I've spent the day with the HTC Surround, one of the Windows Phone 7 devices announced in New York City a few weeks ago. It's coming to AT&T on November 8th, and based on my first impressions with the HTC Surround unboxing, I think it will sell quite well. Unlike other operating systems, this is a genuine first impressions for me - outside of the brief hands-on demos at various trade shows, this is my first time using a Windows Phone 7 device.
Here are my thoughts of the HTC Surround, and Windows Phone 7, thus far:
- The hardware is fantastic, with metal accents around the screen and a nice battery door. The Surround looks and feels very solid, and its premium materials exude a high class feel. Hardware alone, this is something that could go neck and neck with the iPhone. It's very professional looking, so I see it appealing to several demographics.
- It's still too early to tell, but I'm really liking Windows Phone 7 thus far. I'm not sure how much of that is me excited about WP7 versus being excited about reviewing something that's not Android (because you have to admit, there have been quite a few Android launches this year). That said, it truly is a ground-up revision of the Windows Mobile platform (so "ground-up" that they're not calling it Windows Mobile anymore). It's lacking some important things like copy and paste and a microSD card slot, but all day, I've been asking myself "is this really a Microsoft product?"
- The user interface is incredibly fluid. I'm surprised at how quickly everything loads. Microsoft put a lot of effort into the transition effects, and it really shows. When I first saw "Metro UI," which is the overall design scheme behind Windows Phone 7, I didn't think I would like it. I thought it was blocky and felt as if the large fonts would annoy consumers over time, but it's surprisingly functional.
- The on-screen keyboard is very good. It falls just slightly behind the stock iOS and Android keyboards, but after a few minutes of use, I was typing with reasonable accuracy. I'm still trying to figure out the keyboard's erratic behavior, such as autocorrecting "Im" to "I'm" but not correcting "nees" to "news."
- I have taken a grand total of three pictures with the 5.0-megapixel camera, and have been very pleased so far. Colors seem rich, and the autofocus helps to obtain a great picture. The real test will be pictures in low-lit areas, which I haven't been able to obtain just yet.
- So far, reception and call quality have been very good. The earpiece is very loud, and my callers have said that they could hear me well. The speakerphone is impressive, mostly because the phone has a giant speaker on it.