HTC 7 Mozart Review: Music To Your Tech Ears
The phones we have reviewed so far on Gigjets have all been Android devices. So obviously, we lunged at the opportunity to a review a Windows Phone 7 device. WP7 has recently been in the news for its Mango update as well as for being the sole OS of future Nokia smart phones, a result of the strategic partnership between Nokia and Microsoft earlier this year. So, is WP7 merely a spectator in the iOS v/s Android mobile OS battle, or has the war just turned 3D? Read on to find out.
Design and Hardware
HTC’s recent revival has been marked by their excellence in the quality of hardware, and the Mozart is probably the epitome of this fact. The front consists of an all encompassing Gorilla Glass display, which is acceptably responsive, but not exceptional. Turn to the back of the phone though, to see the most gorgeous steel grey aluminium unibody enclosure, which encases its internals. There are rubber casings on the top and the bottom of the rear side for the camera and the battery respectively, which results in an asymmetrical shape of the unibody, rendering it absolutely stunning and admiringly captivating.
The 3 capacitive buttons on the phone lend a good ol’ physical feel to the phone, which is to be appreciated in these days of touch screen devices. There is also a silver volume rocker button on the left side of the phone place conveniently to adjust the volume and bring up the music player controls on the homescreen when the phone is till locked.
The biggest drawback, hardware wise, is the lack of option of expanding memory through a MicroSD card, which is also one the phone’s biggest negatives overall, which means that you and your digital data have to be content with the inbuilt 8 GB memory provided. Apart for this, the design and hardware from HTC is absolutely top class and nothing else. Period.
On paper, the camera boasts an 8 MP camera with a Xenon flash, thus instantly outclassing the cameras found on most smartphones, which usually 5 MP ones with LED flash. However, the schizophrenic nature of the camera is soon revealed when you start using it. The impressive specs do not convert fully convert into the kind of performance that one would come to expect, which is indeed disappointing. Here are some sample 8 MP photos clicked from the Mozart.
As you can see, the pictures are certainly of good quality, but do not possess the sharpness or clarity that one would expect from an 8 MP camera. However, it should be noted that in low light conditions, the camera performs better than expected, largely thanks to the Xenon flash, I suspect. The camera performance is good, but sub par considering the specs.
Windows Phone 7 OS
This is the crux of the whole review, the part where I talk about the WP7 OS, and is probably the part of the review most of you want to concern yourself most eagerly with. So lets dive right in!
Starting with the user interface, since WP7 is not open source like Android, there was no question of HTC skinning the phone with its celebrated and acclaimed Sense UI like on their Android devices. So instead we are treated to the Windows UI, which is not bad. In fact its better than not bad. Its good.
Visually, it is very impactful, with its bright and candid colours against a dark (or light if you prefer) background. This results in the visually stunning “Tiles”, shortcuts to applications that make up the home page which can be edited and arranged as per you requirements and fancy, as well as a colour co-ordination that is peppered throughout the phone (like all the notifications which are displayed in the same colour). The one problem with the home screen is that all the Tiles are on the same screen, so if you have a lot of Tiles, you might have to scroll excessively to get to one thats at the bottom, or stingily decide which are the most important ones you want. This is where the usefulness of the multiple screens feature that are there in iOS and Android really justifies itself. The People Tile is particularly pleasant to watch, as the photos of all your contacts (which can be synced with your Facebook, Google and/or LiveMail accounts) shift about in a random fashion. The UI if the WP7 OS is absolutely slick and I would go as far as calling it avant garde.
The media experience is a smooth sailing one. All music and videos can can conveniently accessed at one location, aptly called Music And Videos. The app is also integrated with the Zune Marketplace, so that you can buy or sample something that you like. While the phone is locked, the music player controls can be easily accessed through the volume rocker button, which brings up the control on top of the wallpaper. One drawback with the music player is that there is no seek function.
Critics generally judge the development and growth of a mobile OS on the basis of the software available for it. The iOS and Android like to boast of of the advantages their OS is likely to bring to you, based on the sheer volume of apps available. The Windows Marketplace is indeed far behind in terms of numbers, but an objective review will leave you wondering whether numbers are the sole indicator.
