Even in the face of the Android onslaught, Windows Phone 7 devices are making strides. The new $199 HTC Arrive for Sprint is an excellent case in point. This device features a large sliding QWERTY keyboard and a tilt-up display that makes it easy to view content. This is also the first Windows Phone 7 handset to support copy and paste. When you add Microsoft's time-saving Live Tile interface to HTC's solid hardware you have a compelling combination. How compelling? Read on.
When you pick up the HTC Arrive, the first thing that strikes you is its heft. At 6.5 ounces, it's heavier than the HTC Evo 4G (6 ounces), the HTC Evo Shift 4G (5.8 ounces), and the HTC Thunderbolt (6.2 ounces). However, the Arrive definitely feels high-end; it's clad in a sophisticated palette of graphite gray, silver, and black. Measuring 4.6 x 2.3 x 0.6 inches, the Arrive is about as thick as the HTC Surround (0.5 inches) and the Shift 4G (0.6 inches), but its rounded edges help disguise its bulk.
The 3.6-inch screen on the Arrive is framed by slick-looking metallic grilles on the top and bottom, with a notification light peeking through on the top left. Below the display are backlit feather-touch buttons for Back, Search, and Start. There's no front-facing camera, though. The grille-like border surrounding the keyboard has larger openings, which provides a nice contrast to the display.
A 3.5mm headphone jack and power button are located on the top edge of the Arrive. The back of the phone houses the 5-megapixel camera and flash. A gray metal battery cover hides the phone's power cell. The left side has a volume rocker and microUSB port, while a dedicated camera button sits on the right.
The HTC Arrive's 3.6-inch WVGA (800 x 480) touchscreen display is nearly identical to its Android cousin, the HTC Evo Shift 4G. However, this screen tilts upward about 45 degrees when you slide out the keyboard, making it more laptop-like. In other words, you don't need a kickstand to view content on a desk or table. The panel is not as big or as gorgeous as the 4-inch Super AMOLED display (800 x 480) on the Samsung Focus, but images looked vibrant and text in Office looked crisp.
With a push, the HTC Arrive's spring-loaded keyboard slides open, snapping into position with authority. This phone's backlit five-row QWERTY layout is fairly well designed--with a couple of exceptions. The dedicated number row is certainly welcome, and the flat rectangular keys have a good amount of spacing and provide a small click when pressed. Still, the key travel could have been a little deeper. By comparison, the Evo Shift 4G's keyboard lacks a number row but feels slightly more sturdy.
Just like on the Evo Shift 4G, HTC thoughtfully provides a Shift and an Fn key that light up when pressed. We question, however, the need for a special button to pull up an extensive list of emoticons. A dedicated @ or .com key would be much more useful.
As a Windows Phone 7 device, the HTC Arrive has the familiar Live Tile interface that occupies the phone's home screen. These large tiles sport clean, streamlined icons for launching applications and in some cases have slick animations. They definitely make the phone feel lively, fresh, and keyed in to your personality.
For example, the People tile syncs in real time with your Facebook account, and shows images in its background. Default tiles include Internet Explorer, Mail, Messaging, and People, along with a TeleNav GPS app for driving directions.
A separate HTC Hub features a weather/clock plus some suggested apps for download. If the stock selection isn't for you, tiles can be pinned or removed from the home screen at will, adding to the level of personalization. Also nice is the lock screen, which displays agenda items and the number of new messages received.
Despite its attractive interface, Windows Phone 7 has been criticized for lacking features its competitors (Android and iOS) have. These include multitasking, full Twitter integration, and cut and paste. The first two aren't coming until later, but thankfully a recent update has added cut and paste.
We were able to highlight words in e-mail just by touching the screen and then sliding the little markers. We then simply copied and pasted the info into a calendar entry. This feature doesn't seem to work across all programs, though. For instance, while we could paste text from an SMS into an e-mail, we couldn't paste it into a Facebook message.
Windows Phone 7 also isn't optimized for landscape-oriented phones like this one. The home screen, main menu, and apps such as Facebook and Slacker only displayed in portrait mode.
The Windows Marketplace now offers more than 10,000 apps. Of course, the Apple App store has more than 300,000 and Android boasts more than 200,000. Still, the selection is getting better all the time. While we could find Facebook and Slacker, Tweetdeck wasn't available, nor was Angry Birds. We also had trouble with Foursquare: Upon launch, the app couldn't sign us in. However, we were able to stream movies using the Netflix app, something we can't do (yet) on Android.
