What's hot: Large Super LCD display, very enjoyable OS.
What's not: Not 4G, will have to wait until fall 2011 for more OS features.
Display: 4.3" TFT color LCD. Resolution: WVGA, 800 x 480. Supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer, has ambient light sensor and proximity sensor.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1230 mAh.
Performance: 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 processor. 512 MB built-in RAM. 16 gigs flash storage.
Size: 4.8 x 2.68 x 0.44 inches. Weight: 5.71 ounces.
Phone: GSM quad band with 3G HSDPA 7.2MBps on AT&T's US 850/1900MHz bands.
Camera: 5 megapixel with autofocus lens and dual LED flash. Can shoot 720p video.
Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Voice command software integrated into OS. Has FM radio.
Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR with headset, handsfree and A2DP stereo profiles.
Software: Windows Phone 7 OS with "No-Do" update. Standard apps include IE, MS Office Mobile, email client, Marketplace, Bing Maps and Search, Zune music and video player, alarms, calculator, XBOX Live Games, People (contacts, Windows Live and Facebook), Pictures and Settings. T-Mobile software: TeleNav Navigator, T-Mobile TV and Family Room. HTC software: HTC Hub. You can download additional free HTC apps from the Marketplace.
AT&T is no stranger to Windows Phone 7 smartphones. Among US carriers, they offer the broadest selection with 3 models, the Samsung Focus, HTC Surround and LG Quantum. Make that 4 models on June 5 when the HTC HD7S joined the team. This is a tweaked an improved version of the HD7 that launched with T-Mobile and overseas carriers. While the HD7 had an old-fashioned basic LCD that looks washed out by today’s standards, the HD7S boasts a thoroughly modern Super LCD. It has better color saturation, wider viewing angles and looks as good as its Android cousin, the HTC EVO 4G.The camera is improved too, with quicker focus and snaps, our other complaint about the original model. Everything else we loved is still here: a super-sized 4.3”, 800 x 480 capacitive display, an elegant and extremely slim design, excellent materials with metal and soft touch finishes and a metal kickstand that turns the HD7S into a tabletop video player. I know many of you on AT&T really wanted the HD7; it’s one of the best sellers worldwide among Windows phones and it’s heartening to see it finally make its way to AT&T with a few tweaks and updates in tow.
The HD7S is a 3G HSDPA phone that runs Windows Phone 7 with the NoDo update that has copy and paste and an improved Marketplace search among other things. Like all Windows 7 phones, it will be eligible for the Mango OS update that brings 500 new features including multi-tasking this fall. The phone has WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth and a GPS that works with Bing Maps and AT&T Navigator.
Windows Phone 7 may not be selling like hotcakes yet, but we still love the elegant and simple Metro UI. The phone is as friendly and easy to use as the iPhone, and in fact mimics some iOS features such as USB syncing of music using the Zune desktop app (or Windows Phone Connector that hooks you up with your iTunes library on a Mac), and a heavily vetted Marketplace. It also supports DRM and that means not just Zune videos but the ever-popular Netflix.
The hardware features we loved on the HD7 are here in the HD7S: an elegant and classy looking design with a metal kickstand, a simply capacious 4.3”, 800 x 480 capacitive touch screen and designer slimness. HTC has improved the buttons so they don’t wobble as on the HD7, and we like them, though they’re a bit hard to press because they stick out so little beyond the casing and require a firm touch. The large volume rocker is easier to operate than the dedicated camera button and power button and the backlit capacitive buttons work well. The HD7 and HD7S are our favorite Windows 7 Phones from a design and quality perspective. We also confess to love the large display for watching videos and reading web pages comfortably without much zooming; and the HD7/HD7S are the largest display Windows Phones on the market. That said, the Samsung Focus’ 4” Super AMOLED display has richer colors and deeper blacks—nothing beats Super AMOLED if you love extremely vibrant colors.
Though the HD7S has a big display, it’s quite slim and nicely evolves the old Windows Mobile HD2 industrial design. It weighs 5.7 ounces so you’ll feel it in your pocket, but it’s not overly heavy. The rectilinear design is better suited to those with large hands, but I find it manageable (disclaimer: I am a tall woman with large hands).
Microsoft has minimum specs for Windows Phone 7 handsets, so all the phones on the market share the same 1 GHz single core first generation Snapdragon CPU, 5 megapixel camera that shoots 720p video, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo and a GPS. They all have generous amounts of internal storage and no micro SD card slot except the Samsung Focus (Windows Phone 7 and removable storage are a bit a of headache). The HTC HD7S has 16 gigs of storage, and when syncing music, videos and photos with the Zune desktop software, you can set aside a reserved amount for on-device app downloads and other uses.
