Christmas day this year brought an extra present for me, I was due a free upgrade on my phone from my mobile carrier. I'd spent a long time before weighing up the pros and cons of the various mobile operating systems and handsets but eventually needed to make a choice. That choice, as you can assume from the title of this article, is the HTC Mozart Windows Phone. I thought I'd talk you through why I made this choice though as there's a lot gone into it.
The best way to start is to discuss why I went with Windows Phone 7. I want to be frank here, I both love and hate smartphones with equal measure. I like being able to do a little light web browsing and check and update Facebook and Twitter, but primarily I want a phone to be a phone. This is the overriding concern I have about modern smartphones, they're simply not phones first!
So what do I mean by this. Well I discounted both iOS and Android because the former monopolises your main screen with icons for maps, games, utilities and more while relegating the actual phone features to a couple of small icons on the screen. The latter is even worse, treating your phone's screen like a desktop with a mouse cursor and widgets. I have enough trouble sometimes with my desktop on my PC at home. The last thing I wanted to do was translate those problems onto a tiny 4 inch screen and exacerbate them further.
Windows Phone on the other hand does things differently. You don't, for example, ever have to go into a Facebook app if you don't want to. All the information you need about your friends is right there in your contacts lists (we can also look forward to twitter and other services being integrated here in the future). The OS also prioritises the phone functions of the device. While any smartphone OS will live or die on the quality and quantity of the apps available for it, Windows Phone shunts these off, by default, to a second screen. This is where I want them to be.
The other reason for wanting a phone that works in this way is that I use my mobile phone mostly as a clock and calendar. For the last couple of years I've been struggling along with an HTC Touch HD Windows Mobile handset. I've upgraded the firmware many times to try and make the thing more usable and some firmware implementations have almost worked in that regard. The thing I've always liked the most about it though is simply being able to switch it on and see at a glance the time and any forthcoming appointments. Android can do this, but with widgets, the iPhone won't do this at all, and I believe Windows Phone does this best of all.
Then there were the Symbian handsets from Nokia and Sony Ericsson. These were all discounted early on because the OS is simply not up to the polish that iOS, Android and Windows Phone have. Palm's WebOS was also discounted because the OS is in such a dubious place right now that future updates and support are uncertain.
So what about the handsets? Here is where I faced a real problem because without a shadow of a doubt, the iPhone and many of the current Android handsets are much better than the first batch of Windows Phones. Phones such as the HTC Desire have been picked up by many of my friends because they're just so good. Indeed I've been very impressed by the build quality of HTC handsets in general. The iPhone 4 though is also a fantastic piece of design and a wonderful handset I'd be delighted to have in my pocket. It had to be a Windows Phone though so I had to make a choice.
My own carrier in the UK is Orange which gave me a choice of three. The HTC Mozart, the Samsung Omnia 7 and the LG Optimus 7. The LG was out straight away as I feel the plasticky buttons along the bottom of the screen are both cheap (in look and feel) and will eventually break. Both the Mozart and the Omnia are excellent handsets but I wasn't strictly tied to Orange so I had a look at the other carriers.
The HD 7 I felt had a very poor screen, it felt pale and washed out, so this was discounted early on. The only other handset available was the HTC Trophy on Vodafone that feels like the poor cousin of the Mozart. So sticking with Orange it was.
This is where the choice became very difficult and let me tell you why. I had a Mozart for 10 days a couple of months ago when Microsoft sent me a review unit. It's a lovely phone, the gorgeous metal case and its smallish size make it an absolute pleasure to pick up and hold. Because it's not too big, with a 3.7 inch screen, it feels like a phone and not a computer too.
There is one major flaw with the Mozart though and it almost became a deal-breaker for me. Because Windows Phone will let your switch off the phone simply by pressing and holding the power button, with no on-screen prompt to turn it off as well, this is exactly what happened every time I sat down to put my shoes on (I keep my phone in my front trouser pocket). It is hugely irritating finding out your phone has switched off AGAIN just because you've sat down and leant forward!
This made me seriously consider the Omnia 7, one of only two Windows Phone handsets (and the only one in the UK) to come with an AMOLED screen.
This screen is an absolute joy. It's incredibly bright and the contrast is clear between blacks and whites. But even this fantastic AMOLED screen isn't without its problems. At 4 inches it's a little large for its resolution and a sort of fuzzy pixellation can occur around the edges of icons and the Windows Phone live tiles on the front screen.
It's not noticable at a distance but for close work, which is what you do with a mobile phone most of the time, I knew that looking at these fuzzy edges and knowing that the operating system is really drawing a straight line, would annoy me.
There was also the build quality of the phone. It's made from solid-feeling metal but has a cheapness to the edging and the back that just could have been done better. It's just not up to HTC's high standards and the large Samsung logo plastered across the front is too large to have to look at every day for the next couple of years.
Even so it was a close run thing. The Mozart's power button issue meant I had to consider the Omnia very seriously indeed (the Omnia's power button is on the side), taking friends to my local Orange store to see it for themselves and reading review after review of it online (I'd already had a Mozart so knew what to expect with that handset).
In the end the HTC Mozart simply came out with more pros than the Samsung. The only other choice was to wait and see what additional handsets came down the line in the next few months. It was at this point though that I looked back at Windows Mobile 6.5 on my HTC Touch HD and knew I had to run away screaming and embrace a new handset whatever it's foibles.
There can be no doubt that the second generation of Windows Phone handsets will improve on and fix these problems and be far better. They will probably challenge the current crop of Android handsets, though whether anything will be a serious challenger to the hardware of the iPhone in the next few years is debatable at this point.
So there it is, laid out in bare metal for you why I chose my Mozart. It can be such a difficult decision these days choosing a handset and the reason I wanted to write this up as an article is two-fold. Firstly there may be some of you out there about to go through the same agony, but also because it's just supposed to be a phone... Why should this be a difficult choice?
There is no doubt that smartphones have made choosing handsets increasingly difficult, but I'm happy with mine now and it should be delivered tomorrow :) You can read my full in-depth review of the HTC Mozart and the Windows Phone 7 operating system at our sister site Windows7News.