Windows Phone 7: The UK handset line-up
Microsoft has finally shown off the hardware that will run Windows Phone 7. Six phones are headed to the UK, five of which will show up 21 October (for some unknown reason, Dell's Venue Pro is delayed until "before the holidays").
Here they are in all their photographic glory, with some of the key specs.
To start, there's a trio from HTC:
On the left is the HTC 7 Mozart, in the middle is the HTC HD 7, and on the right is the HTC 7 Trophy. HTC also has two other Windows Phone 7 handsets launching in the US, with no word yet if they'll come to these shores.
The 130g HTC 7 Mozart features a slim aluminium body and 8MP camera, and, given the name, is unsurprisingly a music-focused phone, with Dolby Mobile and a nice set of built-in speakers. The Mozart is available only on Orange, and is free on contracts starting from £35 a month.
The Trophy focuses on gaming with a 3.8in touchscreen and and 5MP camera, and weighs in at 140g. It's only available on Vodafone, for free on a £25/month, two-year contract.
The HD7 has the largest screen in the UK lineup, with a 4.3in AMOLED and kick stand to prop it up -- handy for watching movies on the go. It weighs in at 162g and is available on O2 for £379 or free with a £40 contract.
All three come with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, and feature HTC's Hub software, which will be familiar to anyone who's used an HTC Android device.
This is LG's Optimus 7, which features its own specialised software including the ScanSearch augmented reality system, voice-to-text, and Play To for multimedia sharing. The hardware offers a 5MP camera with panoramic system, 3.8in WVGA LCD display and 16GB of internal memory. The Optimus is exclusive to Vodafone, and available free on a £30 contract.
Samsung is kicking off its Windows Phone 7 lineup with the Omnia 7, featuring a 4in Super AMOLED screen, 1GHz processor and 5MP HD camera with LED flash. The Samsung will be widely available, including on Three, T-Mobile and Orange.
The business-friendly Dell Venue Pro is the only UK-bound phone to so far include a QWERTY keyboard, but it won't arrive in October. A Dell spokesperson assured us it should arrive before Christmas. Its 4.1in, AMOLED screen features scratch and shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass.
Which is the best?
So my very, very early verdict? They're hard to tell apart. (Some demo staff had even written the model on the back of the phone, so it's not just me.)
Microsoft has set some pretty strict guidelines about what these phones need to offer, so they've ended up looking and feeling very similar. The HTC HD7 has a larger screen, but otherwise using it feels little different than the smaller HTCs. And the Dell has a slide out QWERTY keyboard, but tuck it away and it's interchangeable with the others.
Likely, one will emerge as a standout once the full reviews come in. However, even if they all are that similar, it may not actually be a bad thing. The phones offer a consistent user experience, while letting customers choose a larger or brighter screen, sharper camera, or QWERTY keyboard.
Imagine if you could pick up an iPhone with a slide out keyboard, or pay out a bit extra for a better camera, rather than only have the device differentiated on storage space alone?