After the continued debacle of the Windows Mobile interface, few of us expected much from Windows Phone 7. However, Microsoft has actually created something that’s very different to what you get on other handsets, while also managing to make it supremely stylish and relative easy to get your head around. The Windows Phone interface may look a bit iffy in screenshots, but in use it’s a pleasant surprise as the live tiles on the home page work really well and you get some of the most beautiful graphical transitions between menus that have yet graced a phone. More importantly these transitions don’t feel like they’re getting in the way when you’re navigating around the handset. And despite the odd pause for thought here and there, it feels very slick and responsive on the Mozart.
Nevertheless, it’s still missing some key ingredients including cut and paste and multitasking. Also, the on-phone app store has a long way to go before it catches up with the sheer range and quality of apps available for the iPhone, but seeing as the Nokia/Microsoft love-in is, in part, about building a better ecosystem around Windows Phone 7 – of which apps will be key – the situation is likely to improve in the future.
We do, however, have a couple of other reservations about the phone. For example, the Mozart name would suggest that HTC sees this as a music phone. However, the problem is that the handset has only 8GB of storage built-in and unlike some competing Window Phone 7 models it doesn’t have a microSD card slot, so you can’t add extra storage space. While 8GB isn’t exactly a tiny amount of storage, it falls somewhat short of what we’d expect to get on a music oriented handset these days.
Furthermore, the headphones that HTC ships with the Mozart aren’t wonderful. They’re standard, hard plastic bud type cans rather than in-ear, sound-isolating ones like those Sony Ericsson supplies with its music phones. The headphones’ bass response isn’t too bad, but the treble is a bit harsh for our liking. Nevertheless, as the phone uses a standard 3.5mm jack you can easily swap them for your own preferred cans, although you will lose the hands-free functionality if you do.
HTC has added its sound enhancer app to the phone, which offers both Dolby Mobile and SRS Enhancement modes as well as more straightforward equaliser presets. Of these, the SRS Enhancement is probably the best as it adds a deeper feel to bass and creates extra width to the stereo image without managing to sound overly processed.
As for the camera, the Mozart's 8-megapixel one looks good on paper, especially since most other Windows Phone 7 handsets have 5-megapixel shooters. However, the pictures it produces are not quite as inspiring as you’d expect as they tend to look soft and colours can be muted. The Xenon flash does help when shooting indoor in low light, though. The camera can also shoot 720p HD video, but again the results are disappointing. The frame rate tends to bounce around a lot - dropping off when it’s working under low light - and the autofocus is a bit slack, often leaving you with sections of blurry looking footage.
Overall, the Mozart is a very likeable smartphone. It feels speedy to use, has a great screen and the Windows Phone 7 OS has a surprisingly charming user interface. However, it is quite expensive, and if you do buy it you’re going to have to wait not just until cut and paste and multitasking arrives, but also until the range of apps can challenge other platforms like iOS and Android.