The apps available on the Windows Marketplace are plentiful, and vary in every genre imaginable, just as on other popular mobile OSes. In fact, many apps available on those platforms are either useless or redundant (in the sense that there could exist many other almost same apps). So all in all, if you want an app that serves a particular purpose, chances are quite high that you will be able to find it on the Windows marketplace. Admittedly, the number of smiler apps of a genre in other OSes provide users with choice and encourage competition and innovation, but I believe that WP7 will catch up in that respect sooner than expected.
Installation of apps is easy to follow, and will continue in the background even if you choose to do something else on the phone in the meantime. There are some glitches that you might face when setting up your account and using India as your location along with your existent LiveMail ID (read this to know more). During the course of he review, I had to set my location as U.S. during setup to access the Marketplace without any problems. One huge drawback with the Marketplace is that there is no way to manually search for apps Google style! So if a friend recommends you an app, you will have to manually keep on scanning the Marketplace till you find it. Thankfully, theres a free app for the purpose of searching, but its a thoughtless oversight from Microsoft.
The other regular functions that one would come to expect from a smartphone are pretty much met. The keyboard is really good and responsive, almost as good as the iOS one. In fact, its auto suggest feature works more frequently in comparison to iOS, and is a major convenience factor. Some other aspects are noteworthy too. For instance, the search function, which leads you to an inbuilt Bing search engine, has the option of intaking input throughout speech, apart from the regular way of text. Judging by the times I tried it, the feature works impressively and is certainly accurate enough. Microsoft also decided to leverage their biggest strength, which is their Office software, in the WP7 OS. The result is a native Office app, which comes built into the OS. This is quite handy as you can now create and edit Office documents on the go, upload it to SkyDrive (the cloud storage that LiveMail offers) and even share them. There are also some bundled HTC apps, which include Notes, Stocks and Weather, which do exactly what they are supposed to. Theres also an audio enhancement app, which comes without the option Dolby Digital, SRS and bass enhancements. In my experience, only the SRS enhancement added any significant improvement to the audio quality, which is impressive as it is.
In summary, the WP7 OS is a solid and serious alternative to the other popular mobile OSes out there in the market. Given its nascency, you can expect it to grow even more by leaps and bounds in the future. The Mango update is a first and concrete step in that direction, though hay will have to hasten future development efforts in order to keep up with iOS and Android.
Performance and Battery Life
The performance of the phone is satisfactory. The quality of calls is good and there no issues with reception or any antenna-gate like issues. All in all, call related quality is absolutely fine, which is certainly reassuring in these troubled days. Overall performance is good, but theres a slight lack of snappiness, which probably due to the low 576 MB RAM. Nothing that an average user will take offense to though. The big downside here is lack of true multi-tasking, which will thankfully be fully addressed in the Mango update.
The official figures for the battery life are 6.75 hours of talk time and 18 days standby time, the battery life of the Mozart is standard smartphone-like. With Wi-Fi turned on, some meaty amount of browsing and occasional media playback, along with standard cell phone usage, the phone lasted a whole day. Most users should certainly not have any issues with the battery life, and even most power users will be able to get by.
If you read right from the beginning and finally reached here, you would truly deserve an answer to your “Should I take a chance and go with a WP7 handset, and if I do, is Mozart the right one?”. Well, we are going to answer that question anyway! You absolutely should! If you are looking for a change from the familiarities of iOS and Android, or even buying a smartphone for the first time, the Mozart should definitely be on your contenders list. The only major limitation anyone will face is the lack of storage. But if your digital habits don’t require more than 8 GB, then the phone’s a go-go all right!
Also, with a street price of around Rs. 23,000, the HTC 7 Mozart is the cheapest WP7 phone available on the market. One issue that a prospective buyer may face is the availability of the Mozart, as we got official word from HTC that they have stopped shipping it to India. However, we did some work for you and you should be able to snap up a piece from here.