Windows Phone Thoughts: Give up! We have you (HTC) Surrounded!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Give up! We have you (HTC) Surrounded!

Posted by Don Tolson in "HTC Windows Phones" @ 08:00 AM

Radios

For any who have read any of my other phone reviews, this is where I feel the 'rubber meets the road', phone-wise. If the radios in the phone don't perform, it doesn't really matter how pretty or flashy the operating system and apps are. Microsoft has set some pretty high standards for Windows Phone 7 in terms of minimum hardware specifications, so let's see how they translated into the Surround.

GPRS (cellular)

The HTC 7 Surround sports a quad band celluar radio supporting pretty much all the 'world' frequencies (GSM: 850/900/1800/1900Mhz; HSDPA: 850/1900/2100 Mhz.) (Note, this is a GSM phone, which uses a SIM card so it will not work on CDMA networks). As I mentioned in the introduction, the model I bought was for Canada's Telus network, so I wasn't all that sure it would work, especially at the higher data speeds (3G and H) on my Rogers network. No fear though -- since I got it SIM-unlocked, it works flawlessly on Rogers with full speed support. It even shows the higher speed connections (a little 'H' in the notification bar) when I'm browsing, emailing, etc.

Signal strength seems to be pretty much the same for all the latest generation of cell phones -- 3 to 4 bars almost every where I go in the city, and the same signal coverage I was getting before in the outlying areas -- and I've never had a problem with dropped calls.

The 'In Call' volume is MUCH better than the X10 I was using previously. For those who didn't read that review, the X10 suffers from significantly low volume on incoming callers. No problems with the Surround though. Lots of volume, no matter what the situation. And a number of people I called commented on the difference in voice quality versus the last phone I had (the X10).

As I noted in the 'Uglies' part of the Windows Phone 7 part of this review, there are some weird things happening around Caller ID. I have Caller-ID turned on as part of my subscription with Rogers, so on most of my phones, when a call comes in from a cellular phone, I usually get either the number calling in or, if the person is in my Contacts list, I'll get their picture, name, etc. from that. It worked like this perfectly on the X10, the Tilt 2, and the Touch Diamond 2 I had previously. So, I'm sure it's not a problem with the subscription or my SIM card. On the Surround, however, no matter if the person is in my Contacts list or not, if the call comes from a cell phone, I get 'Unknown' as the ID of the caller. I'm thinking this is something within the firmware of the radio or the O/S.

Bluetooth

The Bluetooth radio on the Surround is also the fairly standard BT 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate we see on most devices now with A2DP for stereo headsets. The Surround also supports AVRCP, HFP (hands free), HSP (head set), and PBAP (phone book access) profiles.

I had no problems pairing the Surround with my BT headset, BT Stereo Headphones or the Toyota Prius. Everything seemed to work just fine and range was the usual 10m (30 feet).

WiFi

This is the first phone I've owned that claims to provide 802.11 b, g AND n support. Unfortunately, there are no utilities available to confirm the connection types and speeds over WiFi, but the Surround connected easily with my home network (an N router), the router thinks its connecting to an 'N' device, and data throughput seems pretty speedy on video downloads and page loads, so I guess it's working pretty well.

Range and sensitivity of the WiFi radio seem on a par with the X10. There is no problem connecting to the home network from anywhere in the house. In previous WM6.5 phones, there would be areas where I couldn't get a reliable connection.

The only real downside to the WiFi under WP7 is having to go to Start/Settings/WiFi to turn this radio on and off, since using it does chew up battery. Kind of reminds me of the old WM6 days. I would much prefer to have something in the notification bar or a tile on start screen which could turn this off and on.

GPS

Sorry guys, I couldn't find any information on the specific GPS chipset included in the Surround. My guess is that all the phones using the Snapdragon CPU will have the same GPS chipset.

I can't find any applications (yet) which let you see the status of the satellite signals and lock, but it seems to be about as sensitive as the Xperia X10 -- achieving location locks in Bing Maps and other Marathon within seconds. I know though, that the phone is also using cell-tower triangulation to assist in getting initial location information, so it's most likely that AGPS (Assisted GPS) is activated by default.

FM

It was nice to see the FM radio application again, having missed it in the X10. As usual, the radio won't work without the earbuds/headset plugged in, since the Surround uses the headset cord as its FM antenna. Unfortunately, the actual FM radio application is pretty simplistic and looks like it's been just thrown together quickly.

Figure 19: The FM radio application that comes with WP7. Pretty minimalist, but it works. The star icon in the middle (with the bar) is for adding the current station to your list of favorites. Sliding your finger left and right tunes the radio to other frequencies.

Figure 20: Pressing the star icon at the bottom of the previous screen takes you here -- to literally a list of favorite station frequencies. I'm thinking/hoping this will get an update in the next version of the O/S or by some enterprising developer out there.


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