Windows Phone 7 -- or WinPhoSev, as we're calling it, because it sounds more like a delicious Vietnamese soup -- officially launched today. It aims to take on the iPhone and Google's Android OS in the smart-phone battle cage.
We've seen plenty of Windows Phone 7 before -- here's our hands-on video review. But on 21 October, we'll finally have some actual phones in shops to take WinPhoSev for a spin. Because of Microsoft's strict rules about these phones' minimum features -- and manufacturers' love of black plastic -- most of them look almost exactly the same. There are a few treats, however, that set each handset apart from the others.
From HTC, there's the HTC 7 Mozart, the HTC 7 Trophy and the HTC HD7. All the phones have a 1GHz processor, 8GB of built-in memory, Wi-Fi and HSPA for fast downloads over 3G. The Mozart rocks it camera-style with an 8-megapixel camera -- the other HTC phones have 5 megapixels -- and a xenon flash.
The HD7 features a whopping great 4.3-inch screen, while the Trophy fits somewhere in the middle with a more pocket-friendly 3.8-incher. We expect the Trophy to be the most affordable of the HTC phones -- Vodafone says it will be selling it on a £25 per month contract with a free phone.
The Samsung Omnia 7 has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen -- the same type we adored on the Samsung Galaxy S. The LG Optimus 7 includes voice-to-text transcription and DLNA to connect the phone wirelessly to your TV and home cinema.
The Dell Venue Pro is the wild card, since it's the first Dell phone to come to the UK -- if you don't count the Dell Streak Android tablet, which could make calls too. The Venue Pro has a Qwerty keyboard that slides out from the short side of the phone, in portrait orientation. It's targeted at business users, with a suit-tastic chrome trim and hefty weight. But all the features of Windows Phone 7 are there, so you can still hit the Xbox Live gaming, for example, when you get the urge to loosen your tie.
MS trotted out National Treasure Stephen Fry at today's launch, to emphasise that Windows Phone 7 is designed to be fun to use -- and he insisted that he wasn't paid to say it, except for one free phone. He highlighted the smooth, buttery touchscreen interface of the new OS, which is light years ahead of the tiny, frustrating interface we hated on old Windows Mobile phones.
Microsoft says it's bent over backwards to make Windows Phone more user-friendly and quick, and now we've gotten our hands on some phones that are ready to hit the shelves, we agree. We actually look forward to taking these phones for a proper test, rather than the dread we felt when handling a new WinMo phone, with a couple of exceptions such as the HTC HD2.
The risk is Microsoft claims to have thought of everything -- from how you might want to filter your email, to the size of the widgets on the home screen. We think it's made several smart decisions, but if the UI doesn't suit your taste, there's not much you can do to change it.
Compare that to Android, where developers are free to create tiny, giant or just plain weird widgets for the home screen, or the iPhone, which offers absolutely zero ability to customise its home screen of rounded icons. Windows Phone 7 is somewhere in the middle.
Microsoft also announced today that EA has thrown its games into the Xbox Live mix, so you'll be able to torture your Sims on the run. Big-name apps in the App Market at launch will include Tesco and eBay.
Although there's plenty to get stuck into, there are a few handy features, such as copy and paste, still on the
way. The first update to the new OS is already planned for early 2011. Stay tuned for our full reviews of the fresh crop of Windows Phone 7 phones too. In the meantime, our mobile phone home page is a great place to start on our first hands-on previews.