Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Posted by Doug Raeburn in "HTC Windows Phones" @ 07:00 AM
The software package includes most of the items you'd expect, such as IE Mobile, Office Mobile and the like. Additional items above and beyond those standards include a tethering solution called Internet Sharing, a Wi-Fi Router application and a Business Card scanner that uses the camera.
The Mini does include an FM Radio app. Reception seemed fine, although either through the provided headset or a mid-priced set of Sennheisers, the audio sounded extremely tinny. It seems to be a characteristic of the FM app, since MP3's played through the music player sounded quite good. I searched for some sort of graphic equalizer, but the only one available is through the Audio Booster app, which works with the music player but not with the FM.
With the improved screen quality, higher resolution and capacitive touchscreen of the Mini, it would make a pretty nice gaming platform. Unfortunately, neither HTC or Microsoft saw fit to leverage this capability. The only games included with the Mini are the Solitaire game that's looked the same for 10 years and many iterations of the OS and the Teeter game, a maze that you traverse with a ball (with the help of the G-Sensor). A couple of games to showcase the graphics capability and leverage the touchscreen would be most welcome.
Using the Mini
So I've covered a number of the Mini's functional areas, but how is it to use on an everyday basis? Well, the phone is very responsive overall... even with the slower processor as compared to the HD2, apps opened quickly and I experienced no lag or stuttering while using them. That even applied when I had several apps in memory, so my conclusion is that memory management is fairly good. It was easy to carry and once I put it into my front pocket with jeans or Dockers, I barely noticed it at all.
The screen is vibrant and colorful and seemed very sharp, despite a lower resolution than many currently available phones. About the only really noticeable downside of the resolution is more pronounced "greeking" (where the text is incomprehensible) on websites when zoomed out and a bit more pixelization when zoomed in on photographs. Aside from those two circumstances, I found the screen to be quite satisfactory. I was less enamored with the capacitive buttons...as I stated earlier, I found it too easy to press the outermost buttons by mistake, launching the phone and disrupting whatever else I was doing. Maybe physical buttons that you actually push would work better.
The phone performance was a bit of a mixed bag. As a handset, the Mini works fine. The speakerphone quality is subpar, however. On a brighter note, I had no problems with weak signal or dropped calls, even though I was using the much maligned AT&T network. Data performance was pretty good, considering that the Mini is limited to EDGE in the US. But neither of the browsers (IE Mobile and Opera Mobile) could match the browsing experience of Safari on the iPhone (my best point of comparison right now...I can't speak to browsing on an Android phone due to lack of experience). It just wasn't as easy to control scrolling, select objects on the screen, resize text, etc. This is an area in which Microsoft must ramp up their efforts, because despite the improvements in the latest version of IE Mobile, the competition is moving forward more quickly than MS can catch up, so they're falling further behind.
So overall, my experience with the Mini was a bit less than perfect, but the nice stuff outnumbered the nits so I still enjoyed using it.
The HD Mini is overall a capable phone in an appealing small and attractive package. While the screen, processor and a few other features are scaled down somewhat to achieve that compact size, none of these things detract much from a very good user experience. The fluid action of the capacitive touchscreen is a revelation to those of us used to the resistive touchscreens offered on earlier WM smartphones. The only serious flaw with the Mini is a rather subpar speakerphone, but it works well as a handset. Aside from that, if you're interested in a "classic" Windows Mobile phone with the latest features, the HD Mini is a solid choice, best made outside of the US where it can utilize 3G.
Doug Raeburn is a Data Architect specializing in data warehousing. He lives in Lannon, WI.
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