HD7 Wrap Up Review

IMG_0560Well, this is the wrap up post on my HTC HD7 review, and I'm kinda bummed to have to send this phone back, as I really like it (see unbox here, and follow-up post here). I wish I wasn't already locked into a Blackberry for work, as I might get a cool new Windows Phone like the HD7. HTC put a good mix of features in this phone, and it performed quite well in just about every category. I can report to having few complaints with it, and very few reservations. In this wrap-up I get round to nav, phone, Office, and apps.

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The HD7 comes pre-installed with TeleNav GPS Navigator app (30-day trial) with turn-by-turn and voice directions. The app worked well, but the location services of my phone always came up a little off. Not sure if it's a problem in my area (had a similar issue with an Android phone I reviewed), or the GPS signal strength. The map features include traffic updates, search and even a weather forecast screen.

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There is also a built-in Maps application with aerial view and traffic as well. It is more than a little annoying that the maps do not rotate when the phone is turned on it's side. You can use either app to do an area search for stuff (pizza, gas, etc.). The TeleNav app included common search filters for that nicely categorize results (i.e. cheapest gas).

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IMG_0478The Windows Marketplace was a little depressing. I downloaded 2 games (one of which would not complete). The other was quite lame (Mars Lander), but more importantly, I could not find valuable apps that are common on the Apple App store (and I have come to rely on). Notably Evernote, and Pandora. I also could not find a utility to take screen shots on the device itself, which would have saved me from using my camera for every shot posted here.

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The Marketplace screens are easy to navigate and master, which I give kudos for, but I still have a few grumbles. The large finger friendly icons don't tell you a thing about the app, so it takes longer to peruse down into the categories. Going back and forth in the menu system can be a tad sluggish as the pretty screens and animated graphics have to reload each time.

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Many games were exceptionally large and expensive. Free and cheap programs (which are legion on the App store), are also not in abundance here. Notably missing are ebook titles (also available on the Apple App store through iBooks). Still, even having a decent Windows Mobile Marketplace is a good start, and the marrying of Xbox Live will suck in some of the uber-gamer types. Another note: The app store also does not yet seem to suffer from Apple's over-tight constraints.

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Mobile Office has always been a mostly useless concept on Windows Mobile. I mean who can really stand to work on a gargantuan spreadsheet on a 4" screen, anyway? The same goes for word docs. Screen is too cramped, and without a physical keyboard forget it. Also, you lose all your fancy formatting. In a few cases however, it is handy to be able to open docs, make a few changes and e-mail them back. You can do all that natively with the HD7, which I can't complain about. You can even send them to a SharePoint site. Why not SkyDrive? From poking around on the site, I couldn’t find a way.

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The OneNote app also would have more potential if you could sync notes to SkyDrive. It is less useful to send data to SharePoint, especially considering that you normally have to be connected to a corporate LAN to use it. OneNote is like a dumbed down EverNote allowing you to jot down lists or notes, and even embed photos or audio in them.

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The phone was good. No dropped calls, and coverage everywhere I carried it (even in my basement lab where I work). The phone sounded a little tinny through the earpiece, and better on speaker. The HD7 was very good at recognizing voice commands, and in fact, the crisp clear computer voice responses did not sound weird or garbled the way they often do on other devices. The responses are intuitive and helpful.

If Windows Mobile had gone more in this direction (mostly the usability factor) years ago, things might have turned out differently for iPhone or Android. Though it is a worthy smartphone, it feels like the the HD7 is still somewhat playing catch up--the hardware is great, and now the OS is performing to about the same level, but it doesn't quite have it all together yet. My friend and I ran a little iPhone/HD7 test. We played the new Duke Nukem Forever YT trailer side-by-side on the 2 phones (the HD7 playing over T-Mobile 3G, and the iPhone over AT&T 3G). The iPhone video quality was obviously higher, and the HD7 audio was a bit richer, but it just didn't perform quite as well as the iPhone. This is a simple ad-hoc test, I know, and there could be many factors behind this, but that was my impression overall. The HD7 is an outstanding piece of hardware, but some of the functionality could still be improved in the UI, apps, etc. For those looking for a Cadillac of smartphones, I say it's a good choice if you want something a little different (and in many ways better). With the evolving Marketplace, and a few improvements and tweaks under the hood, I think the HD7 (or the next gen HD) will be a real winner. You can get the HD7 with contract from T-Mobile for as low as $99.99 here (refurb unit) or (new with rebate) here.

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