HTC and Microsoft Come Out Swinging with the HTC Surround Windows Phone 7
Specs and Pricing
Some basic specs before getting into the meat of the HTC Surround
- $200 with 2-year contract
- 512 MB of memory
- 16 GB of storage
- 1230 mAh Rechargeable Lithium-ion polymer or Lithium-ion battery – 240 minutes of talk time, 275 hours of standby
- 3.8” 480×800 WVGA touch screen with pinch to zoom capability
- Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled
- Audio and Video supported by Zune
- 5 megapixel color camera, Auto focus and flash
- 720p HD video recording
- 3G browsing – up to 7.2 Mbps download speed, up to 384 kbps upload speed
Appearance and Design
The HTC has a bold, solid design that comes off as somewhat bulky and heavy at first glance, but in actuality is only about an ounce heavier than the iPhone 4. What you get with that extra ounce is a bigger screen, a slide-up speaker, and a nifty kickstand that supports the device, letting you watch hands-free videos and media. There’s nothing worse than holding up an iPhone for an entire 4-hour flight or trying to fold up a makeshift holder out of business cards or a pack of gum. The rubberized back feels good in your hands and nothing feels out of place, making for an overall firm design
Setting up the HTC Surround was incredibly easy, even on a Mac. The Mac desktop client is super basic and easy to use. Adding emails, social networks, and the like was a breeze and syncing contacts through Google Contacts was flawless. One great thing about the Windows 7 OS is the People feature, which automatically marries your contacts’ Facebook profiles and address book info, making for a fully integrated contacts list. It’s pretty accurate and lets you avoid the obnoxious double or triple contacts for the same person.
Screen and Sound
The 3.8” 480×800 WVGA gives you plenty of bang for navigating, browsing, and watching media. It’s the first phone that I’ve come across that really rounds out the entertainment experience by integrating quality sound with great picture. The sound coming from the slide up speaker is solid from the start, but can really be cranked up by clicking the virtual surround sound button, kicking in Dolby Mobile™ and SRS WOW HD™. The graphics aren’t quite up to par with the iPhone but the sounds and screen size make it a pretty even match.
Talk and Speakerphone
The biggest issue here is that the phone is only available on AT&T, which means service is inherently bad and dropped calls are inevitable. That said, the speaker and the microphone were both clear and the speakerphone was about par with any other phone I’ve used recently.
GRADE: B- (mostly because of AT&T)
Intuitiveness, Typing, and Ease of Use
Overall, I was impressed with the intuitiveness of the touch screen. It has all the musts from swiping between screens, pinch to zoom, and hold to select that allows you to hit the ground running as soon as you pick up the device.
The keyboard displays the same way you would expect from any touch screen, but the accuracy was impressive. Meanwhile, there is something about the keyboard sounds that I really like. There is no obnoxious tick, rather there’s more of a soothing hollow knock, and typing is always easier when the phone ‘acknowledges’ your typing.
The one kink in the armor was the confusing language when it came to customizing the home screen with apps that weren’t already there. In order to do so you have to select an option called “pin to start.” PINs on Blackberries and most other devices means a pin code so naturally I figured this meant putting in a pin to start the app, not ‘pinning’ an app to the home screen. It literally took me two days to figure this out.
Definitely exceeded my expectations. Perhaps it was the remnants of my Blackberry Torch review, but I was expecting the Surround’s battery to die within hours of first charge – not the case. I used it for some calls, all my emailing, and browsing and didn’t have to plug it in for 36 hours. This comes at the sacrifice of true multitasking, but the battery life a huge win in my eyes.
For a brand new app store, Windows 7 Marketplace was loaded with selection. It had games, maps, Twitter, Foursquare, Netflix, OpenTable, Shazam, Yelp, and all the essentials. You can only expect this to grow.
Camera and Video
The 5-megapixel camera performed well, although nothing hugely new or innovative on the Surround. The one nice feature was that the camera button on the side of the device lets you open the camera without unlocking the phone, which is always convenient if you’re rushing to capture a pic of your bro with a grenade.
If you’re big into gaming, you’ll love the Xbox Live integration that extends the social gaming experience of Xbox LIVE service to Windows Phone 7. Your avatar, friends, and all the classic games are right at your fingertips
What can I say? I’m impressed. The HTC Surround has some great features that set it apart from the rest of the marketplace and the Windows Phone 7 OS is easy, clean, fluid, and just different. The interface is active and the entire experience is simple. On the downside, it’s a little heavy and lacks multi-tasking, but for an OS that was built from the ground up, it is bound to make some noise in the space.
OVERALL GRADE: A-