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Review: HTC HD7

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We've already covered the Windows Phone 7 interface design extensively in our reviews of the Samsung Focus and the HTC Surround, so I won't rehash everything here. Instead I'll focus on how the large screen and unique HTC features on the HTC HD7 affect Microsoft's new OS.

Windows Phone 7 leaves a lot of empty space on the screen. Unlike other smartphone systems like Apple's iOS or Google's Android, which allow you to fill your screen from edge to edge with app icons, shortcuts and the like, Windows Phone 7 uses empty space to help focus the user on a few key details. I think it works nicely. There is a feeling of breezy simplicity to the Windows Phone 7 interface, and the large empty spaces, combined with the big tiles that are fields of solid color with a monochrome icon and text stamped on them, make the interface seem simple and approachable, while the multiple layers of animation tell you that it's modern and powerful. If this design works on any phone, it works on the HD7.

Another benefit of the larger screen size is the larger button size in the interface. Windows Phone 7 unfortunately relies on many tiny, circular buttons that pop up at the bottom of the screen in almost every app. Even on a phone like the Samsung Focus, which uses a 4-inch display, these buttons can be difficult to decipher because they are so small. I still wish they were bigger, but the HTC HD7 gives you the best shot at distinguishing them.

Obviously the HD7's size also increases the size of the onscreen keyboard, which does make typing a little easier. Still, this makes the landscape keyboard, which does not stretch from end to end on the screen, seem even more stingy.

One flaw in Windows Phone 7 is its lack of shortcuts. Like with Apple's iPhone, changing basic settings on Windows Phone 7 requires multiple taps and swipes. From the home screen, for instance, changing the brightness level on the display takes five or six taps and swipes. On an Android device, it takes one or two. Turning on Wi-Fi or changing the device theme takes a similar number of steps. While Microsoft lets you place a variety of items on the main column of tiles, these system settings, which I need to access far more often than I'll use the Microsoft Marketplace, for instance, are much less accessible. These are also the sort of actions I'll perform one-handed, and the HD7 does make one-handed use a bit more tricky.

There is one benefit of the huge screen size that I hadn't considered until recently. My 60-year-old mother, who has worn glasses for most of her life, loves the huge screen size. The size and heft of the device doesn't bother her, and the extra large screen makes it much easier to dial numbers, read text on the Internet and show off pictures of her grandchild.


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