A deeper look at HTC Surround and Windows Phone 7

Here are some details that didn’t fit in my print column about the HTC Surround, which runs the new Windows Phone 7 operating system from Microsoft Corp.

— Camera: The 5.0 megapixel camera took decent, but not great, images. The contrast seemed a little low, and the lack of good photo-editing applications made it hard to improve the images. I didn’t test the camera’s video portion.

— Screen: This is the second-best screen I’ve seen, falling behind the Apple iPhone 4. Text and images were overall clean and crisp, and viewing movies with Netflix was a pleasure.

— Speakers: The slide-down speaker provided good quality. I normally listen to movies using earbuds, but I found the built-in speaker to be one of the best I’ve tested.

— Internet Explorer Mobile: A decent browser, but I found it frustrating that I had to download the YouTube player to watch videos on the world’s most popular video site. I also found it odd that an embedded YouTube video in one of my blog postings would not play even after I installed the player.

— Office hub: I liked the One Note feature, which made it very easy to author a note, add a photo or video/audio clip and e-mail it or save it for future use. The Office applications come preloaded on the phone, which doesn’t surprise me, since it’s another Microsoft product.

— Music and videos hub: Finding music was easy, almost too easy — I was often led directly to song title and purchase options when I tried to search for something else. I downloaded a handful of tunes and was playing them in minutes. The extensive music library had all the titles I looked for. Although I didn’t buy any videos, I did watch films and television programming using the free Netflix app. The $9 plus I spend every month for a basic Netflix membership has paid dividends, as I have watched films on several different phones, computers and even my TV.

— Find My Phone and Windows Live: I saved this for last, as I put the feature to the ultimate test with surprising results. When I was ready to return my demo phone to my AT&T marketing representative, I tried to delete each of the accounts I’d used on the phone. This included Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail,  Facebook and Twitter. This has always been a fairly simple operation with other phones I’ve tested. Not here.

I couldn’t find a way to delete or remove these accounts. As a next-best alternative, I tried deleting my username and password. Although I could backspace out the characters, there was no "save" function.

Since I was frustrated, I called AT&T customer support. The woman on the other end tried to help, but since the phone had not been released to the public yet, she had no documentation. She checked with her supervisors about the questions I had, but again, no help could be offered. She suggested I call HTC, the phone’s manufacturer.

Instead, I activated the "Find my Phone" feature on the HTC Surround and went to my Windows Live account page. The phone popped up as registered to my e-mail address, and I was able to find and click the link to erase the data remotely. This is a good function for those who misplace their phone and don’t want the finder to have access to the stored data that might be there.

After clicking the link, the phone screen displayed a message that the phone’s owner had locked the device using Windows Live. After about a minute, the phone’s screen went blank. And when I hit the power button, I was shown an HTC screen. All the AT&T formatting had been removed, along with all the data. Be careful what you wish for.

Had this been my regular AT&T phone, I’d have had to go to an AT&T Wireless store to have formatting restored. The data that was exclusive to the phone would have been lost, but logging in with my Windows Live account would have restored my contact information.

For more about the HTC Surround, visit the HTC site:

For more about AT&T, visit the AT&T site:

For more about Windows Phone 7, visit the Microsoft site:

I’d advise you to hold off on getting a Windows Phone 7-powered phone until the bugs are worked out. Thankfully for customers, there are several choices available.

I’m sticking with my iPhone, and suggest you consider it if you’re shopping for a smart phone.


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