Windows Phone Thoughts: HTC HD7 - Ready to Take On the iPhone? Really!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

HTC HD7 - Ready to Take On the iPhone? Really!

Posted by Doug Raeburn in "HTC Windows Phones" @ 10:00 AM

Basic Navigation

The gestures available for navigation on the touch screen essentially mimic those of the iPhone. You have swiping left, right, up and down, flicking and double tapping. Multi-touch gestures like spreading and pinching 2 fingers (zoom in and zoom out, respectively) are also supported. One remnant from earlier versions of WM is the “tap and hold” menu, a concept that helps make some commands more easily discoverable than with the iPhone. That’s one feature from the legacy WM that’s worth carrying forward, IMO.

Figure 11: Swipe the whole list to the left and you move between the All, Unread and Urgent filters.

A core navigation paradigm involves switching between different views and “hub applications” by simply swiping. In the Inbox, for example, a string of different message statuses (all, unread, urgent) is displayed across the top. By swiping to the left or right, you can quickly filter by those statuses. This is much easier and faster than doing the same thing by selecting filters from a menu as with similar apps on other platforms. This seems to be a kind of signature gesture for WP7 and gives it a very nimble feel.

Screen transitions add a bit of polish to WP7. In the Inbox app, for example, the initial display of the message list slides in place diagonally from top to bottom. It’s hard to describe, so it has to be seen, but it’s a very slick effect.

Navigation on the HD7 is extremely responsive and smooth, easily on a par with the iPhone. It’s a noticeable improvement over the HD Mini that I reviewed a few months ago, which featured Windows Mobile 6.5 and a capacitive touchscreen. And it’s a huge improvement over finger-based navigation on earlier Windows Mobile phones with resistive touchscreens, which often lacked responsiveness and exhibited balky scrolling. So the HD7 can certainly match the feel and provide a competitive if different look as compared to the current market leaders.

Bundled Apps

Calendar

Figure 12: The Month view - simple but functional.

Figure 13: The Day view - lots more detail.

The Calendar app has the necessary core functionality but is definitely barebones. It provides a Day view that shows the entire day with 1 hour time slots. The Agenda view shows upcoming events in a list. Tapping on the + sign takes you to the New Appointment screen. The initial screen shows just the essentials… subject, location, date, time and duration. The More Details button expands the entry screen to include reminders, recurring appointments, status, attendees, private status and notes.

The Month view displays entire months, with “mini-text” to show days that have appointments. Even with the HD7’s very large and high resolution screen, the text is too small to be read. So it really just serves to show that there’s something going on that day, and you have to open up the day (by tapping on it) to see what’s going on.

Figure 14: The time selector... like the iPhone with a slightly different style.

Some iPhone influence is evident. The WP7 Calendar has exactly the same modules as the iPhone (Apple calls their Agenda view the List view), the same entry form fields, and almost identical choices in the dropdown menus. Even the date and time selectors mimic the spinning wheels used by the iPhone.

And if you want a more robust calendar app, what are the options? On both my iPhone and Blackberry, I’ve taken advantage of the fact that Pocket Informant, the long-time best-selling PIM for Windows Mobile, is available on both platforms. Both provide a good measure of the functionality of the WM version and it also adds the task capability missing from the iPhone. What about WP7? According to Alex Kac, the man behind Pocket Informant, the product won’t be offered for WP7, at least for now. He states that WP7 “does not have the underlying interfaces for us to develop Pocket Informant appropriately on this device”. That may change as WP7 matures. This all revolves around WP7’s more closed architecture as compared to its WM predecessors, again much more like iPhone. Apple has recently provided more of those “interfaces” to which Alex referred, allowing the developers of PI to provide functionality that wasn’t available before.

One thing that I miss (not only on WP7, but with iPhone and Blackberry as well) is the limited snooze functionality. You set a default snooze time through your settings and that's the choice that comes up. With good old WM, a dropdown was available with numerous choices (5 minutes, 15 minutes, 1 hour, etc.) including the extremely handy "5 minutes before". That's a WM feature that would have been a welcome carryover to WP7.

Tasks

Like iPhone, but unlike legacy Window Mobile, no Tasks application is offered.

People App (aka Contacts)

Figure 15: Strong Facebook integration... it even updates your contact photo with the Facebook profile picture if you so choose.

This app, which I described to some extent earlier, has the necessary functionality and the added Facebook features are a nice touch. The only issue that I ran into involved contact photos, which I’ll address in a bit when I discuss syncing.


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