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The HTC HD7 impressed us with its massive screen and built-in kickstand, but a few annoying quirks in its design detract from this smartphone's overall appeal. The HD7 remains an excellent Windows Phone 7 smartphone but sits a notch below Samsung's Omnia 7.
HTC's HD7 smartphone is viewed as the flagship Windows Phone 7 device, largely thanks to its 4.3in display. Equipped with a similar design to the Android-powered HTC Desire HD, the HD7's large screen and built-in kickstand make it an attractive option for multimedia buffs, but it does have a few niggling build quality issues.
UPDATE: Telstra exclusively sells the HTC HD7 smartphone outright for $768, and it is also available on selected Next G cap plans and Business mobile plus plans, all over 24 month contracts.
Unlike previous Windows Mobile devices, all new Windows Phone 7 smartphones are forced to meet strict hardware requirements. These include a capacitive, multitouch display with a minimum 800x480 resolution, a 1GHz or better processor, at least 256MB of RAM, a minimum of 8GB of internal storage, and a GPS receiver. All Windows Phone 7 devices must also have an accelerometer and digital compass, an ambient light sensor, a 5-megapixel camera or better, an FM radio and seven physical buttons (back, Start, search, camera, power/lock, volume up/down).
These requirements make all Windows Phone 7 devices eerily similar to use and means that physical design is the main differentiator between models. The HTC HD7 separates itself from the rest of the Windows Phone 7 horde by the way of its large 4.3in display. Despite its large screen, HTC has managed to make the HD7 feel completely comfortable to use; this phone feels as natural to hold as any other smartphone.
We were impressed with some of HTC's small design touches; the built-in kickstand is smart and functional, the speaker is well hidden behind stylish mesh above the display, and the glossy metallic edging is stylish and modern. However, the HD7 has a few minor design quirks. The rear battery cover feels flimsy when removed and annoyingly doesn't sit flush with the base of the phone when clicked back into place, and the gap around the edges on both the front and back of the HD7's casing isn't consistent. The power, volume and camera buttons are also poorly designed — they are too flat and therefore require quite a bit of force to press — and the touch-sensitive buttons below the display (back, home and search) don't have a backlight. We also aren't a fan of the headphone jack being at the bottom of the handset.
The HTC HD7's display is impressive due to its sheer size, but it lacks the vibrancy of competing displays, particularly the Super AMOLED screens of the Samsung Galaxy S and Samsung Omnia 7. This becomes particularly evident when viewing the screen off centre or in sunlight. The HD7 also tends to slightly wash out colours and doesn't display text as crisply as we expected. However, the sheer size of the screen is especially welcome for Web browsing and messaging; the extra screen real estate makes it easy to zoom in and out of Web pages, and it means the already-excellent on-screen keyboard is slightly roomier.
Apart from physical design and display size, the other main differences between Windows Phone 7 handsets are the quality of the camera and any extra software that is included. The HTC HD7 comes with "HTC Hub", providing basic weather information along with a range of HTC apps. The weather hub is complete with overly elaborate screen transitions and is location-based, so it will automatically update as you move. The HTC-developed apps are relatively basic — stocks, converter, sound and photo enhancers, connection setup, "attentive phone" and the utterly useless love app round out the list. Attentive phone is the most useful; this handy app allows you to activate settings that are standard on many of HTC's Android smartphones including reducing the ring volume when you pick up the phone, increasing the ring volume while the phone is in your pocket or bag, flipping over the phone to activate the loudspeaker during a call, or flipping over the phone to mute the ringer during an incoming call.
The HTC HD7 has a 5-megapixel camera with a dual LED flash, 720p video recording and a physical camera button. The neat UI is the same one used across all Windows Phone 7 devices, but the settings menu is limited; it only offers scenes, effects, resolution, metering mode, and flicker adjustment.
The HTC HD7 has 16GB of internal memory, and like most other Windows Phone 7 handsets, there is no microSD card slot for extra storage. Battery life is about what we have come to expect from a smartphone — the HTC HD7 will quickly run out of juice if you use it frequently but should last a full day. For better battery life, we recommend turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use, keeping the screen brightness down and setting push e-mail and account updates (Facebook, Google, Windows Live, Outlook) to manual.
The HTC HD7 is also sold outright and unlocked through online store MobiCity.
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