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HTC Surround and Windows Phone 7.5 review

I haven’t played with a Windows Mobile phone for a while and the opportunity presented itself thanks to the generosity of my colleague Brett Canadian Wine Guy so I jumped on the chance!

Let’s start out with the phone itself. I will say flat out I have no idea what HTC were thinking when they designed this device. I just don’t get it. It is thicker, and heavier to allow them to have slide out speakers. For what? Who is going to use these speakers even if they are stellar? Other than that the device is quite nicely designed. Nice screen, pretty bezel, and feels good in the hand. The device is suppose to be some kind of multi media device but there are MAJOR misses in my opinion. First and foremost no micro SD slot. So the 16G they give is what you get. There is no video out from the device either. The battery is a bit on the light side at 1250mAH.

Full specs

The goofy speakers and kick stand:

Windows 7 phone
I was a HUGE enthusiast of Windows Mobile. Unfortunately Microsoft stopped innovating and it died on the vine, over run quickly by Android, and the iPhone. Windows 7 phone was the much needed finger friendly rewrite. One of the major issues Microsoft ran into (other than the HUGE delay in getting this OS out) was that they provided NO BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY. That means anyone that developed had to rewrite, and any user that had bought code had to rebuy. This is a HUGE obstacle for Microsoft but probably unavoidable. That said, the effects of this are still being felt. The marketplace on Windows Phone lags even the pathetic Blackberry AppWorld and is dwarfed by the iPhones as well as Android’s marketplace. I have been very surprised at how many apps and functions are missing on Windows 7 phone. A device is only as good as it’s apps. This is a HUGE impediment to success in this space.

The device feels very responsive. Every thing happens instantaneously. Even on the 1G processor this device flies. It is definitely faster, and smoother than my Android HTC Desire Z (running at 800MHZ). The home panels really do take some getting use to, and for me look primitive. Overall the OS seems basic at best. The list of installed apps is a simple drag down, there is nothing elegant here. HTC have added some visual fluff to liven up the OS but all in all it is just underwhelming.

Microsoft have insured that integration with Google email/calendar and contacts are well done and they are. Much better than on a Berry. The Gmail app works well but is missing support for the priority inbox which I have come to love and rely on. It does support threaded messages. The interface takes some getting use to and is harder to see at a glance what is new. The default is polling every half an hour Vs push email on Android. The mail stack just seemed to freeze from time to time. Emails were dramatically delayed. In comparison to what I am use to on Android this seemed slow and unreliable. HTML email and the ability to pan and zoom worked VERY well. You can easily attach photos to emails but nothing other than photos/emails.

Microsoft have chosen quite a small font for the device. This makes it hard to read, and I have found no way to change the default font size.

Why do companies make the same mistake over and over again? My 1980 Nokia phone had phone profiles. Making it easy to change the various volume/vibrate settings of your phone. On Android you need an ap for that, but at least you can turn vibrate on quickly. Windows Phone has also left out the ability to quickly and easily change profiles. It takes multiple clicks, especially if you want to turn off some but not all of the sounds. I turn off everything but the ringer and that would take multiple clicks. Silly.

When I went from the iPhone to Android I was pleasantly surprised how many apps I use were available on both. Developers have become device agnostic. That said, they have not embraced and I might even go so far as to say boycott developing for Windows Phone.

Take instant messaging for example I use two multi platform IM programs, ebuddy and fring. Neither are available. Google have almost entirely ignored Microsoft Phone. No Gtalk, no Greader, no Google maps and the list goes on. I tried to find an SFTP/FTP program, no such luck. No weathereye either. I am totally shocked, almost a year later MS have failed to win over or for that matter BUY developers support. This in the end will kill the platform or delay adoption. Frankly if I had bought the device, I would return it.

I have a tablet, a Samsung Galaxy tab. I use tethering on my Android phone. It means I don’t need a separate data plan for the tablet. And lots of tablets don’t even come with a cell radio. From what I can see there is no way of tethering on Windows Phone.

There is a facebook ap, but it of course lags the iPhone and Android ap. No chat, no video upload etc.

I was shocked at how many of the aps are actually paid apps. This is in stark contrast to Android and iPhone where most are free.

And given you have no access to the file space on the device don’t go looking for a file explorer, they don’t exist.

Ranting on this total lack of aps I should probably point out that given you won’t be using your phone for much, battery life should be less of an issue 🙂

The marketplace does include the ability to purchase music (presumably over the Air) but no movies (yet anyway). Android now allows you to buy movies!

Bluetooth worked fine and connected easily to my car stereo. It refused to connect to the Galaxy tab saying it was incompatible whatever that means.

The browser on Windows Phone is excellent. It’s smooth, reasonably fast and over all well done. I would actually put it above the Android browser on a similar processor.

Microsoft saw the wonderful cash cow that was the iPod and tried its hand with the unsuccessful Zune. Well Microsoft decided to use the Zune software in Windows Phone. Oh yay. So like an iPhone/iTunes to add content onto the device takes a trip back to your computer. You can delete on the device by long pressing the item.

On Android I never have to go back to the computer. I can download over torrents, a friend can send me over bluetooth songs, I can use FTP/SFTP to add content. It’s wonderful. Never a need to go back to your computer if you don’t want to!

When you first plug in your Windows Phone into a computer it tells you that you need to download the Zune software. Once done you add content into Zune (movies, pictures, music) and then tell it you want to sync it to the device. I tried an XVID and MKV. It ignored the MKV and allowed the XVID but from how long it took I would say it converted it to some Zune compatible format (same thing iTunes does). Android is much more compatible and will play without conversion! I have to say it. I’m unimpressed by Zune. And given you have no choice …

Music playback is basic at best. Don’t be looking for any enhanced info about the band, concerts of your favorite band etc. And don’t be looking for any visual fluff like cover flow (on the iPods). You can create playlists on the device so at least there is that.

Your probably already surmising this, but I am underwhelmed by Windows Phone. Even with the latest update this OS has missed the mark IMHO. Microsoft have done nothing to secure their place in the market. It’s clear why developers are not jumping on the band wagon. The platform is lacking in so many ways and just not a competitive offering. I said it earlier, but if I bought a device with Windows Phone on it, I would return it.

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October 23, 2011 - Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews, Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Howdy! I simply would like to give you a big thumbs up for your great info you have got right here on this post.
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    Comment by www.slideshare.net | July 29, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks for your kind words. Please share the blog with your friends!

      Comment by johngalea | July 29, 2013 | Reply


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