Preivew: WP7 HTC Mozart 7 on the Telstra network

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Note: I have been given a HTC Mozart with Windows 7 Phone by Telstra free of charge to review. The comments expressed by me reflect my own user experience and personal opinion and are not made on behalf of Telstra.

Now, If you’ve been checking out #TelstraWP7 on Twitter, you’ve seen a lot of comments from each of the 25 Social Media Reviewers (and others – thanks, all!); some good, mostly bad. I expected that…it’s a new OS (to most of us), and I know I was hampered by some initial teething problems setting up the device. My biggest problem so far? Not HTC’s, Microsoft’s, nor Telstra’s…but my own. I stacked it RIGHT outside the Telstra building (luckily no one was watching, it felt like a spectacular fall) and ended up making a HUGE scratch alongside the left-side of the phone. The screen’s fine, and a case will cover up my blunder…but still, I am a moron.

My setup

Let’s first summarise what I bring to a smartphone:

  • My primary Windows Live ID is ‘Stevivor’ – a USA-based ID, initially setup in 1999 (or so) for MSN Messenger, but now used primarily for Xbox Live. This ID has an AMEX attached to it.
  • I use an IMAP mail account for Stevivor.com.
  • Because my workplace only allows emails through provided BlackBerry handsets, I synchronise my calendar and contacts between Outlook and Gmail/Google Calendar.
  • I have a second Windows Live ID (‘Stevivor360’) to make credit card purchases via an Australian VISA card, and also just to have an AUS account.
  • I have a Facebook account under ‘Stevivor’ and two Twitter accounts – ‘Stevivor’ for most tweets, and ‘StevivorGaming’ for gaming news.
  • I have a 60GB music collection and subscribe to about 10 different podcasts; I enjoy synchronising that content to my phone for use on public transport and at the gym.

With that in mind, let’s move on to what worked with my setup, and what didn’t.

What worked

Xbox Live. Seriously, you knew it was going to be the first thing I talked about! It lived up to all of my expectations and then some; hearing the familiar achievement noise in-game excited me more that I thought possible. I’m in love. So much so, I’ll be preparing a separate post for Live functionality, games, and general awesomeness. Stay tuned, and pick up Flowerz (for free!), The Oregon Trail, and Uno to tide you over until then.

Xbox Live The 'People' hub

I can easily see why the ‘People’ hub inside WP7 is so loved…when I eventually got my Outlook contacts synched to Google, and therefore the HTC Mozart. And plugged in my Facebook details. After about two hours.

That aside, once setup, most contacts in Google linked to their Facebook counterparts straight away. It’s a real treat to see their contact info alongside recent status updates and the like. Once you understand how it works, you find yourself avoiding the Facebook app and instead using the ‘What’s New’ inside ‘People’, or going one step further, pinning favourite friends to your Start screen for quick access.

One of my biggest fears when switching from my iPhone was that I wouldn’t have access to apps I depended on. I was mostly wrong. My favourite find so far is the CBC Hockey Night in Canada app which gives me all my NHL scores, effectively replacing NHL GameCentre (for now). While I don’t accept “it’s a new OS; give it time and more will happen” for some flaws in WP7, I do understand that the Marketplace app library is constantly growing and I’m sure I’ll see more iPhone favourites on this platform.

I started using Zune on my PC about a week ago and fell in love with the interface, and I found myself doing the same thing with its counterpart in WP7. Basically, that whole Zune UI structure (called ‘Metro’) is what makes WP7 what it is, and it’s a visual smorgasbord. This phone is PRETTY, and using it makes you feel pretty.

As for the phone itself, HTC has made a gorgeous handset; I’ve an extreme appreciation for the one-piece metallic body of the Mozart after my fall (I really, REALLY did hit the ground hard). I’ve found the touchscreen to be responsive and easily viewable in some fairly intensive direct sunlight too. The placement of the three Windows buttons (Back, Start, and Search) and volume control is ideal.

What didn’t work

While I feel that my gripes are continually being addressed and my experience is getting better, it’s hard to ignore the fact that I had a very hard time setting this phone up. Microsoft needs to be aware that we all don’t have their ideal setup when using email. Microsoft also needs to consider that I don’t WANT to synchronise all of my primary Windows Live ID content – email, calendar, contacts, and photos – onto the phone without question.

My Live ID was started when I was 19 — a time where I was literally just coming out of the closet and was discovering the wonders of the internet. Let’s just say that until I logged into MSN Messenger and deleted every contact therein, my ‘People’ Hub was basically screenshot after screenshot of bare male torsos, making my phone look VERY professional and making me feel VERY sleazy. I haven’t used Windows Live Spaces to manage my contacts or my calendar for about 12 years, and I don’t have the desire to start now. Nor do I want to post a status update to Windows Live Spaces; Facebook and Twitter will do, thanks.

My workplace doesn’t let me use ActiveSync and instead would prefer it if I used a work-supplied BlackBerry. They’re gross, so instead I’ve been using a USB cable with my iPhone to sync calendar and contact details with my work PC. Windows Phone 7 doesn’t allow this functionality, preferring OTA solutions that I am not able to access. While I have managed to find programs that will sync my Outlook calendar and contacts with Gmail and Google Calendar, and therefore the Google Sync on WP7, I have a workaround…but it’s not very convenient.

The bottom line? I don’t appreciate Microsoft telling me how I SHOULD be operating rather than allowing multiple, customisable avenues for the handset and OS to gather my vital data.

Setting up accounts...the MS way. No sharing on Twitter. Yet?

Moreover, I’m aware that WP7 is a new operating system, and in time will continue to grow and evolve into something better…but REALLY. Copy-and-paste functionality is a must-have. Integration with Facebook and not Twitter? Short-sightedness. The pictures you see in this post were taken using my iPhone as there isn’t screenshot functionality within the OS yet; ironic, don’t you think?

What I’m trying to say is that Microsoft is aware they’re falling FAR behind in the phone market when compared to Apple, and they really needed to get this OS right straight off the line. They were close, but failed. At times the OS feels like form over function, and while I do love how it looks, I’d rather more time was spent getting the phone to make me more productive instead of looking good while suffering along.

The battery issue is also I needing to be addressed; I was literally getting 4 hours of battery life out of the unit in my first few days. I’ve implemented the workaround of going into Settings > Mobile Network > Edit APN and adding the APN of telstra.iph, and this has worked exceptionally well. As I’m aware that Telstra is taking steps to officially improve battery life, I think that’s all I really need to say here.

I’ve been kind to app support, but I do want to say that I want apps straight away to access Amazon Kindle, LogMeIn, Citrix, NHL GameCentre, NAB and Dropbox, as well as WP7 equivalents to AirVideo (a media streaming app), Quota (a data usage tracker for banks, ISPs, public transport, etc) and QRANK (the best darn quiz game ever).

The summary so far

To be honest, I’m not quite sure where I sit with this phone yet. After struggling to get Mozart working how I wanted to — and for the record, I’m still not 100% there — I’m finding I am starting to like WP7 more with each passing minute. As for whether or not the Mozart will replace my iPhone, only time will tell – if what doesn’t work for me now gets fixed soon, I’d be inclined to say yes.

The question I might have to start asking myself is if I can be patient enough to wait for those changes; it’ll be hard with the temptation of my iPhone and what I know works now constantly lurking.