HTC announced three Windows Phone 7 devices for Australia during Microsoft's launch of its new mobile operating system last month. Of the three, only the HTC 7 Mozart sports a unibody aluminium chassis similar to what's found on the HTC Legend and the latest Desire HD smartphones. It is also the only model among all the launch devices from HTC, LG and Samsung to come with an 8-megapixel camera and Xenon flash (which did not perform to our higher expectations).
With a 3.7-inch WVGA screen, aluminium chassis and curved edges, the Mozart looks a lot like the HTC Desire from the front. Those who love metallic materials will be pleased to see that the aluminium extends all around the back, save for two plastic portions on the top and bottom. We feel the non-symmetrical ridges and cut-outs of the unibody design are quite cool-looking, but admit that not everyone will take a liking to it.
Unlike the Desire, the Mozart has touch-sensitive buttons on the front. These are the Back, Start and Search keys as required by Microsoft. While they work well, and we like the haptic feedback we get when we used them, we would have preferred physical shortcut keys as found on the Desire. This would reduce the occurrence of accidental presses when playing games holding the phone in landscape orientation — when we were playing Rocket Riot, the Search key was unintentionally activated, kicking us out of the game. Since Xbox Live is a big part of what makes WP7 attractive, we feel physical keys will reduce the chance of such occurrences.
The Mozart does have some physical buttons around the edges. These include the power toggle on the top, camera shutter on the bottom right edge, and volume controls on the left.
(Credit: CNET Asia)
The 800x480-pixel LCD display was bright and showed text and images well. We had no issues with it whether indoors or out in bright daylight.
Like the HTC Legend, the plastic cut-out on the base has to be removed to access the removable battery. The Mozart doesn't come with a memory expansion slot, but you do get 8GB of built-in storage.
Connectivity-wise, you get the usual crop of options available to a high-end smartphone. These include HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and A-GPS for satellite navigation.
At the software end of things, we know Microsoft has dictated how the interface should look, so there's no chance of HTC adding its Sense UI to the Mozart. To differentiate itself from other vendors, the Taiwan manufacturer has included a few proprietary apps.
The starting point of getting a unique HTC experience on the Mozart is through the HTC Hub program. The first thing you'll see upon firing it up is the time and weather — this looks just like the most prominent widget found in every HTC Android phone with Sense. Apart from that, it gives thumbnails of other exclusive HTC apps, which will take you to the Windows Marketplace to download.
Of the available apps, the one we found most useful is called Attentive Phone. This gives the handset extra features for handling phone calls. For example, the "quiet ring on pick-up" option detects when you pick up the Mozart from a table when it's ringing and lowers the ringing volume. The other options include "flip for speaker", which activates the speakerphone during active calls when you turn the phone over; "flip to mute ringer"; and "pocket mode", which detects when your device is in a pocket or bag and increases the ring volume accordingly. These features have all been implemented in the Android-based HTC Sense and we are glad to see them in HTC's Windows Phone handsets.
Other apps include Photo Enhancer for adding effects to images, Sound Enhancer for an audio equaliser, Stocks for checking your quotes, and other extras like a unit converter, notepad and to-do list program. There is also a Flashlight app, but take note that this won't work with the Mozart's Xenon flash as it cannot be turned on persistently like LED lights.
With an 8-megapixel sensor and Xenon flash, the Mozart's camera has the best specifications of all the WP7 launch models. The camera app is pretty responsive and focuses quickly. It also gives options such as portraits, sports and candlelight for different shooting scenarios. Fun filter effects including sepia and negative can also be added.
Taking a photo in auto mode was a bit of a challenge. The Mozart tended to lower shutter speed to compensate for dim lighting. This gave properly exposed shots but also increased the incidences of blurred photos. Typically, it's hard to hold a lightweight camera phone very still, especially when you have to apply pressure to press the shutter button, adding to the difficulty of getting a sharp image without hand-shake blur. We would have preferred it if the camera allowed for a slightly underexposed shot as a compromise for dim lighting.
Of course, using the Xenon flash does go some way to alleviating hand-shake problems. One issue in its implementation is that the shutter sound goes off before the shot is actually taken. A user may instinctively move his hand down before the image is captured, resulting in a missed or blurred shot.
When you do get your shot, images looked decent with accurate colours. Using the sports mode helps to solve the slow shutter speed without flash issue, but image noise becomes more apparent. The HTC 7 Mozart can take 720p HD-quality videos. Click here to see some images and clip.
Overall, we were not impressed with the indoor performance of the Mozart's 8-megapixel shooter. It seems some of these issues could be solved by a software update and we hope HTC releases one soon. It would be good, too, if HTC could add a sweep panorama mode for taking landscape shots, like on the LG Optimus 7.
With one Live and two Gmail email accounts set to sync every half hour, the occasional phone calls and text messages and social networking, the Mozart battery life lasted slightly over a day of use on a full charge. This is comparable to other smartphones, but given the fact that you can't sync social-networking apps automatically on the Mozart, we expected it to perform a little better.
Call quality was good and we didn't experience any dropped calls during our period of testing. The speakerphone on this handset was good, loud and sufficiently clear. Audio for videos was also decent, though we would suggest using headphones instead of firing up the speakers when in public — it's more civic-minded to do so.
However, on a few occasions, we were not able to connect to the cellular data network in spite of good reception at the location. We tested the network using the same data plan on an iPhone 4 and it worked fine.
Speed-wise, the Mozart performed fine with its 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 576MB RAM. Transitions were smooth and all common tasks such as test messaging and bringing up the address book were done snappily. Loading times were a little long for Xbox Live games, but that slowness has been felt on all the WP7 devices we tried so far.
As mentioned in our Optimus 7 review, the LG has the best set of proprietary apps so far. This opinion has not changed after our evaluation of the Mozart. With better camera specs, this HTC should have rightly aced the imaging aspect but didn't because of some usage abnormalities.