HTC marked out its Windows Phone 7 turf early on. Of the seven handsets initially launched, the Taiwanese manufacturer produced three of them.
Having laid out its stall, however, the problem has been to make much of a distinction between them. The HD7 was top of the heap, but a little further down comes the HTC 7 Trophy (only on Vodafone) and this, the HTC 7 Mozart (Orange only), which distinguishes itself mostly by its 8-megapixel camera.
Design and build
Microsoft has kept a very firm grip on the specification set for Windows Phone 7 handsets, and while that would have been the kind of thing to make people fear the worst just a few years ago, it seems to be working wonders for the new OS’s profile.
The fact is that there are no really bad WinPho 7 handsets – partly because they’re all really very similar. So it is with the Mozart. Like its brethren, it feels like a quality piece of kit, encased mostly in aluminium, with a few oblique sections of rubberised plastic for receivers and transmitters. The aluminium bits give it that classy if slightly cool feel, which isn’t quite as tactile as some of the company’s other all-plastic handsets.
On paper it’s ever so slightly little narrower and lighter than the Trophy at 119 x 60 x 12mm and 130g, but there’s really not very much in it.
Among several really rather subtle differences, the screen is a teensy bit smaller than the Trophy’s (3.7in rather than 3.8in) but in both cases it’s really very good. This one offers 400 x 800 WVGA resolution, is impressively sharp and has multitouch capability so you can pinch to zoom. It’s very nicely sensitive too so always a joy to use.
Interface and OS
WinPho 7 has impressed critics and public alike with its uniquely different approach to style and use. It’s very definitely not iOS or Android, which are surely its main rivals, and neither is it Blackberry or HP Palm’s webOS. It’s very easy to get the hang of and use, but also contains plenty of options for personalisation along with some distinctive style touches. There is potential for the single scrolling home screen to get cluttered with too many shortcuts and widgets, but there may well be a solution for that further down the line.
The 1GHz processor with 576GB of RAM keeps things moving speedily enough and social networking is focused on Facebook, automatically syncing your friends to your contacts book and alerting you to the latest updates.
HTC has always struggled with cameras. While Apple has always claimed photography was never its focus, almost wilfully seeming to lag behind the competition in terms of pixel count, it’s always delivered a solidly dependable snapper on each of its iPhone incarnations. HTC by contrast has tended to make do with some decidedly sub-par devices that have marred some otherwise perfectly fine phones.
The Mozart’s 8-megapixel model is a step up from the Trophy’s 5-megapixel number, but not as big a step as the spec might imply. It has a Xenon, rather than an LED flash, which is handy, and it includes a 6x digital zoom, a variety of scene modes including macro, flicker adjustment and metering mode.
The trouble is that the picture quality still isn’t particularly good. It’s very quick to display noise in less than ideal light conditions and you’ll need a steady hand to avoid blurring. Colour balance is okay but you’d really expect shots to be crisper with this sort of pixel count.
Usefully, it can record video in 720p HD, which again is better than on most other HTC cameras, but doesn’t necessarily match the performance on camphones from the likes of Samsung and LG.
Apps and browser
The HTC Hub offers a few extras you won’t find on other manufacturers’ devices. Not that any of the additional apps are really essential, but they’re useful nonetheless, with the Sound Enhancer music equalizer and Photo enhancer pic editor the cream of the crop. There’s also a stocks app and YouTube, though these are likely to be challenged soon enough by the steadily growing Marketplace, which is still way behind the big boys in terms of numbers, though it has a decently practical range.
There’s fast access to the net via HSDPA or broadband over Wi-Fi and the default Explorer browser displays pages well. There’s an odd niggle which only allows you to access navigation controls in portrait mode, so you tend to find yourself twisting the phone in your hands as you switch to landscape to read, then back to portrait to move about. It’s one of the few counterintuitive aspects of the phone.
Media and connectivity
Videos look great and you can stretch the picture to fit the screen, which distorts it slightly, but at least avoids the need to squint through a letterboxed version of a film.
As with other WinPho 7 phones, the music player is easy to use and is helped by HTC’s Sound Enhancer app. This not only offers a choice of equalizer options, but also audio enhancements such as Dolby Mobile and SRS surround sound, which do their bit to broaden the audio stage and deliver a fuller sound overall.
Syncing with your computer is done via Microsoft’s Zune software which works very well for media, but it’s a shame it doesn’t automatically hook up with Outlook for emails and calendars (there’s a workaround but it’s a fiddly one).
There’s no memory boost option of course (WinPho 7 has issues with memory cards apparently, though that’s expected to change in the near future) but there is 8GB on board – the same as the cheapest iPhone 4.
Performance and battery life
Battery life is nothing to write home about, then again it’s no disaster either – it delivered a good day’s worth of fairly heavy use, which is pretty much par for the smartphone course.
- High-quality 3.7in touchscreen
- Windows Phone 7 a pleasure to use
- Plenty of power on board
- Good camera, for HTC
- No memory expansion
- Marketplace still light on apps
Verdict: Though there’s little to distinguish it from its Trophy brother, HTC’s Mozart is just a little ahead thanks to its 8-megapixel camera and hybrid plastic/aluminium casing. In general, it’s standard Windows Phone 7 all the way with a nice, fast, intuitive interface and a strong set of features.
More info: HTC Mozart spec
Price: From free on Orange contract