Last week, behind closed doors, HTC gave us the low down on the Windows Phone 7 devices it will have available for the launch of Microsoft's new mobile operating system. Currently it has five devices in development with four ready to release on what Microsoft is calling GA (General Availability) day, the 21st of October. Of these four, three will be available in Europe while the fourth is for America only.
Sadly we weren't allowed to take pictures or shoot video of the devices but we did get plenty of details and a brief hands-on with a couple of the handsets. Here's what to expect.
All feature large glass LCD (rather than OLED) touchscreens with multitouch capacitive touch sensing and a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. As stipulated by Microsoft they also all have the same three touch sensitive Back, Windows, and Search buttons on the front. You also get headphone sockets, microUSB data connection and charging ports, a volume rocker, and no microSD slot - according to Microsoft all storage must be already built into the device. You get a fairly miserly 8GB on all the phones except the Pro, which will also be available with 16GB. All the phones use the highly popular Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8255 1GHz processor as used on the HTC Desire and Sony Ericsson X10, so they should be plenty fast enough.
As Microsoft has also decreed that the interface of Windows Phone 7 can't be customised, the HTC Sense customisations made on previous Windows Mobile and current Android based smartphones won't be seen on these handsets. Instead the company has created a number of custom apps, including its classic weather viewer, stock and shares ticker, photo enhancer, sound manager, and even one simply called Love. Some of these will come preinstalled and some are available for download. Considering how brief a time we had with the handsets we weren't really able to judge how good they were.
To further differentiate its handsets, HTC has teamed up with Dolby to offer Dolby SRS for improved surround sound performance when watching video on your mobile. It also proclaims to have top quality audio hardware for improved overall listening.
Despite using almost identical hardware in all the devices, HTC has chosen to theme each handset. They are as follows.
HTC 7 Mozart - Music with style
Billed as the music phone of the range, the Mozart has an aluminium unibody design. As such the HTC reps called it the Legend of the Windows Phone 7 range but in truth it's nothing like the Legend thanks to an angular design on the back, a black anodised finish to the aluminium and black patches of sot touch plastic on the back also.
It's the smallest of the launch phones with just a 3.7in screen. However, despite its music emphasis (which amounts to precisely nothing in terms of features) it in fact sports the most high-end camera; an 8 megapixel unit with a Xenon flash. Sadly the company hasn't also added an LED lamp, so all your video footage will have to be dark.
When it arrives, this phone will be exclusive to Orange/T-Mobile.
HTC 7 Trophy - Entertainment central
Tipped to be the most aggressively priced of its launch handsets, the Trophy is apparently aimed at gamers, though again there's nothing that actually makes it so. It's screen is a mite larger than the Mozart at 3.8in and it features a soft touch plastic body. The camera is also more conventional unit with just 5 megapixels on offer and an LED flash.
This look like the phone previously thought to be the HTC Spark. It will be exclusive to Vodafone when it arrives.
HTC HD7 - The cinema in your pocket
HD? Cinema? Can you guess what distinguishes this model? Yes, its the one with the largest screen; 4.3in to be precise. It also has a metal pop-out stand for easy video viewing. Like the Trophy, it features a soft touch plastic body and 5 megapixel camera. It will be exclusive to O2.
HTC 7 Surround
Available only in America, the Surround will feature a slideout speaker of all things. We didn't get to see this handset in the flesh so can't vouch for how bizarre or inspired this innovation is but otherwise we gather its much like the other handsets. It also features a stand so could offer a particularly compelling video viewing experience.
HTC 7 Pro
Arriving a little further down the line, the Pro will feature a side-sliding qwerty keyboard and will also be available in a 16GB version. HTC anticipates that this will arrive with no exclusivity contract so hopefully will be available SIM free.
If you're worried about being able to get hold of one of these devices, HTC assured us it will have plenty of stock ready for the launch so we hopefully won't see a repeat of what happened with the hugely popular HTC Desire, which ran low on stock and saw prices sky rocket.
So that's your choice. Are you pleased as punch with what's on offer or are you left wanting for more? Let us know in the comments.