Windows Phone 7 - the story so far...

Windows Phone 7 is just around the corner. With a breath or two to go until the big do, the action on the net is getting hotter than a jalapeno on the surface of the sun. There have been months of craziness, rumours and here-say since we first got a look at Microsoft’s mobile OS plans back at MWC 2010, so it’s about time good old PL threw them all up in the air like crumbs off a pic-nic blanket in order to catch them all, neat and tidy, in order for you all to read. So here is everything that we may or may not be expecting when Windows Phone 7 arrives on Monday. Assimilate this.

Software

By and large, it’s the software we know more about than the hardware. There were demos of Microsoft’s new darling moons and moons ago and that doesn’t seem to have changed too much on the surface. The overview is that rather than being yet another dull app grid interpretation of the iPhone OS, WP7 is all about hubs, which take up many screens worth of phone, and tie in functionality and applications on a theme. 

Hubs

That we know for a fact is how it’s going to look. Within that, we know that there’ll be a Zune Hub where users will be able to buy tracks as well as rent movies to play on their phones, and also sign up to the £8.99 subscription service Zune Pass which offers all you can eat access.

Another Hub which has got the folks hot under the hot bits is the Xbox Live Hub, which is going to be all about gaming. Microsoft representatives have confirmed to Pocket-lint that, at launch, you’ll have access to companion gaming with what you have on your Xbox as well as some turn based games, but there will be a move in the future to full, live gaming using your phone over Wi-Fi with your console. There will also, of course, be normal downloadable adventures for just your handset.

On top of that the Xbox Live Hub will give you control and editing rights over your account and avatar, the latter of which you can even poke and prod about thanks to some 3D graphics. You’ll be able to synch all your information over the air and there’s also rumoured to be a messaging service set to turn up in a similar vein to BlackBerry Messenger.

While we’re talking games, Microsoft also dropped a bit of a hint about Kinect working in conjunction with WP7 some time in the future.

As a final word on Hubs, any manufacturer or app developer can make a hub of their own but no one can put an entire Custom UI on top of WP7. We can expect to see one from HTC for its launch handsets, but more on that later.

Windows Phone Live

In the same way that Apple has its MobileMe and HTC has its HTCSense.com, Windows Phone Live will be the web service which backs up your mobile life. It’ll be the central location for all of your pictures, your calendar, your contacts and you'll also be able to exchange and access OneNote and other files between your phone and your PC. You’ll have access to 25GB worth of storage on Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud-based system and there will also be a Find my Phone service where you'll be able to locate, loud ring, lock or wipe any Windows Phone 7 device that has gone missing. Best of all, and unlike MobileMe, it’s free.

Other info

Beyond the above, knowledge begins to get bitty. There’s no copy and paste function which seems like a bit of a surprise at first, until you find out that Microsoft has a solution planned. Instead, there’s a data detection service that makes numbers addresses and other information clickable. From there you can do what you want with it.

There’s no SD cards involved and there’s no multitasking either. The idea is to focus on a system that doesn’t slow or let the battery get wiped out by anything third-party running in the background.

Bing will be the only default search option on the device. There is space to have other engines as apps, but Microsoft’s answer is so in-grained into the build that another search is not possible - particularly in conjunction with the voice system on-board, known as Tell Me

Along with their good friends Apple, Microsoft has also chosen to shun Adobe Flash and will instead rely on Silverlight as a run around, but, essentially, users will not get a web experience in full - until the entire internet goes HTML 5, of course.

Finally, all syncing will happen over the air up in the cloud, and there is a rumour that WP7 will not support VoIP. However, given that the latter of those two has not been heard by anyone at Skype, we would suggest otherwise.

Hardware

We knew from the off that Microsoft was laying down some pretty strict hardware laws in order to protect the Windows Phone 7 user experience. The list of must haves and minimum standards for the handset manufacturers are as follows:

  • 3 hardware buttons
  • Start, Search, and Back
  • Capacitive touch screen with 4 or more contact points
  • Only two possible screen resolutions:  800 x 480 and 480 x 320
  • A-GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • Light sensor
  • Proximity sensor
  • 5-MP camera with flash and dedicated camera button
  • Codec acceleration for multimedia
  • 256MB RAM with 8GB Flash for storage
  • DirectX 9 accelerated GPU
  • ARMv7 Cortex/Scorpion CPU


Given the regiment, it’s of little surprise that a lot of the spy shots from a lot of the manufactures are pretty much the same - a big touchscreen, black chassis, three hard buttons and every now and then a slideout QWERTY keyboard.

