HTC’s commitment to Windows Phone 7 has so far seen it launch more handsets running Microsoft’s revamped smartphone operating system than any of its competitors. Three models appeared soon after Windows Phone 7 was launched – the HTC HD7, the HTC 7 Mozart and the HTC 7 Trophy. Now, a few months after the initial flurry, comes the HTC 7 Pro.
The HTC 7 Pro is different from most other Windows 7 handsets in one very important respect. It has a slide-out qwerty keyboard. These are becoming less and less common, as smartphone screens get larger and more responsive – but late last year, we did see the HTC Desire Z add a physical keyboard to the Android operating system, and HTC is clearly committed to the notion.
Now it’s the turn of Windows 7 to get a physical keyboard – and frankly, we’re not sure it’s necessary. The screen of the HTC 7 Pro measures 3.6 inches diagonally, corner-to-corner. That isn’t huge, but its 480×800-pixel resolution delivers a sharp and clear image. The screen is capacitive, and in ‘wide’ orientation we found we were able to type pretty quickly on it.
The physical keyboard didn’t give us a huge typing speed boost, but it does add to the overall bulk of the HTC 7 Pro, making it relatively heavy for a smartphone at 185g. Inevitably, it also adds to the phone’s thickness, which stands at 15.5mm. In short, the keyboard has to pay its way in ergonomics terms to justify the bulk it adds to the device – and from our point of view, it doesn’t quite do that.
The handset does, however, feature a clever sliding mechanism that’ll make you smile. Push the screen and keyboard sections apart, and a hinge kicks in that lifts the screen up at an angle. It sits nicely on the desk for viewing, and feels more comfy in the hand than flat arrangements, too.
But there’s another negative point to counteract that. Windows Phone 7 has not been engineered for slide-out keyboards. By which we mean that only some of the apps slip naturally into wide format. You are OK if you are composing emails or writing SMS messages or documents. But the Start screen refuses to rotate, as do many or the others making it awkward to work with the keyboard out.
The rest of what’s on offer here is very similar to what you get in other Windows Phone 7 smartphones. Importantly, that means no memory expansion capability using microSD cards. You’re stuck with the 8GB RAM that’s built in. It also means no desktop synchronisation with Outlook. You have to get your calendar and contacts into the cloud – i.e. on Google or via Windows Live. The latter option also gives you 25GB of online storage and automatic uploading of photos from your smartphone. There is some desktop sync via Zune, but only for pictures, video, podcasts and music.
The Windows Phone 7 user interface is fixed and unskinnable, and it’s made up of a series of tiles’ which can contain links to apps or actual information. It is neat, but the lack of customisation irks.
Wi-Fi, GPS and HSDPA are here, of course, and there is a market of applications which is growing in number all the time – though it doesn’t yet come close to matching either Google’s Android Market or Apple’s iTunes App Store.
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