The HTC HD7, with Windows Phone 7, is a damn cool phone.
I don’t say this because I’m some kind of corporate shill: I gave a talk last year at Boston’s BarCamp which was titled “Why I love my N900 — and you probably wouldn’t.” Despite working for Nokia, I realize that their products are not for everyone, and comparing Symbian to some of its competitors shows some obvious flaws.
Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, is a really fun operating system.
This phone is fast. Lightning fast. Blazing fast. There’s no ‘loading’ screens for seconds while an app starts up. Every time you press a button, something happens. On sheer ‘toy’ factor alone, the phone and its OS are very impressive. The first reaction that you have when you use the OS is “Wow”, all over.
The integration between apps and the OS is pretty nice. I took a picture, and I could share it via Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter, through their existing apps. Facebook news updates integrate into the contacts application, as do others (like Windows Live) though right now it seems that this is done at the OS level and not at the app level. Facebook integration into contacts includes everything you’d expect, pictures and so on — including phone numbers, something I never got from the N900 ‘facebook’ (Jabber) integration.
The calendar app is slick; the ‘Agenda’ view gives me all the information that I want, quickly and easily, and the home screen includes a clock and my next calendar appointment, making it so I don’t even need to
The browser is fast, like the rest of the system. Unlike most prior experiences in IE, the browser is competitive with most other mobile browsing experiences. (It doesn’t seem to have any touch event support, but the only thing I’ve ever used that does is iOS, so I’m biased here.)
Wifi handling is good; it switches easily to Wifi when it sees a saved access point, with no obvious problems.
The phone app is solid: getting to it is easy, answering calls has a good UI, and the voice quality is solid. Getting to the phone easily is something that the N900 definitely did not give me, and I was surprised by how much it annoyed me.
Voice search/activation is cool, and actually worked pretty well. (Getting to it is stupid — holding down the “Windows” button turns it on rather than, say, “Search” — but it works pretty well.)
The Marketplace application is nice; support for updates, and a reasonable UI for quickly finding what you’re looking for. (The search leaves something to be desired; I oftentimes find myself searching in ‘Apps’ and getting back music/videos first, which isn’t really what I want. But when I know what I’m looking for, it works relatively well.) Compared to the Ovi Store which I’m used to, it’s a breath of fresh air: again, fast, easy to find things, and it has lots of content. Of the top 10 free apps on the android market, 7 of them are also in the Microsoft Marketplace — everything from Kindle to Facebook to Twitter is available in the existing marketplace.
Live tiles are neat. Seeing them on TV/advertisements, I didn’t really care. But they actually work well, include information that’s helpful and useful at a quick glance. The homescreen UI also makes it easy to get easy access to the applications, contacts, etc. that I want — and doesn’t have an arbitrary limit on a number of home screens like other devices do.
Text messaging is easy to use. Text all over, in fact, is really pretty — the entire UI is just easy on the eyes, which helps a lot.
Pictures are easy. Picture quality is solid — as much as I expect from any point and shoot.
Despite the lack of ‘multitasking’, the app ’stack’ is well managed — much better than iOS, which is always centered around the home screen. I can open an email, have it take me to a link, follow it to a YouTube video in the YouTube app, and then hit back to go all the way back to the original email.
Overall, I feel like the WP7 OS running on the HTC HD7 really feels like a solid competitor in the next generation of smartphones. It’s fast, clean, and smooth all over, and for everything from sending email to watching movies on Netflix, it’s a fun phone to use, and lets me get done everything that I want to do quickly and easily.
Now if only I could get cell reception in the damn office.