HTC’s Radar brings us our first taste of Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango. Although it has made its debut just a little while after Samsung’s Omnia W, claiming second place in the WP7 Mango handset category in India, it does seem to have what it takes to make it. Here’s a closer look at the handset and all that WP7 Mango brings to the party.
While the software is of course its defining feature and will get most of our attention, HTC has done an admirable job of crafting the phone itself. Its solid aluminum body feels reassuringly hefty, and its curves are perfectly defined to fit in the hand. Our silver-and-white review model looked clean and modern, though its minimalistic lines were a bit broken by the black sensor and camera (VGA resolution) patches.
Totally encased battery
The Radar has three standard touch-sensitive controls on the front, and extremely slim buttons along the top and right edges for sleep, volume control and camera shutter release. A 3.5mm headset socket is on top, a micro USB charging port on the left, and the rather large camera lens (5MP) and LED flash are at the rear. The battery is built in, the SIM card slips underneath a removable plastic chin, and there’s no microSD or other expansion slot, no different from any other WP7 handset.
Not the slimmest in the lot but quite well built
Front and center, the 3.8-inch-tall 800 x 480-pixel touchscreen is crisp and vibrant, with the OS’s stark neon icons standing out against their black background. The Radar comes with a matching white USB cord and headset, but strangely, a black charger.
The internals of the Radar consist of a 1 GHz Qualcomm CPU, 512 MB of RAM and 8 GB of storage space, which are decidedly mid-range for a smartphone today. Windows Phone 7 had only a half-hearted launch in India, which was perhaps fitting for a smartphone operating system that felt only half complete. Luckily for us, WP 7.5 “Mango” is now here in full force and it will be most peoples’ first taste of Windows Phone. Compared to the first WP7 release, Mango is an absolute pleasure to use, and it’s much more likely that new users will spend time getting to know the quirky OS without being put off by the fairly major omissions of the first generation.
Finally an option to multitask
WP’s iconic “Metro” visual style is a far cry from the grids, icons and lists we’re used to, making even iOS and Android feel rather dated. Still, it’s not for everyone—the look is stark and modern, text titles are stylistically blown up so that they fall off the screen’s edges, and it’ll take a while to get used to the way things are organized and laid out. Most notably, the traditional phone book has been transformed into a “People Hub”, with live updates from Facebook, Windows Live, and even Twitter. This lets you to focus on people, rather than the individual apps required for each kind of interaction. The downside is that things can quickly get cluttered, especially since Windows Phone combines the contact lists from all your email accounts, which tend to automatically add contacts you don’t really need to have saved. Luckily, you can filter out individual sources and link contacts across them. You can of course choose not to tie the phone into your various other accounts, but then you’d be losing out on its most unique and valuable capabilities.
The Messaging app lets you pick up a conversation via SMS, Facebook chat or Windows Live Messenger. The built-in Bing search can recognize voice commands and music lyrics, and you can even hold up the camera to a QR code or scan text for instant (though only semi accurate) language translation. “Attentive” features let you flip the phone to mute an alert or automatically switch to speakerphone, and you can make it ring louder when it detects that it’s in a pocket or bag. Even the soft keyboard is superbly designed, using the screen’s extra vertical real estate to space things out. A smart autocorrect system replaces obvious mistakes and also subtly suggests replacements when it isn’t sure.