This review is primarily of the HTC Trophy hardware. Check out our full review of Windows Phone 7 for our thoughts on the OS.%Gallery-106244%
- Good all-around performerExcellent build qualityWP7 OS handles the basics with style
- Average camera is poor in low lightSpeaker is easily muffledWP7 OS still immature
Up front, the Trophy is almost bereft of any notable features other than a silver ring that creates a subtle border between the front-side glass and plastic bezel that gently bleeds into the trophy's soft-touch backside. A long pointillistic earpiece is barely visible just above the glass along the upper edge. Hit the power button and the three capacitive keys for back, start, and search ignite with a pleasant pale white glow. A small notification light just to the right of the HTC logo glows amber only when charging then turns green when fully charged. Miss a call and it will flash green every 2 seconds. Sorry, no front-facing camera here.
Things get busy around back (and halfway up the sides) where HTC has applied a soft-touch finish that looks good while making the device easy to handle securely. It's here that you see the camera lens flanked by a single LED flash on the left and a reasonably powerful loudspeaker on the right. Unfortunately, the speaker is blocked, muffling the volume when placed backside down on a flat surface such as a table top -- there's simply not enough of a gap to bounce the sound back towards the listener. In other words, you'll need to flip the LCD onto the table to hear the speaker at full volume. Fortunately, HTC provides additional motivation to do exactly that with an app that automatically flips on the backside speaker during a call when it senses the screen being flipped over (more on that later). The back cover peels off with a fingernail embedded into a slot along the top edge. Doing so reveal a rather striking orange battery and matching translucent plastic shell. Removing the battery gives you access to the SIM slot. No, you can't access the fixed 8GB microSD card even if you wanted to, it's nowhere to be found. The backside also plays host to another HTC logo as well as a rather muted Windows Phone flag.
We've been impressed by the Trophy's 1300mAh battery and its ability to power the handset through the day. In general, we're making it 24-hours before reaching for the microUSB charger. That's after using a combination of WiFi and 3G data under real-world usage with our Exchange account set to push Google email, contacts, and calendar data as content items arrive and with Windows Live checking every 30 minutes. That's pretty good considering that we're also downloading and testing a variety apps, sampling games, snapping a few photos, listening to music, and viewing a few minutes of video content while obsessively checking Twitter throughout. As you'd expect, battery life drops quickly when using the camera and video recording functionality even without LED flash support. On one particularly heavy day of usage, we shot about 15 minutes of video and 30 stills forcing us back to the wall charger after about 10 hours.
Call quality is fine (it's neither the worst nor the best we've seen) on the Trophy, with or without the included earbuds, or when going commando and using the Trophy as a speakerphone.
Put it all together and you've got a handset that feels and looks really solid -- not cheap, slippery, and lightweight like the otherwise impressive Galaxy S. It doesn't look premium in that flashy iPhone 4 way but it does feel just as good in the hand as it does slipping effortlessly into the front pants pocket.
"Unique" is a bit of a misnomer here. While the Trophy ships with 10 apps that are indeed unique to HTC Windows Phone 7 devices, we've already seen them covered on the HTC Mozart, HTC HD7, and HTC Surround reviews. Without going back through them in detail, let's hit the highlights. Like all the brand-specific apps, the HTC Hub is meant to be a differentiator to help prevent Windows Phone 7 devices from becoming commodities. Unfortunately, the HTC Hub app is overwrought with animations that impede its ability to deliver content (primarily the weather) quickly. It's fun the first few times but incredibly annoying thereafter. While this behavior might be forgiven in the Sense layer that HTC slathers upon Android, it comes across as heavy handed when wrapped inside of Microsoft's delicate and meticulously crafted user experience. Sure, it'll impress your friends but it's also one of the first things you'll replace just as soon as you narrow down your weather app choices in the Windows Marketplace (both Microsoft's own Weather app and The Weather Channel app make fine free alternatives). On the other hand, the HTC Photo Enhancer app is useful, especially when enhancing (but not repairing) pics blown out by the Trophy's LED flash (more on that later).
Unfortunately, an update to the HTC Notes app left the software completely unusable on our Trophy, turning the 3.8-inch display into a static pale blue abyss when launched. Fortunately, we could back right out of the app with no damage done. An instance where we're perfectly happy for the OS to not support third-party multitasking.
Our device shipped with an orange-on-black Vodafone theme that we're quite fond of. It also came preloaded with a completely useless 360 My Web tile that acts as an HTTP link to the Vodafone My Web service. We don't use the service and we suspect most of you don't either.
Things really fall apart when the sun goes down and the lights grow dim. Under these conditions the autofocus struggles and the shutter lag becomes an issue. Photos shot in low-light resulted in a festival of grain assuming we could hold the camera still enough to summon a focused subject. If the LED fires, watch out, anything within ten feet will be completely and irreparably washed out of existence.
The Trophy touts 720p video. Great, right? Unfortunately, that's not the default resolution, presumably because of the measly 8GB of on-board storage (and lack of expansion). Instead, the Trophy shoots H.264 encoded video at VGA resolution to a .MP4 container. While you can change it to shoot MPEG-4 encoded video at 720p resolution to a .MP4 container, the video resolution resets each time you exit the camera app. Setting it back to 720p is another five step procedure that must be repeated each and every time you start the camera. Needless to say, that's not very conducive to capturing spontaneity on video. Having said that, the HD footage was of reasonable smartphone quality when given enough light. However, focusing and image quality again becomes an issue in low light.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to get the videos off the phone without syncing back to a PC with the Zune desktop software or to the Mac using the beta release of the Windows Phone 7 Connector (which only worked once to sync pictures and video in at least a dozen attempts). Overall, the Trophy's camera pales in comparison to the iPhone 4's own 5 megapixel camera with LED flash in terms of versatility, speed, and image quality (day or night, still or video) and comes up far short of a true cameraphone like the Nokia N8.
HTC's Trophy is not the best smartphone on the market. It's not even the best Windows Phone 7 phone. To make matters worse, you'll often find the Trophy sitting side-by-side with the equivalently priced LG Optimus 7 when shopping for a new WP7 handset in Europe -- both are €49.90 on contract with Vodafone in Germany or free in the UK with monthly plans starting at £25 (our review unit is sold by Coolblue in The Netherlands for $499). And honestly, given our choice, we'd opt for the Optimus 7 given that it matches the Trophy spec-for-spec yet includes a better exclusive software suite, a beefier 1,500mAh battery, and double the internal storage at 16GB. Yet even with middling hardware and a brand new version 1.0 Microsoft OS that is clearly lacking the maturity of iOS or Android, it's simply hard to resist this sleek little lightweight gem of a handset running a very promising -- and dare we say fun -- take on the mobile OS experience. Try as we might, we can't put it down even though we have an iPhone 4 and Galaxy S at our immediate disposal. The HTC Trophy may not be our smartphone champ but it's definitely a winner.