Living with the HTC Trophy

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You never launch a website "cold" so it should be no surprise that the All About team have been carrying a number of Windows Phones for many months before we went public with All About Windows Phone last week. Thanks to the assistance of the Microsoft UK Developer team, I've been carrying the HTC Trophy 7 since May, and it's time to talk about the experience of Windows Phone after almost six months in the field.

While this is a review of the hardware, and not the Windows Phone OS itself, I can't look at the time with the Trophy and not mention the switch from NoDo (which I updated the phone to on receiving it) to Mango. Before the update to 7.5 (via the time honoured method of pulling out the Ethernet cable at the right time!) I was pretty happy with the OS. To be fair, I knew the update was coming and it's not like this was the first phone that needed a software update that I've reviewed.

But the jump up to Mango makes Windows Phone a true 'Smartphone'. It lifts the platform clearly into the big league. The addition of Twitter to the People hub is a huge help to me, as are the increased sharing options. And of course the improved Live Tile support is fantastic.

HTC Trophy

But that doesn't change the hardware. HTC have pitched the Trophy into the mid to high range market, suggesting it as the good 'games' machine. I love that manufacturers try to segment a phone, the truth of it is that with Microsoft's tight rein on specs for the first handsets, every phone is pretty much a good games machine.

The big issue for me is a simple one. Battery life. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Nokia's experience in battery technology and Symbian's legendarily slow sipping of the mAh, but the Trophy barely made it through one day of solid work without crying out for power. This is slightly mitigated in Mango with the "Battery Saver" option, but having to choose between a throttled Windows Phone experience to make it through the day, or carrying the Proporta Turbocharger so the Trophy can have a snack at 'tiffin' is a choice that consumers don't want to have to make.

I would have loved the USB socket to be, well, anywhere else. It spends enough time on charge that I do a fair bit of work with it at the desk, and while the Trophy can sit nicely in my hand, with a USB charger hanging out the micro-USB port it just feels awkward. But who designs a phone to stay on charge while it's being used?

The touchscreen has proved responsive and, while a bit of a grease magnet, it is easy to clean with a quick swipe of a cloth, and only occasionally do I hit the three capacitive soft keys at the base of the unit. When I do it's mostly because I'm playing a landscape orientation game and have squeezed a bit too hard in excitement. It's not a problem unique to the Trophy but it's one of the few annoyances that I have [me too - Ed].

Sunshine is the enemy of any screen, especially in this crowded tier of HTC-made Windows Phone handsets. The Trophy's automatic brightness setting coped with most conditions in the UK, with the white text on black just about visible in the sun of a Scottish summer. A week in New York was a slightly different story, where I had to hold the Trophy in my shadow to make out what was going on. It's an expected flaw, and if I am fair, the Trophy's sunlight performance is better than I expected.

A tactile coating on the back of the unit lends it the feel of the old Psion Series 5 (and there's £1 in the All About charity "You mentioned Psion" bucket there, but nostalgia is a wonderful thing [though not what it used to be! - Ed]). The Trophy has been pretty stable in my hand, no real drops or accidental falls to the ground. While the shell has been built to a budget, it's not tacky. A bit plasticky and obviously not a top of the range model, but more than adequate.

Recording 361 Degrees (taken on HTC Trophy)
361 Degrees Live Recording at Nokia World (click through for the full sized image, which was taken on the Trophy)

For those of you new to All About, let me tell you something about my photography skills. They're as sharp and silky smooth as Stevie Wonder's. Hand me a foolproof point and shoot camera and I can still get it all horribly wrong. So asking me to judge the quality of a camera is a bad idea. Personally I like what I can get out, and it's good for the family, memories, and things I want to remember. The fancy shots for All About? I leave that to Steve and Rafe.

What I do know is that I can whip the Trophy out of a pocket, hold it up, slide my thumb on the screen, tap the shutter button to open the camera, and tap it again and I have a picture. It's one handed, it's fast, and it means I'm unlikely to miss the moments that a more professional camera would need a few more seconds to get set up to capture. The same goes for HD video, it's just an extra tap when I open the application. Is it as good as some of the leading camera phones? Nope, but if it's the camera I have with me all the time. I'll take the memories, but even with my legendary skill, I can see there's a lot of room for improvement in the camera optics.

HTC Trophy

The Trophy is competent. It's one of the first iteration of Windows Phones, which means the price in the second hand market (a shade over £200) is pretty attractive, especially as you can drop Mango onto it and get it bang up to date software wise. For me, I'm always going to have a special place for it in my heart, because not only was it my first Windows Phone device, it's the one where we spent a few months getting to know each other, before it did an Ugly Duckling, opened itself up to Mango, and helped power the launch of All About Windows Phone.

So I would recommend it, perhaps as a taster device, or for a second member of the family. With the Nokia Lumia 800 on the horizon, and this reviewer itching to put it under a bit of stress, there's going to be another Windows Phone in my life very soon. But you never forget your first...