The first flush of phones will be launched on 11 October and are rumoured to be hitting the shelves on 21 October in UK. While only AT&T and T-Mobile will be carrying WP7 handsets in 2010, all five of the major networks in Britain are representing from the off. So, without further ado, this is what we’ve gathered so far in the hardware front.

HTC

HTC is the bunch of 18-year-olds in Ayia Napa. It's going large. The company is supposed to have designed an HTC Hub to try to maintain some semblance of brand identity and it’s said to contain apps for a calculator, converter, flashlight, phone enhancer, and some other bits and pieces. So far, nothing out of the ordinary.

As for the phones themselves, the big question is just how many are coming to market and which of the ones rumoured from different sources are actually the same model. Our take on it is as follows:

1) HTC Mozart
This one’s a safe bet seeing as Orange managed to leak the specs all over its own website. The HTC Mozart is a 3.7-inch, 800 x 480, TFT LCD device with a 1GHz CPU, 1300mAh battery and 8GB of built-in storage. It measures 119 x 60.5 x 11.9mm, has an 8-megapixel camera with xenon flash and is capable of shooting 720p video. On top of that, there’s surround sound - possible Dolby - Bluetooth 2.1, A-GPS, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. It’s set to be available for free on £35 per month contracts.

2) HTC HD7
The other big leak was the HTC HD7 which is what we believe has also been pictured and reported as the HTC Schubert. Like the Mozart, rumours suggest it comes with Dolby Mobile Sound but this time a 4.3-inch WVGA TFT LCD screen, a 5MP camera with LED flash and bizarrely 512MB of storage plus an 8GB microSD card in the box, which rather raises an eyebrow at the idea of WP7 not featuring removable memory.

It’s got 576MB RAM, a 1GHz Qualcomm QSD 8250 processor, GPS, FM radio, 3.5mm jack, HSDPA and costs 559 euros or 79 euros on a 2-year contract in Germany.

3) HTC HD3
This is where it starts to get a little confusing. Some sources are reporting the existence of the HTC HD3 while others say that it’s just the HD7. All the same, the specs associated with the rumours don’t really match up. Word is, of a whopper of a handset with a 4.5-inch AMOLED display and HD resolution of 1280 x 800 - although, that again does not tie in with the acceptable screen resolution, so there’s a good chance this one’s a red herring. The specs continue as a dual-core 1.5GHz ARM-based chip with 1GB of RAM on board, 32GB of built-in storage (which can be doubled with a microSD) as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HDMI-out. Throw in the suggested 8MP camera with dual LED flash and HD video recording and that would make a serious machine - if it were true. So, is it?

4) HTC Mondrian
The haze continues further with the HTC Mondrian although, this time, the statistics look more likely. Named after the Dutch painter, it’s said to come with a 4.3-inch screen at WVGA resolution, a Qualcomm QSD8650A/B 1.3GHz Snapdragon processor that supports both GSM and CDMA, and an HD-capable camera with at least 5 megapixels to work with.

5) HTC Spark
Dug up in Egypt, the HTC Spark is the baby of the bunch and its reported 3.8-inch WVGA screen makes a lot of sense in a world of 4-inch-plus devices. Sadly, that and the minimum required 1GHz CPU is all that’s known about it, so whether it’s vapourware of something we’ll hear of under another name on Monday remains to be seen.

6) HTC 7 Trophy
The HTC 7 Trophy or HTC Trophy, as it may be, has popped up both on an HTC road map from times gone as well as on Vodafone’s system more recently. Sadly, little has been seen of it in terms of spec, but the rumour mill suggests something akin to the HD Mini - a 3-inch capacitive touchscreen, 7.2GB of storage, 5-megapixel camera and a non-slideout QWERTY keyboard as well.

Pocket-lint’s verdict - HTC likes to make a splash, but at least one of these has to have been mistaken for another at some point, so our guess is that they’ll be launching either four or five handsets on the day. The odd man out is most likely the HD3 or the HTC Spark.

Samsung

Never one to miss a trick, there’s been plenty of photos of Samsung possibles all over the web as well. Cetus seems to be the chosen moniker for the Korean giant’s run of WP7 phones and this is the skinny on them so far.

