The next Windows Phone 7 handset, and the first for CDMA networks, is widely expected to be available on Sprint's network on Thursday: the HTC 7 Pro, with a sliding horizontal keyboard and a tilting 3.6-inch touch screen.
The Pro was one of the five Windows Phone 7 (WP7) handsets unveiled by HTC last October, along with other phones supporting the redesigned operating system. But Sprint said then that the Pro would be available exclusively on Sprint only sometime in the first half of 2011. The first Windows Phone 7 handsets to ship were GSM devices, on T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S.
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Dial-to-Save, a U.K.-based international calling service, reported last week that the HTC Pro 7 is now available from T-Mobile and several other European mobile operators.
This week, Sprint has begun tweeting (@Sprint) about the new phone. "What do you think the next new Sprint phone will be? Find out Thursday!" A second tweet asked, "If you could design a brand new phone, what would it have? Ours will have a hub for gaming, music, pictures and video."
As WMPowerUser.com noted, the word "hub" likely refers to the Windows Phone UI, which groups related apps into interactive collections called hubs. Windows Phone 7 in effect replaces HTC's own UI, HTC Sense. But all the Microsoft-based phones offer a tile on the home page called "HTC Hub" that brings users to a cluster of applications where the Sense UI seems to have been adapted to the Windows Phone 7 conventions, according to one early account.
The CDMA models will mean that Windows Phone 7 becomes a choice now for subscribers on all major U.S. networks. Since the first GSM models became available in early November, there are indications that the OS has gained market share, though it still lags far behind phones using Google Android or Apple iOS.
Microsoft so far has avoided unit-by-unit sales comparisons with its rivals. In January, an executive said the company had shipped 2 million copies of the firmware to its handset customers. Instead, its priorities are fielding an OS that captures and holds enduser interest, solidifying support from application developers, handset makers and mobile carriers, and creating a viable online application catalog.
Early reviews for the HTC 7 Pro have been pretty favorable.
"There's a lot we like about the HTC 7 Pro," according to SlashGear. "Windows Phone 7 is a solid platform with plenty of promise. ...We also appreciate Microsoft's clean-slate style, which -- in combination with the no-nonsense hardware HTC has produced -- adds up to a distinct and unique device."
The reviewer noted the absence of features like copy & paste, which is due to arrive with The First Update for Windows Phone 7 in coming weeks [see "Microsoft's first Windows Phone 7 update -- out today -- isn't what you expected"]. The 5-megapixel camera is "middling" and the speakerphone "subdued," according to the review.
A reviewer with the South African Web site MyBroadband.co was less favorable: The review unit suffered from a number of flaws and glitches, and after just eight hours "the phone was screaming for its charger."
At TechCentral, reviewer Duncan McLeod focused mainly, and favorably, on the Windows Phone UI. "As for the 7 Pro, HTC is fast gaining a reputation for building beautiful high-end smartphones than run both Android and Windows Phone software," he concluded. McLeod found the 7 Pro to be "on the heavy side" at about 6.5 ounces, but the keyboard's keys are "generously sized," and "good quality speakers."
The phone is 4.63 inches tall, 2.32 wide, and 0.61 inches thick. It's powered, as are the other WP7 handsets, by a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. RAM is 576MB, ROM is 512MB, and it includes 8GB of user storage. Besides the dual-band HSPA/WCDMA and GSM/EDGE cellular connectivity, the 7 Pro includes 802.11bgn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.
Full Pro specifications are on the HTC Web site.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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