HTC 7 Pro 4 Stars

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First of all, we need to make it clear that the HTC 7 Pro is no more of a business-oriented device than the HTC Mozart was a music-focused device. Yes, there is a QWERTY keyboard that professional typists will like, the rest of the phone offers pretty much what you get from the other Windows Phone 7 devices on the market. But is that excellent keyboard enough to persuade consumers to buy this rather than any of the other WP7 phones available?

First look

When the slider is shut the 7 Pro is not a tiny handset, although it is not as weighty as some other slide devices. Under its 3.6in widescreen display, there are three touch-sensitive areas – for back, home and search. On the top of the device there is a 3.5mm audio jack, along with the power button. This is also where you’ll find the camera shutter and microUSB charging port. Onboard memory is offered at either 8GB or 16GB, the choice is yours – but remember there is no microSD slot so there is no opportunity to expand on this.

Before the HTC 7 Pro came the HTC Touch Pro2 – that ran Windows Mobile and was often chosen by business users. Like its predecessor, the 7 Pro has a touch-screen that slides out at an angle over the five-line QWERTY keyboard, to make inputting easier. Unfortunately the slider mechanism is pretty stiff and we had to give it a good push to move it – and even then it makes a scraping noise at it goes. Once out, however, it rests at a 30-degree angle, which means it is comfortable for typing. The keyboard length works well – it’s not so stretched out that it feels uncomfortable – a common problem with landscape-oriented keyboards. User-friendly features include cursor keys, emoticon button (good for keen texters) and a dedicated number line.

Navigating

In fact while the real keyboard was top-notch, we found the virtual keyboard was just as pleasing thanks to the responsive touch-screen. The device is easy to use because WP7 offers a really user-friendly experience – there’s just one home screen, and an all-programs screen, all based on square and rectangular widgets. We’re rather fond of this uniform arrangement, rather than the icon-led look of Android and iPhone handsets. In apps such as Calendar, webmail and inbox, new events appear as ‘live tiles’ – these can be moved around to help you personalise your phone.

One feature that didn’t please us was that all the apps automatically reorient themselves to landscape view when you slide out the keyboard (except on the home screen). This makes the phone feel rather awkward in portrait mode.

When you fire up the HTC Pro 7, you’ll be asked for your Windows Live password, or to set up an account if you don’t have one. Then it will load up all your Hotmail contacts, inbox and calendar. If like us you’ve had your Hotmail account for ages and it’s got lots of unwanted contacts on, it may be easier to set up a new account for your phone. The password also offers access to SkyDrive, a cloud server service that offers free backup for up to 25GB of content and contacts. The remote access function, which will let you wipe your handset or lock it if it gets lost, is a great idea – and you can even find it using GPS location.

Multitasking is a big omission in WP7 – it is supposed to be featured on the next OS update in June, but until that happens, not being able to keep apps open when you start up another one is frustrating – especially when we know that all the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android handsets can do it!

Business matters

The interface for syncing Yahoo!, mail, Facebook, Microsoft Exchange and other webmail accounts is easy to use. You can load on contacts and calendars from these accounts as well as contacts and photos from Facebook, culminating in a super contacts book that also shows social feeds and pictures.

It is possible to view the calendar by month, agenda or day – all of which appears in a fresh, modern design that looks like a digital version of a real calendar.

Push email is on offer, but there is no universal inbox a la iPhone or BlackBerry – nor is there a threaded view that shows emails on the same subject as the iPhone offers. And you’ll also miss out on the conversation view that you get using Gmail on an Android phone.

That said, start typing a new message and email addresses will be auto-suggested from all accounts. Another nice touch is that you can highlight any emails of note, and in inbox view it is possible to scroll between flagged, unread, urgent and all-mail.

What was irritating was the lack of reminders after the first alert of new mails or messages. BlackBerry and Android handsets show an LED when there are unread alerts, for instance.

Like other HTC WP7 handsets, there is a nifty discreet ring function – move the phone when it’s ringing, and it will go quieter – turn it over and the sound will switch off.

Camera, web and navigation

As WP7 is from Microsoft, the browser is Internet Explorer Mobile – which offers a better experience than the first desktop versions. Pinch-to-zoom is supported, as is full HTML – and both images and text appear sharp. To zoom in and auto fit, simply double tap – plus you can keep up to six windows open simultaneously.

Bing Maps is on offer for mapping – it’s not quite up there with Google Maps, but that’s unlikely ever to feature on WP7 phones!

Finally, we come to the five-megapixel camera; it’s as decent a phone as you’ll find on any HTC handset – which means it’s pretty mediocre. Photos taken in daylight were oversaturated, and look blurry even before you zoom in. Because the handset is quite large it’s hard to hold one-handed when taking pictures – but on the plus size the shutter is quite fast – and we liked the inclusion of HTC’s Photo Enhancer, which offers a choice of filters to play about with.


The verdict

Windows Phone 7 is an enjoyable OS to use, but we have to say we prefer other WP7 handsets to the HTC 7 Pro. The handset is just too chunky (although all slider and touch-screen phones are on the big side) and that slider just too stiff. If you want a phone for business use, that one-off email notification may prove an issue – however, if you’re after a ‘fun’ device that offers a good messaging experience, the HTC 7 Pro cold be your phone of choice.

Pros:
Fresh, modern interface, five-line QWERTY keyboard, very responsive screen, contacts book has lots of features, and SkyDrive cloud backup service.
Cons:
Stiff slider, no multitasking until the OS update, lack of reminder about new alerts after the initial alert.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 3 Stars
  • Ease of use 4 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 4 Stars
  • Battery life 3 Stars

Final verdict: 4 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice