The HTC Arrive is the first Microsoft Windows Phone 7 device offered by Sprint. This model has a 3.6-inch WVGA touchscreen display, a physical QWERTY keyboard, a 1GHz Qualcomm processor, and a 5-megapixel camera/camcorder with LED flash.
It is currently available from Sprint for $200 with a two-year contract, or $450 without one.
BUILD & DESIGN
The HTC Arrive isn't the prettiest phone I've ever seen, but it has a certain retro, blocky sort of appeal. From the front, the Arrive doesn't have much to set it apart from most of its competitors. It's mainly black, with three buttons under the display. If you look closely, you'll see a long, narrow speaker grille at the top and bottom of the phone, surrounding the display.
The Arrive isn't the largest phone on the market since it has a 3.6-inch screen, slightly smaller when compared to some of the 4.3-inch behemoths currently available. Overall, the phone measures 4.6-inches long and 2.3-inches wide, which is a good size.
Since the Arrive has a physical QWERTY keyboard located under the screen, it is significantly thicker than a comparable touchscreen-only phone. It measures just over six tenths of an inch thick, which doesn't sound like much but is definitely noticeable when compared to the recent crop of ultra-thin mobile phones.
Even so, I found the Arrive to be very comfortable in the hand because it just fits. It is a little slippery to hold on to, since the back is mostly smooth platinum grey plastic. The top and bottom of the back side are rubberized black material that helps improve the grip and lends the Arrive some of its retro appeal.
Even though the WVGA (800 x 480) display is a little smaller than some, it's still excellent. The color reproduction is outstanding, with bright, vivid colors and true black tones. Even upon very close examination, I can't detect any pixelization, and it looks great no matter what you're doing, from surfing the web to looking at photos and videos.
The display does wash out somewhat in direct sunlight, but the screen is still visible even then, just with more muted colors. Of course it helps that all of the Windows Phone 7 menus, displays, and apps, are so vivid, with high contrast colors.
The physical QWERTY keyboard is located under the display; just press the top of the phone to the right to access it. You can even do it one-handed if you like, since the slider mechanism works so perfectly. You'll find that the display "pops up" into an angled position that makes it much easier to see when you're trying to compose a message.
It's hard for me to pass judgment on this keyboard. I really want to like it, since it's so large and well-illuminated for use in low-light situations. Even with practice, however, it just isn't for me.
The keys are quite spacious, and are made of a soft, rubberized material that is easy on fingertips that may be sore from too much texting. The problem is that there isn't really much definition on each key, so it's difficult to tell what key you're hitting unless you're actually looking at the keyboard.
The space bar is also either a little too short or just in a slightly awkward position, because I have to really stretch my right thumb to reach it when I'm typing out a text message.
All of this is a matter of personal preference, however, and I suspect that folks who are less dependent on physical feedback (or just have longer fingers) will like this keyboard much better than I do.
Other Buttons & Controls
The headphone jack and power button are on the top edge of the phone, above the display. The volume button is on the left side, as is fairly standard these days, though I was disappointed by how hard it was to operate. There's nothing too distinct about it, so sometimes I turned the volume up when I was aiming for the opposite effect.
The charge/sync port is on the bottom left side, and the camera button is on the bottom right side. As I mentioned in the first-look review I did for this device, the camera button is in an absolutely terrible position. It's very hard to activate, and the awkward position caused me to drop the phone when I was trying to take a picture. Even when I'm able to keep my grip, I find that my finger really wants to slip off of the camera button, and it's very hard to hold the phone steady long enough to capture the shot.
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.
Battery Life is quite good; with moderate use over two days the battery meter dipped down just about halfway, and I was able to get through one more day with conservative use.
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.
The HTC Arrive is a good device, and a solid choice if you're looking for a Windows Phone 7 device.
There are a few hardware issues, such as difficult to use volume and camera buttons and a physical keyboard that lacks real definition. The screen and the voice quality are excellent, though, and the only major problems I had were with the camera and with the navigation experience, which was sometimes great and other times offered nothing more than error messages.
If you're looking for a great voice phone with a good gaming and entertainment experience, the HTC Arrive deserves a second look -- just make sure you know where you're going ahead of time, just in case.