HTC goes in big with five Windows Phone 7 handsets

The phones will be on sale globally by the end of October

Two years ago, HTC delivered the first smartphone to use Google's Android mobile phone software, the G1. On Monday, the Taiwanese company unveiled five smartphones with Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 operating system and these phones will be available in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific by late October.

"We at HTC can create the best Android phone and we can create the best Windows Phone 7 phone and let the consumer decide," said Peter Chou, HTC's CEO, during a press briefing in Taipei.

The company went in big for longtime partner Microsoft by unveiling the HTC 7 Surround, HTC 7 Mozart, HTC 7 Trophy, HTC 7 Pro and HTC HD7 smartphones on Monday.

"Five new smartphones... we've never done this before," said Alex Liu, Asia Pacific product marketing manager at HTC, during a news conference.

The HTC 7 Surround has a 3.8-inch touchscreen and a slide-out speaker with integrated Dolby Mobile and SRS WOW HD technology for high-fidelity sound. The speaker slides up out of the handset in a similar way keypads slide out for easy typing. The Surround also has a fold-out stand to let users set it up and watch mobile TV or videos on the handset. The HTC 7 Surround will only be available in the U.S., through AT&T, and in Canada, through Telus.

The HTC 7 Mozart has a 3.7-inch touchscreen and an 8-megapixel camera with flash. The Mozart also has Dolby Mobile audio and SRS WOW HD for superior sound. The HTC 7 Mozart will be available in Europe, from Orange and T-Mobile, and in Asia from operators in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

The HTC Trophy sports a 3.8-inch WVGA touchscreen and is made for people who love gaming on Xbox Live. It boasts a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor for speedier gaming and also has SRS WOW HD for virtual surround sound. It is curved in shape, similar to HTC's Desire smartphone. The Trophy will be available only from Vodafone in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and from M1 in Singapore.

The HTC HD7 is by far the largest of the new HTC 7 smartphones, with a 4.3-inch touchscreen. The HD7 is thinner than HTC's Windows Mobile-based HD2. It has a 5-megapixel camera and one part of the back of the camera acts as a stand in case a user wants to set the phone down and play Xbox Live, or watch videos or mobile TV on it. The HD7 will be available in the U.S. only from T-Mobile, from Bouygues Telecom in France and from Telefónica elsewhere in Europe. In Asia, it will be available from operators in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

The HTC 7 Pro has a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard for fast typing. Productivity features for business users include mobile Office software and the ability to manage Outlook e-mail. The Pro will only be available in the U.S. and only from Spring, in the first half of next year.

One change for people who use HTC smartphones will be a different experience with HTC Sense, the company's user interface (UI). All HTC handsets designed for Windows Phone 7 will use Microsoft's UI but there is a tile on the home page called "HTC Hub" that will send users into what looks essentially like the HTC Sense UI.

HTC would not call the UI "Sense" but said it is a different version of its software. It looks like it's been improved for Windows Phone 7 handsets with nicer graphics and added sounds, particularly for the weather reports, which, for example, gives the sound of rain if the weather forecast calls for rain that day. The original clock that opens on HTC Sense is also on HTC Hub.

All HTC smartphones designed for the Windows Phone 7 OS will have names beginning HTC 7, the company said.

It did not say what prices for the smartphones would be since operators in varying countries will offer different packages to consumers.

The company walks a fine line with its competing software partners, considering it is one of the biggest makers of smartphones that use Microsoft Windows or Google Android software. HTC was one of the first companies to launch a Windows Mobile handset, and kept at the OS even when other companies avoided it.

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Dan Nystedt

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