Windows Phone 7 uses the Metro user interface that is fun and easy to use. You can select which Live Tiles appear on the home screen, and some support live updates, but we haven’t found this pervasive or always timely. Side-swiping in apps will bring up additional screens and functions: sweet. Windows Phone 7 currently does not support multi-tasking; that will appear in the “Mango” update this fall, and all current Windows 7 phones, including the HD7S will get that update. That means third party apps are suspended when you switch to the home screen or another app, just as iOS used to do before Apple added multi-tasking support. Microsoft’s own apps can multi-task, and that means email and text messages will continue to arrive even if you’re not in the email or messaging client.
As you might guess, Windows Phone 7 has excellent MS Exchange support, Hotmail support and a solid MS Office suite. What you might not guess is that it syncs well to Google calendar, contacts and email and supports most email services. Beyond Exchange and Office, Windows Phone 7 is very consumer oriented, and the centerpieces are XBOX Live and Zune (music and videos). You do need to use the Zune desktop software to transfer music to the phone (it will handle video conversion if needed). You do not need to subscribe to Zune services, though we happen to really enjoy their monthly $14.99 subscription service where you can download, stream and listen to as many tunes as you wish (they have a very large library), and you get 10 “free” DRM-free MP3 tracks each month to keep in the deal (you select the tunes you want, and you must remember to grab them each month before your renewal period comes up). You can also stream music using a web browser on your computer (both Mac and Windows are supported and it uses MS Silverlight). The Zune music player on the phone is the best we’ve seen on a mobile device. Alas, the HD7S’ mono speaker is just average, but sound through Bluetooth stereo and wired headsets is excellent. HTC also has a downloadable sound enhancer that boosts bass. Speaking of HTC apps, the HTC Hub on the home screen will take you to a list of downloadable HTC apps that are available only for HTC phones. These include the sound enhancer, a compass, hidden WiFi network connector, a solid YouTube player and a photo enhancer.
The Windows Phone Marketplace has approximately 18,000 applications as of this writing. The Marketplace has incredible growth and believe it or not, that’s a lot of apps for a platform that didn’t exist until November 2010. You’ll find the staples of mobile app life like Flixster Movies, IMDB, Twitter clients (Facebook is built into the OS and it’s very well done, so there’s no need for that), YouTube players (we particularly like HTC’s own YouTube player that will use HQ even when connected to 3G), a free ePub ebook reader called Freda and Amazon Kindle. Still, there are holes: there’s no Nook or Kobo Reader, and IE 7 is the only web browser (anything else you see are skins and functionality add-ons to the IE 7 core). The OS doesn’t support tethering (that should appear in the Mango update) and there’s no 4G.
Call quality is very good with clear and sharp voice on both ends. Noise reduction is effective and the phone plays nicely with Bluetooth headsets, car kits and stereo headsets. Reception is average among AT&T phones and we had no dropped calls or failures to connect, even in locations where the iPhone 4 dropped calls or failed to connect.
The phone’s GPS works with the integrated Bing Maps and search, as well as AT&T Navigator. Navigator provides spoken turn-by-turn directions, which Bing Maps does not, though that’s coming in Mango as well. Sorry, there’s no Google Maps for Windows Phone 7, though you can download Google search.
Gaming is superb on the HTC HD7S thanks to the built-in XBOX Live gaming hub where you can connect to your XBOX account and play some solid tier 1 games. Though there are phones with higher specs in terms of CPU and GPU, Windows Phone 7 is highly optimized for the requisite 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU and all games played smoothly. Titles include SIMS 3, Assassin’s Creed, Need for Speed Undercover, The Harvest, Castlevania Puzzle and a healthy selection of casual games. We love that you can download any game as a demo and play for a decent amount of time to see if it’s something you want to own. Games run from $2.99 to $4.99 with a few top new titles selling for $6.99. When you purchase a game (or any app), it’s in your account and you can download it to any other Windows Phone that uses the same account. There is a limit of 5 phones per account, and you can remove 1 device from your account each month.
The HTC HD7S is currently our top pick among Windows 7 Phones. However, we understand if you opt for the also capable Samsung Focus for its Super AMOLED display and slightly more pocketable form factor. The Focus is currently less expensive since it's been in AT&T's lineup since November of 2010, but we wouldn't be suprised if third party dealers offer the HD7S at very attractive prices. The HD7S has a quality build and look, is extremely slim and offers the largest display among Windows Phone 7 smartphones. As with all Windows Phone 7 devices, it’s fast, easy to use and there’s a decent selection of apps in the market. XBOX gaming is great on the big screen and touch controls are easier to use. Likewise the large display and kickstand make this a perfect phone for movie viewing. Call quality is very good, camera quality is decent and the phone will get the Mango update this fall, according to Microsoft