The WP7.5 update is said to contain more than 500 new features, despite asking repeatedly, the full list of these features apparently does not exist. The good news is that Mango is a massive leap forward for Windows Phone, adding many of the features currently available on iOS and Android.
Until the new Mango devices arrive, every current Windows Phone is receiving the Mango update. One such device is the HTC HD7, one of the last Windows Phones to arrive, we take a look at how it stacks up after the update.
One of the most unique features of WP7 is live tiles. These live tiles have been significantly enhanced with Mango, adding the ability for parts of applications to be pinned to the home screen. Combined with the quick-resume of mango applications, this can provide a very quick mechanism to get to the information you require.
This is the realisation of Microsoft’s plan to get in and get out. We don’t use phones for the sake of using phones, we use them to get stuff done. Allowing users to achieve what they need to, as fast as possible is an admirable goal.
Camera improvements in Mango come with one important change. The camera settings actually get saved. While Microsoft tried to say the lack of this option in NoDo was ‘by design’, they thankfully listened to reason and added this in Mango. Photos can now be taken, not only with the dedicated camera button, but with a tap of the screen, after autofocus works it’s magic, the shutter fires.
Multitasking is really single tasking. Something all modern smart phone OS’s are guilty of listing multi-tasking as a feature, when in reality, you can only do a single task at any one time. At best you can play some music in the background while running another app, but this hardly qualifies as multitasking as well know it from the desktop. Naturally with limited screen real estate, it would be tricky to pull off 2 apps on-screen at once, I just wish they’d call it what it really is.. fast app switching.
Changing between apps can be done by holding down the home back button, then a list of the most recent apps is displayed. While the back button is great, it’s clearly a lot faster to jump back 2 or 3 apps using this technique, than using back multiple times. As you spend time with Mango this becomes very natural, but given it’s such a common task, it could be improved by reducing the length of time required to activate it.
Bing Search has some great new features in Mango. Bing Scout is your go-to assistant when in a new town. It fires up location services to find places to Eat+drink, activities to See+Do and Shops nearby. The other new Search button feature is Bing Vision. This bypasses the need for a dedicated QR or Microsoft Tag app, it can also scan text. This text can then be translated into other languages, another useful travel feature.
The HD7 has a large 4.3” display which by comparison to other phones is on the upper end of the scale. The screen may appear good quality at first glance, but when scrolling, there’s a strange issue with the display of text. Characters appear really low quality, which actually became a real issue for me.
Watching video playback on the HD7’s large screen is a good experience. To assist extended viewing, HTC included a kickstand on the back on the phone. Unfortunately the idea is better than the execution. The phone is very unstable when using the kickstand and likely to fall over when used in real life situations like on an airplane tray table. The kickstand is also only usable in landscape mode. This gets to a wider issue with Windows Phone and the lack of a standard dock position which prevents accessory manufacturers to build for WP7.
The HD7 has a 5 Megapixel camera that performs double-duty as a 720p video recorder. The quality of both are solid, but don’t come close to the industry leading iPhone 4. With the iPhone 4S on the way with an even better camera, let’s hope the next HTC WP7 device makes improvements to the camera.
The phone itself has solid build construction and feels good in the hand. You can check the spec sheet, but when it comes to the feeling of weight, the HD7 is indistinguishable from the iPhone 4, if anything, it’s a fraction lighter.
When it comes to performance, the speed of the HD7 is impressive, although like improvements in Windows, Windows Phone is getting more efficient with each release. Windows Phone is actually pretty efficient, performing will on single-core processor, year old devices.
When it comes down to it, the HD7 is a solid performer, made better by Mango. The text scrolling issue is really frustrating, but may be fixable in a software patch. At this point it’s unclear how many more updates Windows Phone launch devices will receive. Microsoft committed to upgrade all to Mango, but Tango may be a different story.
As for competition, I’m also running WP7.5 on a Samsung Omnia 7, which essentially the same on both devices. There’s a few HTC apps vs Samsung apps, but these shouldn’t influence anyone to choose one WP7 device over the other.
The HTC HD7 is the best part of a year old, so it’s hard to recommend, as the release of new Mango devices is only weeks away. If your sold on the idea of your next phone running WP7, then hold off and wait for the next generation. WP7 Mango addresses many of the missing features expected from a modern mobile OS. Windows Phone 7.5 can now stand proud as a viable competitor to Android or iOS.
More information @ HTC.