The specs are identical to the rest of the Windows Phone 7 launch pack because these phones were all designed to meet Microsoft's minimum hardware requirements. These include a first generation 1GHz Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 200 GPU, 512 megs of RAM, at least 8 gigs of storage (the HD7 has 16 gigs), a 5 megapixel autofocus camera, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and a GPS. The hardware spec requires an 800 x 480 pixel capacitive multi-touch display with an accelerometer, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor as well. All devices support fast pinch-zooming most everywhere (browser, photos, MS Office Mobile, email and more). Unless manufacturers want to up the ante (and none seemed willing to do so until they saw how well Windows Phone 7 did on the market), there's little room for spec variation and the special sauce is instead added features and design elements like the HD7's particularly large display and kickstand, the HTC Surround's slide-out speaker bar and the Dell Venue Pro's slide-out keyboard.
HTC likes the pop-out kickstand schtick, and we're a sucker for it each time they put one on the back of a smartphone. It's a beautiful looking piece of carved metal, and though it's quite thin, we weren't too worried about its staying power. That said, this is a thin piece of metal with a very small mount point, and if you grabbed it and yanked it like a pop-top can ring, I'm sure it would come off. Don't do that, OK?
The sides are slightly angled toward the phone's front face and the smoky chrome surround is very slippery-- not good on a phone this heavy. Be careful if you're lifting it out of a pocket or purse by these slippery edges. The back is grippy gray plastic with a pleasing texture that resists fingerprints. The front, like many touch screen phones, is a fingerprint magnet.
GPS Good, Battery Just OK
A section of the back pries off to reveal the SIM card slot and surprisingly low capacity 1230 mAh Lithium Ion battery. That's not a very high capacity battery for a smartphone with a very large display and a power-hungry Snapdragon CPU, and we found that we had to charge it nightly with moderate use and top it off during the day with heavy use. T-Mobile TV will eat your battery like mad, as will an hour of navigation.
Speaking of navigation, T-Mobile includes TeleNav, an app that offers spoken directions and generally excellent routing and traffic reporting for $10/month. It worked well in our tests as did the GPS hardware. Bing Maps (free) is also on board for POIs and excellent location-based services. Interestingly, when you type a search term in Internet Explorer Mobile's URL bar, it uses Google for web search rather than Bing. Apparently Microsoft has left that up to the manufacturer and carrier.
Speed? Plenty of it
Since the hardware spec is the same on all devices and Microsoft optimized the OS for that hardware, all the Windows 7 phones are equally speedy. And we do mean speedy: even with plenty of in-your-face animations, the device flies. Yes, they feel faster than the rocket ship HTC G2 and myTouch 4G. Experientially the HD7 (and other Windows 7 phones) feel a bit faster than the iPhone 4 when navigating the device and opening apps. Of course, Windows Phone 7 devices have a speed advantage: like iOS versions prior to 4.0, only Microsoft apps are allowed to multi-task. And the iPhone 4 does have an advantage when it comes to web page load times and game load times.
The HD7 has 16 gigs of internal storage that formats to approximately 14.6 gigs and there is no user-accessible microSD card slot. In actuality, Windows Phone 7 devices have an internal microSD card that's sealed under the plastic casing, and the OS treats internal flash memory and card memory as one virtual partition. Swapping cards is a challenging as a result, so all but the Samsung Focus have forgone a user accessible card. Still, 16 gigs is a healthy amount for loading lots of music from the Zune Desktop and videos too.
Windows Phone 7 and Software
This is obviously a review of the HTC HD7 rather than Windows Phone 7. That said, this is the first Windows 7 phone we're reviewing on these pages, so we'll cover the basics. If you want a detailed primer and review of Windows Phone 7, check out our 27 minutes worth of video broken into two parts here.
There's the mighty Zune Player for music and video (totally sweet, totally like the Zune HD experience), there's XBOX Live with some very good looking games, there's a Microsoft-made Facebook page in the People hub and no support for USB file transfer of anything beyond music and video. You'll use the Zune Windows desktop software to sync music, photos and video to and from the phone, just as you'd use iTunes with an iPhone. Mac users, yes there's an OS X Windows Phone 7 Connector app and it worked fine on my Mac to sync non-DRM iTunes library music and video to and from the phone. You can even select individual playlists from your iTunes library for syncing. Shocking, ain't it?
The MS Office Mobile suite is capable and attractive, and it does support SharePoint for you business types. But there's currently no USB loading of Office documents or PDFs. You can upload your photos to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service but there's no way to get at Office files on SkyDrive short of emailing document URLs to the phone or downloading docs from other websites. MS Exchange support is of course very robust, though Windows Phone 7 doesn't yet support all Exchange policies (the most commonly used are supported). The OS seems very secure and sandboxed, and apps are vetted on the Marketplace. The drawback: that's the only place to get apps, not even corporate apps can be installed-- chalk up one for the iPhone and BlackBerry. So Windows Phone 7 is business-friendly in terms of robust MS Exchange support and security (it even has remote wipe and find my phone features), but it lacks features heavy business users crave.
The home screen is comprised of tiles and the UI is named "Metro". These tiles can be live and provide info on the number of new emails and missed calls and rotate images from your photo collection. Apps include IE Mobile (based on IE 7) and a fantastic email client that looks even nicer than Android's. It supports POP3, IMAP and Exchange accounts as well as Hotmail and Google mail. Bing search and maps are on board, as is MS Office Mobile and OneNote (view PowerPoint files and view/create/edit Word, OneNote and Excel files). The Marketplace is where you'll download free and paid apps (there are approximately 1,000 titles as of this writing and we expect the number to rise quickly). XBOX Live is your gaming hub and there's a photo viewer, calculator and alarms.
What's missing at launch? There's no copy and paste, though that should be coming soon via an update. Only the built-in apps can multi-task. There's no mass storage mode. Since 3rd party apps can't multi-task, there's no background updating for Twitter, and games don't always save state if you're in the middle of a level and exit the app or turn off the phone. You can sync over WiFi with a Windows desktop but there's no Bluetooth file transfer and no tethering.
T-Mobile and HTC apps include HTC Hub. HTC Hub oddly doesn't do much but HTC offers several small apps for download on the marketplace that are handy (notes, unit converter and other utilities). TeleNav is on board, as is T-Mobile TV which looks awesome.