Hands on With HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 Handset

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC will soon launch the HTC HD7, a handset with a 4.3-inch touchscreen that uses Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 operating system (OS).

The HD7 was named for the OS, and it has the same screen size as HTC's HD2, a phone that sold so well the company had trouble keeping it in stock for its first year on sale,

Bigger touchscreens always respond better to touch commands and the HTC HD7 responds very well, while giving a big view of whatever you want to see, from names on a contact list to pictures, Xbox Live games, videos and more. HTC even added a stand on the back so you can set the handset on a table, propped up like a picture frame, and watch mobile TV.

The stand is actually a piece of metal that protects the 5-megapixel camera and dual LED flash on the handset. You can pull it open and set the phone on its side.

Despite the size of the HD7, it felt relatively light. It's thinner than the HD2, but uses some of the same coloring, black and silver. The handset uses a no-slip material that feels nice to the touch, and the screen shows that HTC has long ago overcome a problem with some earlier smartphones, which collected fingerprints until the screen was completely mucked up. No muck here.

Using the HD7 also presented a chance to try out Windows Phone 7.

The home screen of the phone shows the tiled Windows Phone 7 image most people have already seen. One tile, for example, is the button you hit to make a call, one is for text messages, another for pictures, and a number of them are connected to Microsoft services, including Xbox, Hotmail, and the mobile Microsoft Office Suite.

On the HD7, another tile is included called HTC Hub, which sends a user into HTC's own user interface, Sense. The company said it's not exactly the same as the UI on its Android and Windows Mobile phones, but it sure looks like it with the same clock features and weather. The graphics on the weather forecasts are much improved over current Sense offerings, complete with better visuals and sound effects, such as rain for a rainy day.

Some of the tiles on the Windows Phone 7 home page can be chosen by the user, but many of them appear to be locked. It's not clear whether Microsoft locks these for everyone, or whether phone manufacturers or mobile network operators make that choice. I'm never thrilled by the idea of having to tie myself to one company's services, especially when I might like Microsoft's Office software, say, but prefer a rival e-mail, music or gaming system.

In any case, it was very smooth to navigate and seemed fairly simple to use. It clearly shows that Microsoft focused much more on the consumer with this OS, even though it left in a lot of its productivity software that will appeal to businesses.

HTC did not say how much the HD7 will cost because the price will vary by country.

Sales of the smartphone will start in late October, by T-Mobile in the U.S., from Bouygues Telecom in France and from Telefonica elsewhere in Europe. In Asia, it will be available from operators in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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