The HTC Trophy finally brings Windows to Verizon, but unless you're absolutely sold on the platform, it's a forgettable device.
HTC took a "less is more" here, a welcome change after bulkier devices like the Surround and HD7. The design is rather minimal and bland, but it's not ugly. At first glance, you wouldn't think of showing it off, but up-close and you'll notice a soft touch finish and aluminum-style bezel for an unassuming touch of dazzle. Measuring less than half an inch thick, I thought it evoked similarities to the understated elegance of the iPhone. Oddly, the only hint of flash is hidden: the underside of the battery door is fire-engine red. Overall, it's a nicely understated phone. If you need a work phone, it's a good choice if you want to look professional.
Unfortunately, the attractive frame holds a bad display. The 3.8-inch screen is has a decently clear 800-by-480 pixel resolution, but it suffers from poor viewing angles and an abundance of fingerprint smudges, so it's nearly unusable in direct sunlight. That's too bad, because the 246-ppi pixel density is pretty sharp. But like all Windows 7 phones, there's only limited landscape support, so you have to hold it vertically to take advantage of the full screen. Still, for a phone that's free with a contract, it's not a deal breaker.
But the 5-megapixel camera is even worse. On paper, the lens looks solid. But when you snap pictures, you'll see the photo quality just isn't there -- it's grainy and washed out. For low-light, an LED flash brightens up the scene, but it only further adds to the dullness. You can record 720p videos, and they're a bit better, but a hazy quality hangs over the clips. At first, I thought a greasy smudge was distorting the video, but after I kept rubbing, I realized it was just the lens.
It's a shame the camera and display are below average because Windows 7 is actually quite strong -- I found it a user-friendly alternative if you find Android too cluttered. The interface, dubbed "Metro," uses hubs as an efficient and easy way to organize content. The Mango update brings over 500 features, which includes multitasking and tighter Facebook and Twitter integration, so the phone is a potent social media device. Verizon and HTC also added a few apps, including Netflix, which can takes a few minutes to buffer over the 3G, but is still enjoyable. Rounding out the features, you'll get Zune to store a music library and Xbox Live to challenge friends to games. Both are pretty robust, but they lack the cohesive feel of Apple's services. Still, they get the job done.
When it comes to e-mail, Windows is a mixed bag: I like how you can merge Exchange, Windows Live and POP and IMAP accounts, but if you don't have Exchange, you have to use a cloud to sync your contacts. But the bigger problem is the thin app ecosystem. You'll still get the big names, like Angry Birds, but if you're coming from iOS or Android, and you're used to less-than-mainstream games, you'll have a hard time finding them on Windows.
I normally don't point out trivial features, like the virtual keyboard, but I have to say, it knocked it out of the park for me. It's just as good as on iOS and better than Android's stock keyboard. When I saw it, I thought it'd be cramped, but when I started typing, it was accurate, and the few typos I made were quickly fixed with auto-correct.
The 1-gigahertz Snapdragon chip powers through without a glitch. No, the other components drag it down. For starters, you only have a measly 8-gigabytes of storage. Want to add more? Too bad, there's no microSD slot. Your only choice is cloud storage or to stream music from Zune. In addition, the 1,300 mAh battery is just as bad as the murky camera. With moderate use, I barely squeezed out four hours of talk time, and ran out of power in the late afternoon. I'd highly suggest you buy a second charger -- either for the car or office, or both.
The Trophy is well-designed -- from the shell to the software, but there are flaws that keep it from success. If you want to try Windows and you're tied to Verizon, it's the only choice out there. If you can look past the hazy camera and keep the display shaded, it's not a terrible device, but if you're not sold on Windows, I'd recommend you look at Android or Apple and wait for a better Windows phone to hit the market. The next one should have the bugs worked out. ♦
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