Samsung Cetus i917
It doesn’t look likely to arrive on Monday, but the Samsung Cetus i917 has certainly got the crowds excited. Spy shots of a handset with a 4-inch, 800 x 480 AMOLED display, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a now-all-the-rage VGA front facing camera. For those interested, there is in fact a lengthy video of it to enjoy. So, perhaps it’ll come sooner than we think after all?

Samsung Cetus i916
The i916 is a slight variant on the previous model with just about the same spec. So, whether in fact it’s entirely the same or comes with a slideout QWERTY as well remains to be seen.

Samsung Omnia i8700
Less is known on the hardware of the Omnia i8700 but it certainly looks real enough in the leaked video walk-through. The interesting thing here is that you get a chance to see Samsung’s Hub as well. The Omnia i8700 is expected to be announced on Monday.

Pocket-lint verdict - There simply isn’t enough on the Cetus i916 to believe it’s a cert and with the other two so plain and obvious, our money’s on just the i8700 and i917 to turn up at the big event. Whatever the result, expect plenty of Samsung WP7 handsets by the end of the year.

 

LG

Naturally, LG wasn’t going to look small-time next to its mortal enemy Samsung, so there’s been plenty of scraps to feed on around what the Viewty maker is going to come up with for Windows Phone 7. After a little toing and froing, it looks as if all the handsets at this level on all sorts of platforms will be called Optimus. It’s the second name that counts though.

LG Optimus 7 (E900)
If you want a handset that’s absolutely nailed on to turn up on Monday, then the LG E900 is the one. The name is not entirely confirmed but the rather shiny looking publicity shots certainly are. Aside the looks, all we really know is that it’s got a 5-megapixel camera with flash and a 1.3GHz CPU.

LG Panther (GW910)
What was described as the LG (sex) Panther back at MWC 2010 was one of the phones used to demo WP7 in first place. Since, we’ve seen more shots of the slideout QWERTY device in the wild which looks identical and comes under the name of the GW910 which would fit with previous LG titles.

LG Pacific (C900)
Another slideout QWERTY is expected to arrive, only this time known as the LG Pacific or C900. It was snapped by Engadget and is supposed to be set for AT&T later in the year. However, there is an excellent chance we’ll be seeing it in the UK too. It’s very similar to the Panther but the the three outer buttons are in very different places.

Pocket-lint’s verdict - Expect the Panther and the E900. The Pacific could just be the US variant of the GW910.

Dell

From here on in, everything gets a little simpler. Dell and Asus, the other two announced partners for WP7, have just one handset each.

Dell Lightning
Considering the Streak, you can expect the name of this one to be bang on. According to rumours, it will pack a 1GHz processor, 4.1-inch OLED display, 5-megapixel camera, 1GB of internal memory plus 512MB of RAM, an 8GB microSD card, GPS, accelerometer, compass, FM radio and full support for Flash. Some of this seems to be at odds with what the world thinks it knows about WP7, but there’s no doubt that this phone is in existence

Pocket-lint’s verdict - Probably day one and definitely a cert.

Asus

Asus has done us a favour by not bothering with any kind of code name at all - at least as far as we know. The Asus (insert open mouth pause here) has still had time to pose for a picture and seems to feature a brushed metal casing on the front, a large touchscreen display of around 3.5 to 4 inches and the defacto three buttons; Windows, Back and Search. There also looks to be a very small front facing camera, although even that is debatable - remember the iPad's camera turned out to be a light sensor.

Pocket-lint’s verdict - As for Dell.

Sony Ericsson

Like Samsung, SE has had enough of Symbian and while it’s all Android for now, a spokesperson was quoted as saying that the relationship was “not exclusive, but it will certainly continue to be an important platform for us”. Perhaps room for WP7 some time then.

Pocket-lint’s verdict - Expect to see something in 2011.

Tablets

Of course, no press conference could be complete without the mention of the form factor of the moment, and Steve Ballmer has gone on the record to say that there will be Windows Phone 7 slates of a sort by Christmas. No one really knows who will be making them just yet, but expect to hear something about it at the big event.

Pocket-lint’s verdict - No launches but lots of talk

 

So, that's what happens when you get 6 months worth of rumours and tip them into a mincer, but what do you think will turn up on Monday and just how many phones is HTC launching anyway?