HTC 7 Mozart

There are three HTC handsets available at launch for Windows Phone 7: the HTC HD7 on O2, the HTC 7 Trophy on Vodafone, and the HTC 7 Mozart on Orange. So should you plump for this over the other two HTC models and the LG and Samsung offerings? Read on to find out.

Encased in a single piece of metal, the HTC 7 Mozart is tough sculptured and well built. Like the company’s Legend, and Desire handsets, this is a phone that meets the company’s mantra of “hidden strength” and aside from two plastic elements top and bottom it’s an all-metal affair.

Those plastic “bits”, only visible from the back, are there to let the signal get out and it’s a design that works. In our roams around London and the British countryside we had no issues getting reception to make a call. If you’re worried that a metal and plastic phone might be off putting, don’t be, the colour of the two components are very similar (gun metal grey) so you probably wouldn’t have realised had we not told you.

The bottom element slides off to reveal the battery and the SIM card, and it's the same clever locking system as found on the HTC Legend. Not that you’ll need to remove the cover. This is Windows Phone 7, and that means no support for external removable microSD remember.

The back is also home to the 8-megapixel camera and a Xenon flash, rather than the 5-megapixel offering as found on the HTC 7 Trophy. It can capture 720p video, just as all the other Windows Phone 7 handsets can. The design pushes the camera element to the forefront. Not as much as one of the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shots or the Nokia N8, but more so than a camera trying to hide it altogether.

We've started with the back rather than the front, because it’s considerably more interesting from a design perspective. The front is a single piece of glass with three touch sensitive buttons (back, home, and search) placed evenly across the bottom, as Microsoft demands. Sporting a slightly smaller touchscreen than the HTC 7 Trophy - 3.7 inches - it runs at the same resolution - 480 x 800.

The buttons are responsive and clean with haptic feedback so you get a sense that you’ve touched something. Elsewhere on the sides the phone features a 3.5mm jack, a dedicated camera button, volume controls and of course a charging/connecting socket. There is also Dolby Mobile and SRS enhancement to make your tunes sound sweet. HTC ships the Mozart with an equalizer (in a dedicated feature called Sound Enhancer) but you’ll only be able to take advantage of this via headphones or external speakers rather than the on-board speaker. 

If you have got headphones at the ready you can choose from a variety of presets including Blues, Pop, Bass booster, Treble booster, and Vocal booster to name a few. It’s a nice feature especially if you are watching a movie on the go - something that the 3.7-inch screen just about lets you get away with. We found that Dolby Mobile really brings your music to life, whilst SRS brings dazzling audio to your movies.

The HTC 7 Mozart also comes with a 1GHz processor, the same 512MB of ROM and 576MB of RAM as the HTC 7 Trophy and even the same 8GB of storage meeting all the standards of Microsoft’s strict regimen for a Windows Phone 7 handset.

That strict regimen also follows through to the software interface, and HTC has been reigned in from their usual customisation efforts on other platforms. This means no HTC Sense UI and if you’re planning on moving over from Android you’ll either like the sound of that or be bitterly disappointed.

But HTC couldn’t leave the phone completely untouched and like Samsung has bent the rules enough to create its own variation of Sense UI via a selection of Apps that live in what HTC calls the HTC Hub. Press on the tile and you’re presented with something you are more familiar with if you’ve come from another HTC device. Yes it has the weather, yes it has other apps like Stocks, Photo Enhancer and more. You’re actually left to install what you want out of those available, all are free, and once installed they sit in your applications page rather than you having to access the HTC Hub every time. The apps are fairly simple, and give you a little bit extra above and beyond what Microsoft packages as standard.

We especially like the Attentive Phone app that does a number of nifty things like turn the volume of the ringer down when you pick it up, and automatically activates the speaker mid call if you place the phone face down on a table.

But it’s not just HTC getting in on the free apps, the HTC 7 Mozart comes pre-installed with the Orange Wednesday app, Your Orange, Orange Daily, Orange Maps (marked as coming soon). The three apps give you access to the same offerings available on other platforms from Orange and lets you take control of your account and advantage of your Orange benefits like two for one cinema tickets.

One of the standout features above the other HTC handsets on Windows Phone 7 is that 8-megapixel camera. The camera offers a number of settings to help you make the most of the image quality (which is very good) and that includes the ability to change the scene mode to take advantage of presets, adding effects like black and white or Solarize (very spooky), as well as changing the resolution, and metering mode (centre, average, and spot). The flash is sometimes a little over zealous bleaching out the subject especially if they are too close. 

In a series of test shots in a variety of different environments we were impressed with the performance of the camera. The pictures, providing you have a steady arm and a steady subject, are good with plenty of detail and little bleeding of colour. Colours too are vibrant, although the lack of tap to focus is frustrating compared with other handsets. There is a slight delay in taking a shot, which can lead to you missing the action especially when taking pictures or moving objects, but as long as they are still and you are still you will be fine. The camera has masses of potential; you just have to refine how you use it. 

When it comes to the video recording functionality of the HTC 7 Mozart we aren’t too impressed. While there are still plenty of settings to tinker with; once you hit that record button you can’t access any of them and that includes zoom. Likewise we found that while we were able to set the camera to record 720p, every time we came out of the camera app it reverted back to 640 x 480 (VGA) if you don’t remember to change this is very annoying.

As for the quality of the video it’s touch and go depending on a number of factors, but mainly light. The camera works hard to adjust the lighting in the shot and focus subjects as they come in and out of frame, and large areas of the same colour are easily washed out. 

On the music front, provided you have a set of headphones to plug in you get an FM radio. It’s a simple element to the phone and one that works well provided that you are in a good FM coverage. We had mixed results, but we could pick up a signal, certainly of the local stations and BBC’s national offering. 

When it comes to battery life don't expect the HTC 7 Mozart to be any different from all the other large screen power hungry smartphones out there. Treat it like a laptop and it will last like one. On moderate use we got a full day out of a single charge, but we wouldn’t have liked to have gone through the night without plugging it in if we were expecting to use it again in the morning.

Start tapping in numbers on the dial pad and you’ll think you’ve time travelled back to the 1980s. The HTC 7 Mozart doesn’t support Orange’s HD Voice functionality (the Samsung Omnia 7 does) and that’s a big shame. Still voice quality is good with the only negative being that we sounded a bit tinny when we used the speaker phone. 

As for the Windows Phone 7 interface, we aren’t going to cover that here. If you want to know more about the ins and outs of Windows Phone 7 we would recommend you read our dedicated Windows Phone 7 review on the mobile operating system.

Verdict

The HTC 7 Mozart is a very well built phone that has plenty to offer. It doesn’t have the screen capabilities of the Samsung Omnia 7 (no AMOLED here), but that doesn’t stop it from being one we would recommend.

There are some really nice features that we love here. The Attentive Phone app, the camera's capabilities and of course Windows Phone 7 are all on our "yes please" list. That’s not to say the phone is perfect, the video recording isn’t as good as we would like it to be and some will find the screen a little on the small side. It might be bigger than your current phone is right now, but Windows Phone 7 really does benefit from a big display.

If you are looking for a Windows Phone 7 device, and happy to go Orange, then this is definitely one to consider.