HTC Mozart 4 Stars

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Think you know what to expect from Windows phones – or HTC phones for that matter? Think again – because here comes the Mozart, a multimedia handset that is one of the Windows Phone 7 launch devices. Like all its Windows Phone 7 stablemates, it sticks to the rules that Microsoft has laid out for it – and that proves a good thing.

The looks department
Microsoft has decreed that Windows Phone 7 devices will have certain standards when it comes to hardware. The display, for instance, must be a 3.5in touch-screen with WVGA resolution. To prove its individuality, the Mozart sports a rather nice-looking anodised aluminium case (reminiscent of the HTC Legend), which curves around the device. The rest of the handset is made of Teflon (echoes of the HTC Desire). It actually boasts a 3.7in screen – an inch of that is touch sensitive, and is home to the back key, search and Windows Start buttons. If you didn’t already know, it would be hard to miss the fact that the device is exclusive to Orange; take a look on the back where there are HTC, Windows Phone 7 and Orange logos. While you’re there, you’ll notice there’s a lens for the eight-megapixel camera, a speaker vent (another phone appears on the front) and the snapper’s Xenon flash.

Basic stuff
Windows Phone 7 has its own style, thanks to its homescreen featuring ‘five tile’ widgets. Check the Marketplace tile, for example, to find out when one of your apps is awaiting an update. You can also add shortcuts – to apps, place to navigate to, and contacts. It’s so unlike the old Windows Mobile – just take a look at the facades that occur as you swipe between screens.

It’s not possible for manufacturers to add their own individual skin to Windows Phone 7, but we don’t believe that’s an issue. We were impressed by the phone book, with its integrated contacts list – this mixes with your Facebook feed and recent contacts. Users will find they can sync with Hotmail, Google and Facebook and are able to connect their contacts’ details across all of them.

It’s disappointing that actually phoning someone is so laborious. Unless it’s a friend you have contacted recently, you’ll find yourself clicking four times – and that just gets you to the contact book! Next, type in a few characters, click on the right contact and – you’re not there yet – choose if you are going to call or text them.

Messaging

The touch-screen is very sensitive and very accurate, we also found the predictive text worked excellently. However, it wasn’t as good at guessing the right word from our mis-typing as the iPhone is, for instance.

Emailing is impressive – the best we’ve seen on Windows phones – and also offers instant push notifications for Hotmail, Gmail and exchange. Sent email arrived as soon as it landed in the desktop accounts (we’ve found on the iPhone that Gmail can take a minute or more to pop up). You can also decide to sync either the whole account, or opt to do so for a set amount of time, including custom folders.

Moving – and still – pictures
We were surprised by the image quality that the camera produced in a dark room – highlighting how good the flash is. In low light, our pictures had a blue tinge when taken on the auto setting. Zooming in, we found both shots were blurred and soft. Pictures taken in daylight were clear on the phone’s screen, but suffered from a lot of noise when we zoomed in. When we viewed them on a monitor, we discovered they had a slightly cool tint – something we’ve seen before on the HTC Desire.

With a bit of patience, you can get some decent action images – but first you’ll need to get used to timing the shots taking into account shutter lag; it’s a full second in daylight, and more if you want to use flash. We’re used to getting 720p as standard for video nowadays, and the Mozart offers little more. Once you have shot your video or image, you can share it online or use SkyDrive – Microsoft’s cloud service – to back it up. Windows Live accounts get 25 GB of storage.

Audio
While the iPhone has iTunes, the Mozart offers a Zune account for music fans. But first you’ll need to download the software to a computer. Once that’s done it’s easy to get started. We liked the fresh, simple interface, with menus for video, music, radio, podcasts and the marketplace, where you can purchase more tunes. We were disappointed that we couldn’t create playlists on the go; you can add tracks to a now-playing list, but it offers no facility for saving it.

Add a bit more fullness to the sound using the Sound Enhancer app. This will let you get virtual surround sound using Dolby Mobile or HTC’s SRS Surround Sound. The phone’s speakers offer a decent sound, but they are no substitute for a good set of travel speakers. And if you listen through headphones you are able to add several ‘boosters’ including rock and jazz (we could identify little difference with these) or bass, which will ‘big up’ your audio.

Exploring the web and navigating
If you plan on browsing the net, Internet Explorer fires up pretty quickly. You benefit from multitouch and you’ll see that text and images all have clean edges. You can zoom in either by using pinch to zoom, or by double-tapping – which increases size to 100% and autofits text on the screen. It’s a shame there’s no copy and paste (a pretty big omission) but it is supposed to appear some time in 2011.

Mapping comes from Microsoft’s Bing Maps, but we find it rather fiddly compared with Google Maps, and apart from text direction it has no navigation features.

If you’re after custom content, head to the Hubs, where manufacturers and operator partners can add their own apps. There’s little on the HTC Hub apart from the clock-weather widget and a few others. Orange’s preloaded apps area is also nothing to write home about – although we do like the one that allows the price of your purchased apps to go directly on to your mobile phone bill.

Battery life is okay – with all the features the Mozart offers, and running Zune, web browsing, sat-nav and push email, it still managed to push on for 13.5 hours.

The verdict
Finally there is a contender for Android and iPhone. Windows Phone 7 is really well designed – and boasts Xbox Live and Zune, as well as that impressive integrated phone book.

As for the handset itself – the camera and audio were rather disappointing. And while we weren’t knocked off our feet by the Mozart, with the addition of Windows Phone 7 it does appear to be a very usable handset.

Pros:
Cost of buying apps goes directly on to mobile phone bill; very decent social media integration; Zune and Xbox Live sync, impressive email functions; responsive display.
Cons:
The eight-megapixel snapper is mediocre; making a call is pretty long-winded, Bing Maps is no match for Google Maps.
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