E-mail and Messaging
As with other Windows Phone 7 handsets, e-mail on the HTC Arrive is made easy by a clean and thoughtful interface. The phone supports Google, Outlook, and standard POP and IMAP accounts, and you can swipe through e-mail categories such as flagged, unread, and urgent. Selecting multiple messages at once is done by handily clicking on the left side of the screen. Accounts can't be unified, though.
Text messages are displayed with cute conversation bubbles, and a thoughtful icon lets users quickly attach photos. Photos can only be sent via SMS, and Windows Phone 7 still lacks a separate and powerful instant messaging app such as Google Talk for Android.
Using its 3G connection, the HTC Arrive loaded full desktop web pages pretty quickly. The handset opened the New York Times homepage in 13 seconds; it took the phone a faster 9 seconds to render Yahoo.com, and 12 seconds to load ESPN. Mobile versions were a little faster, with ESPN, the New York Times, and Yahoo loading in an average of 8.6, 10.3, and 9.5 seconds, respectively. Pinch and zoom gestures were also very smooth and let us manipulate pages with no noticeable delay.
Using the BandWidth app in the Marketplace, we measured an average download speed of 1.5 Mbps and 500 Kbps for uploads. That's pretty good, but 4G phones like the HTC Evo Shift 4G delivered download speeds between 6.7 and 9.4 Mbps. Upload performance for the 4G handset were twice as fast, at about 1 Mbps. You can't use the Arrive as a hotspot, as you can with Android phones.
Running a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and outfitted with 576MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM, the HTC Arrive felt very quick. Graphical elements spun with speed, and we flipped through menus without seeing any lag. Data-intensive apps such as the Marketplace took about 4 seconds to load, which is not bad at all.
The Arrive comes with a whopping 16GB of internal memory, which should supply plenty of storage for music, photos, and apps. Just keep in mind that you don't get a memory card slot.
A major selling point of Windows Phone 7 is access to Xbox Live games. While the selection isn't as vast as Apple's, you can definitely have some fun on the Arrive between meetings. We were quickly destroying bad guys when playing The Harvest. Blasting Storm Troopers was also fun in Star Wars: Battle For Hoth. Even better: We had the option of trying these games before actually spending money.
Music and Video
Make no bones about it: The HTC Arrive has killer audio, at least for a phone. Located on the left side of the keyboard, the speaker pumps out audio that's loud and clear; at max volume, Deluka's "Cascade" really rocked, filling a small room. SRS Enhancement, which we downloaded from the HTC Hub, added more depth to tunes, too. More bass would be great, but you'll be hard-pressed to find better audio on a phone, save the HTC Surround.
The HTC Arrive's powerful audio pairs well with the included Zune music service, another of WP7's entertainment strengths. Songs can be downloaded directly to the phone via the Zune marketplace, with tracks costing $1.29 and albums going for $9.99. A Zune Pass subscription includes all-you-can-eat downloads for $14.99 a month, three months for $44.97, and a year for $149.90.
Zune video downloads are much more complicated. Users must first download a movie using the Zune desktop app and then sync it with the phone. Also, users must put up with Microsoft's confusing point system for purchases.
Camera and Camcorder
The HTC Arrive comes with a 5-MP camera with flash, which shot average photos. Colors in daytime shots of a park showed pleasingly green grass, blue sky, and bright flowers, but details weren't very sharp. The camera's autofocus was also a little slow, taking about a second to lock on. Still, it's nice to have a dedicated shutter button that fires up the camera even when the phone is locked.
The Arrive can also 720p video. The footage we took looked a little blocky, an effect that worsened as we panned around. As with all Windows Phone 7 devices, the Arrive doesn't let you simply drag and drop files onto your desktop via USB. You must use the Zune software, which is annoying.
Call Quality and Battery Life
On our test calls using the HTC Arrive, callers said we sounded loud and clear--even in a crowded Manhattan park filled with Saint Patrick's Day revelers. Callers' voices were pleasing to our ears, with no distortion.
With a 1,500 mAh Lithium-ion battery, the Arrive is rated to provide up to 6 hours of talk time. During periodic usage, which included web surfing, playing music, and reading e-mail, we observed a good 9 hours of runtime. So you should be able to make it through most or all of a workday with this phone.
The HTC Arrive is definitely one of the best Windows Phone 7 devices yet. While the $199 price is a little steep, this phone stacks up well against the Samsung Focus for AT&T. The Focus has a better AMOLED display and a lighter design, but the Arrive has an excellent physical keyboard and very good audio. For $50 less, the HTC Evo Shift 4G on Sprint offers much faster 4G connectivity and access to a lot more apps. But if you like the idea of owning a Windows Phone 7 handset, the Arrive is a solid choice for work and play.