clock, Convertor (I'm going down the list), HTC Hub and Maps. It looks like a lot, but most of the list is duplicated from the main screen.
HTC Hub is the most interesting of these as it's obviously not going to be on all Windows 7 handsets. Booting into this shows an Android like clock with weather (auto updated) and some featured apps. Tiles are gone and the natural instinct to swipe, is met with a disappointing lack of co-operation from the handset. Instead I click a right arrow, which leads me to, TILES! Featured, Games and applications are my options, and, well, they all look a but dull to be honest. Clicking more changes the profile again and I get a list and more tiles (I'm getting a bit tiled of this now, I don't know where I am). Games, Featured and Applications are still the headers, but the tiles have been replaced with lists. Loading is somewhat tiresome.  It's disappointingly empty. A visit to the windows Marketplace paints a brighter picture. I click search for weather, (spelling it wrong, but being given a correction to select) Loading is painfully slow, which, judging by the browser, doesn't appear to be a network issue. I have a vast selection of apps to choose from and I choose the Weather channel. There is a problem completing the request error c101a7e3, (which is useful information) and I'm denied the pleasure.

Despite this Microsoft typical end to my experience, I cannot help but be wowed by the device. The interface is undoubtedly Microsoft's best operating system in many a year and despite the odd hiccup (which I am going to put down to teething problems) there is plenty to get excited about in this handset and a lot to like and love.
In terms of rank, on first impressions at least Windows may just have overtaken Android. Whether they've toppled Apple, I think perhaps they have, or if they haven't, they may do soon.
From a devout Apple iPhone, Mac and iPod 'fanboy' and Microsoft Windows loather (forgive me I suffered many hundreds of years of defragmentation, scan-disking, registry woes and error ridden pain) this is high praise indeed. I'm a firm believer that the most successful tech manufacturers will be the ones bringing the simplest technology to the masses with the lowest failure rate and most attractively warming interface.
This handset is very easy to get to grips with, drag and drop logic and expectations of what the device should do, mean any half tech savvy Mum should be able to get to grips with it in under a day.
Apple watch out, you could be usurped. I can see most customers being delighted with their cutting edge Windows 7 smartphone purchase.
Well done Microsoft. Believe the hype; even if there isn't much. It exceeded my expectations and puts Microsoft well and truly back in the game. Which is impressive considering prior to this release, they were, at best, rank outsider. Would I swap?

Not yet.

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