With Microsoft setting minimum requirements for Windows Phone 7 handsets' screen size, processor speed, storage and physical design, it was always going to be a struggle for manufacturers to build anything markedly different. Not that this has stopped HTC from trying: it has already released the HTC 7 Trophy, HTC HD 7 and HTC 7 Mozart.
So what’s so different about the Mozart? The name gives a hint: equipped with a Sound Enhancer app and a set of highly respectable speakers, it really does produce half-decent sound even without plugging in earphones. Don’t believe the hype on HTC’s website that it’s like listening to stereo, however: switching on the SRS Enhancement was an immediate turn-off for our panel of judges. The Dolby Mobile setting, though, does a surprisingly good job.
There’s one huge impediment standing in the Mozart’s way, however, if it wants to threaten anyone’s MP3 player: HTC only sees fit to include 8GB of flash storage. With no opportunity to expand memory via extra cards (a limitation of Windows Phone 7 rather than HTC’s design team), you’ll need to keep careful track of what you’re synchronising via Microsoft’s Zune software.
We couldn’t help but smile when we saw another of HTC’s claims: “Looks and feels stunning”, goes the headline. While both are subjective judgements, you’ll find few people willing to argue that the Mozart rivals the Apple iPhone 4 for industrial design. The combination of a gunmetal grey finish on the front, black bezel and flash of speaker grille didn’t impress our random sample of five people in the Dennis offices (two female, three male, just for the record).
Perhaps surprisingly, where it did pull ahead was for feel in the hand. HTC has evidently put some real effort in here, with the rounded edges, the cold feel of the brushed aluminium body and slim, compact dimensions winning the popular vote: indeed, all five out of our style judges said they liked the Mozart’s feel more than either the iPhone 4 or Samsung’s Omnia 7.
On the rear sits a prominent lens for the 8-megapixel camera, complete with autofocus and a Xenon flash. Providing you don’t zoom in too close you should be pretty pleased with the results in bright conditions, and even in darker rooms the flash adds just enough oomph to make photos usable. Zoom into 100%, however, and the limitations are horribly obvious: colour fringing and artefacts spoil any effect.
You can also shoot 720p video at 24fps, and for casual use we’ve got no real complaints. Yes, it's a little juddery at times, but if you want to capture a scene in the same way you might take a snapshot with the camera then it's absolutely fine. If smoother shots are important to you, dropping down to 640 x 480 ups the frame rate to 30fps.
Just like the Omnia, the Mozart includes a 1GHz Snapdragon processor (the QSD8250 to be precise), and it’s no surprise they performed near-identically in our speed tests: 45 seconds for SunSpider, and around 20 seconds for the BBC homepage (twice as long as the iPhone). In short, neither phone is as slick as the iPhone 4 at web browsing.
There is one difference between the Samsung’s specification and the HTC 7 Mozart’s: battery size. The Omnia includes a 1500mAh unit to the Mozart’s 1300mAh. We’re still performing our battery-rundown tests, but due to the Samsung’s larger screen we expect battery life to fall in line with the Omnia (perhaps below it): to have 50% to 60% of its charge after a 24-hour period during which we make a 30-minute call, download a 50MB podcast, listen to the podcast for an hour with the screen on low, and then keep the phone on idle with email being retrieved as it arrives in a Gmail account.
As with all Windows Phone 7 devices, the screen offers a 480 x 800 resolution, and in isolation it looks bright and colourful. Place the Mozart next to the Omnia, or any other phone with an AMOLED screen, and the colours appear muted. It also lacks the photorealism of the iPhone 4 Retina system. But picking holes here is a little cruel: compared to a handset produced over a year ago the Mozart’s screen will still stand out.
But the real problem for the Mozart is this: is it worth the money? Right now, value for money is the HTC 7 Mozart’s biggest drawcard. Available with Telstra at launch, it will cost $49 per month over a 24-month contract. For HTC to have a winner on its hands, it needs to fight not just the Windows 7 competition but all the Android phones as well. You can buy the HTC Desire for the same price on the same contract - so it comes down to your preference for operating system, and the availability of Desire stock.
Keep in mind, too, that the Desire HD launches shortly, throwing more choice (and more power on the Android front) into the mix.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk