Has it really been a year since Microsoft revamped its mobile offering with the Windows Phone 7 operating system. It launched with seven different handsets, though with such tightly controlled specs that they all seemed almost exactly the same.
Now it’s time for the first major update to the system with WinPho 7.5 Mango and the first out of the traps is the HTC Radar, which also includes a 5 megapixel camera.
Design and build
The Radar measures a sizeable 21 x 62 x 11mm and weighs 137g – quite a handful, but it will fit easier in the pocket than HTC’s other WinPho 7.5 handset, the Titan, with its mammoth 4.7in screen. Its aluminium shell feels reliably sturdy and has the usual three Windows Phone control buttons beneath the screen (start, back and search) while on the sides are a volume rocker and large camera button along with microUSB power/sync port. On top are a power/sleep button and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Interface and OS
Microsoft reckons it’s made some 500 updates to its original Windows Phone operating system but you’d be hard pressed to count them all. Still, there are a few standout changes, probably the most noticeable of which is the fact that multi-tasking is now more advanced. A long press on the back button delivers a carousel showing the apps you’re currently running and you can add as many as you like. Handily, there’s now a battery saving feature that switches off background apps like Wi-Fi and push email when your power is getting low.
It’s now easier to organise the tiles on your start page (Microsoft doesn’t like to call it a home page) since you simply have to start typing the name of an app for the possibilities to appear – the more you type, the more the list shortens until you have what you want.
More of the tiles are now active too, giving them some of the functionality you’ll find on Android widgets. A travel app from an airline might offer you real time flight updates, for instance. Or you can organise your contacts into groups and pin a tile for that group to your start page. That tile will then let you know if you get emails or social networking updates from anyone in that group.
Other updates include voice search and you can now create your own ringtones from MP3 and WMA files – stuff you’ve been able to do with Android for ages, but better late than never.
The 3.8in capacitive touch screen offers a more than respectable 480 x 800 pixels, so it’s nice and sharp, bright too. Just as welcome as the relatively high resolution is the fact that it’s very sensitive, easily recognising the difference between brushes and presses.
Microsoft has stipulated that 5 megapixels is the minimum it will accept for a WinPho 7 device, and this one offers a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels. It also comes with autofocus and flash as well as macro and burst settings. This being HTC you can’t expect miracles from the camera but it’s one of the company’s better efforts, so long as you’re careful with your light. It has 720p HD video recording too.
Apps and browser
The Microsoft Office hub allows you to create and edit Word and Excel docs, though you can only edit, rather than create PowerPoint docs. The Windows SkyDrive cloud offering is now integrated into the system, along with SharePoint and Office 365 so you can back up your documents to the cloud and access them from just about anywhere.
Microsoft’s Marketplace is offering some cause for concern these days, since providers have been slow to provide apps for it and it’s now looking seriously under stocked compared to rivals from Apple and Google. Searching it is easier now though, with more metadata showing in the menu and there are separate sections for applications, music and games.
Internet Explorer 9 is the default browser and while it has hardware acceleration to speed up its streaming capabilities, there’s still no support for Flash video.
Media and connectivity
Films look great on that good sized screen and you can stream films, music and pics wirelessly to a TV using DNLA. You can also download films from HTC’s new-ish Watch service, which has a few good titles to buy or rent.
As usual with WinPho devices, there’s no option to expand the so-so 8GB of onboard memory via microSD card.
Performance and battery life
The 1GHz Snapdragon processor backed by 512MB of RAM isn’t the most powerful you’ll find on a high end smart phone, but it’s fast and efficient here, keeping things moving nippily along even with a clutch of apps running.
The 1520mAH battery delivered a little over a day of fairly intense use, so pretty much par for the course.
- Mango is here... at last
- Good quality 3.8in capacitive touchscreen
- 1GHz processor
- Windows Phone changes not a game-changer
- Good handset but not very distinctive
- Can't add memory
Verdict: The first major update to Windows Phone 7 is much more evolution than revolution with some welcome upgrades, but no major changes. The HTC Radar offers it a decent home though, with a good list of features, and it’s certainly more pocketable than the HTC Titan.
More info: HTC Radar spec