Like most smartphones these days, the HTC Arrive has a 1GHz processor, and it certainly seems up to the task of running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. I never had to wait more than a second or two when performing processor-intensive tasks like loading or switching apps.
I found the entire experience to be a pleasant one, though it’s strictly a “stock” Windows Phone 7 experience. Smartphone veterans may be expecting some extra HTC tweaks, such as the proprietary Sense user interface that adds so much to the Android experience, but that isn’t the case here.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking perform quite well. I didn’t have any trouble connecting to any of the public or private Wi-Fi networks I tested, and the same is true of the two Bluetooth wireless headsets I tried with the Arrive.
Voice quality is very good, and I’m impressed by how well the device performed during testing. One of my test callers couldn’t even tell that I was on a mobile phone, which is just about the best result a device can hope for. There was no abnormal flattening of vocal ranges, no weird-sounding voices or interference from background noise.
The social experience on the HTC Arrive is a really nice one, thanks to how Windows Phone 7 integrates everything into one People tab — Google and Windows Live contacts as well as Facebook. Twitter isn’t on the scene in this version of the OS, which is an absence I feel quite keenly. Those who don’t use Twitter won’t miss it of course, but I’m hoping that it’s added to Windows Phone 7 soon.
The email experience is a good one, and very smooth. Swipe left and right to switch between all mail, unread, flagged, and urgent messages. Tap the folder icon at the bottom of the screen to switch folders, and choose to sync additional folders beyond your inbox if you like. The plus sign is to create a new message, and it’s possible to delete several messages at once by entering the group edit mode.
Web browsing is a hit or miss experience, depending on the site you’re visiting. If it’s not a flash site, you’ll be presented with quickly loading pages, fast graphics rendering, and smooth scrolling. If it’s flash, you’re out of luck, as visiting those sites will simply get you a message to update your browser — small consolation for just surfing on the go.
All of the basics are included, starting with calendar and contact management and moving to an Alarms app, calculator, maps, and stocks. You can sync your information from Windows Live, Google, and Facebook, though that sometimes causes duplicate contacts in your list if you have folks listed by just their first name in Google and by their first and last name on Facebook, for example. That’s a minor annoyance that is easily cleaned up, but Windows Phone 7 still really shines here — tap on a person’s name to write on their Facebook wall, send an email, map their home or work address, or go straight to their web site.
The Maps app is rather slow to get started as far as the initial location fix, though it does provide accurate results. Directions were also accurate, when they were available — several times I got an error message saying that “We can’t reach Bing maps right now” which would not be a comforting thought if I were traveling in an unfamiliar city. I also had issues with TeleNav, which was preloaded on the phone. Every time I tried to start the app, it would hang on the splash screen with a message that it was “initializing.”
Microsoft Office Mobile is included, with scaled down versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. They work as expected, though editing options are limited. Unless you have Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, you’ll be stuck emailing yourself documents, or asking your colleagues to do the same. That’s a shame, since the integrated physical keyboard makes the task of editing long documents less daunting than some other smartphone models which lack that built-in advantage.
There’s a lot of entertainment value in the HTC Arrive, though you’re somewhat limited in your choices of where it can come from. You can connect to your PC to sync music and videos through the Zune desktop software, and for entertainment on the go, you can get the free HTC YouTube and Netflix apps through the Sprint Marketplace.
As mentioned in the first-look review, the video streaming experience on the Arrive is a good one, though it is much better if you’re on a Wi-Fi network instead of Sprint’s cellular network. In my testing I experienced some stops and starts and a few buffering issues with Sprint, but everything played perfectly via Wi-Fi.
The external speaker is quite loud, almost painful at the highest level, and puts out good quality sound. It won’t power your next house party, but you can easily and comfortably share the latest tunes with your friends without having to pass the phone from ear to ear.
The mobile gaming experience is top notch due to the Xbox Live integration. Download the free Extras pack to customize your avatar, earn points toward your gamerscore, and try demos of games to see if you like them before buying them. There are plenty of achievements to earn, and you’ll enjoy trying to win them all because of the excellent screen and nice external speaker
The 5-megapixel camera is something of a disappointment. It takes acceptable photos under excellent conditions, but I found that quite a few of my shots came out blurry because the camera button is so close to the bottom of the device that it’s almost impossible to hold steady. In fact I dropped the phone several times while trying to make pictures, and each time that happens, the back cover comes off and the battery comes out of the battery compartment. (That’s good to know, as the back cover is almost impossible to get off otherwise.)
The LED flash didn’t seem to make much of a difference, so you’ll want good lighting. Action shots don’t come out all that well either — they’re captured rather quickly as the phone itself takes pictures quickly, but they likely won’t be in focus. The zoom is of rather poor quality as well, leading to rather grainy, unclear photos. In other words, if you’re a shutterbug, this definitely is not the phone for you.
The HTC Arrive doesn’t seem to suffer from some of the battery problems plaguing some of its competitors, and the 1500 mAh battery should last for a weekend trip without having to carry the charger with you.