I’ve had the HTC HD7 for three weeks now and I have 11 things to say about it

\1. It doesn’t feel like a giant phone so much as it makes every other phone seem small now. My GFs LG Optimus 7 feels small. The iPhone 4 feels small. The Palm Pre feels like a real pebble now. I’ve got large hands and large fingers and the HD7 really does solve the problem with tapping and typing with them. The giant 4.3″ screen makes movies and album art look terrific. The downside to the size is that it almost has to be used with two hands. The Windows Phone OS seems built for this kind of use anyway, so I’m not sure it’s the phone itself. Its size really does make it feel faster and more powerful, even if that’s just simply not true. Still, it turns heads, and feels brand new, whereas almost every other phone out there feels at least a few years old (to me, at least).

\2. The volume buttons, power buttons, and camera are really repressed and difficult to press. It takes a day or two to get used to pressing harder than you’d naturally think to, and then it’s not a problem anymore. That’s sort of how I feel about many of the flaws of the devices, like the default camera settings. They’re not bugs or flaws so much as design decisions that may not suit you. After some practice, it takes two seconds to turn flash off after hitting the camera button. It really isn’t that big a deal. I do wish I could turn the screen on with the Windows button, though.

\3. The phone sounds great. Button presses, keyboard taps, and other little things sound incredibly pleasant, as if the phone was built to make you smile. There are these little details all over the place that aren’t groundbreaking or technologically amazing but just nice and definitely appreciated. The way you select times in the alarm screen, or the single-tap calendar features are very polished. This definitely makes the unpolished things stand out more. Every app treats settings” differently. Some are in the app, some are in the settings” app of the phone, and some do both. There’s no unified inbox: even worse, each Mail account is treated like its own standalone app. Maps is a quarter as useful as Google Maps on Android and iPhone and Palm. Type Starbucks” into it, and it’ll shoot you to Starbuck, Manitoba.

\4. I never thought about Data usage while on the Palm Pre or the iPhone, but within two weeks I ran right up to my 1gig cap with the HD7. I had a lengthy conversation with a Bell representative who broke it down for me: my problem wasn’t the people hub, Facebook, Yahoo (as is the issue down in the states), or even Twitter. The problem is that Internet Explorer on Windows Phone rarely catches websites in mobile mode, even when the option is turned on. Tumblr goes to desktop Tumblr. Gawker goes to desktop Gawker. And so on. Some websites gave me mobile options, but even these were uneven; clicking on links would often switch the display from mobile to desktop.

\5. I’m amazed how versatile Office is. Most of the apps I purchased for my iPhone were productive in some way: To-do lists, text writers, dropbox-syncing editors, database organizers. Office for Windows Phone pretty well blows them all away. You can only create three kinds of files: Onenote text, audio, and visual files, which are synced to your Office Live account, and Word and Excel files. But I’m already more organized with these three things than with any app for iPhone. It’s the best part of this phone, far and away. It’s also the only app that doesn’t give you the option for a Dark” mode, which is sometimes annoying but only for battery purposes.

\6. Speaking of battery, it’s…okay. On a full charge (which can take up to 3 hours), the phone lasts about 12 hours. If you’re using it with the screen on (it doesn’t appear to matter what you’re doing on it, whether it be games, videos, typing, or browsing), expect it to last about 4. This is about on par with other phones of its size, I’m told, but it’s hours behind iPhones or even some Android phones.

\7. The camera is great. I’m not finding any of the problems some have posted about the HD7s colour problems. The shots are often very, very good. Aforementioned setting issues aside, the camera is great and the dedicated button is very helpful (if, as I said, a little more repressed than you’d like). The HD7 has a built-in Instagram-style app for fun post-processing and social networking, too.

\8. Search sucks, but the backgrounds are pretty. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian? This feels like a very American phone. Like it feels foreign here. Like I smuggled it in like I did with the Zune HD.

\9. This foreign-ness is evident in a couple areas. Namely, feature sets in Zune. The Zune is an odd thing in Canada. It existed like contraband in the first generation, was sold full-featured in the second (sans the Zune Pass, unfortunately), and then went right back to being contraband with the HD. The software has always been available, though, and even that is uneven year to year. Sometimes you could access the marketplace, sometimes you couldn’t. Sometimes you could download apps for the HD, sometimes not. It appears that the latest version is the most limited of all: we have access to the Apps marketplace and the Zune Videos, and that’s it. On the phone, you can’t shop in the Zune music or video stores. Even worse, all the cool meta-data available last year on the Zune HD just isn’t there (it isn’t on the Zune HD anymore, either). So artist backgrounds, bios, related links, and images are just not present, which makes the Zune music app very spartan. It’s still the best MP3 playing app I’ve ever used, but it’s actually worse than how the HD looked six months ago.

\10. The Windows Phone Marketplace feels like the iPhone App Store in early 2009. Neat, certainly, and there’s lots there that’s helpful, focused, entertaining, and time-wasting, but you definitely get the feeling that serious catchup is needed. But it’s the fastest growing App store out of any of them, so this is a problem that will fix itself in good time. I do appreciate that most apps encourage you to try before you buy, though some apps (the two Tumblr apps, specifically) are just terribly coded and lack even basic features.

\11. Not really a point, but as a final note I want to say that every phone should come with a kickstand from now on.


February 19, 2011