The Trusty Old 4.3” WVGA

The above headline read “The Good Old 4.3” WVGA” until I realized that HTC’s 4.3” WVGA LCD panel is pretty mediocre at this point. It has size on its side, but brightness and contrast are middling at best. It’s not bad, but compared to the cream of the modern smartphone crop, it’s just not that competitive.

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

The upcoming HD7S for AT&T changes that, with a Super-LCD version of the same 4.3” display (the S stands for Super). We’ve seen pretty good performance out of S-LCD displays in the past, and assuming the HD7S continues that trend, it’ll have a decent display.

Thankfully, HTC is moving to S-LCD for the 4.3” qHD devices (Sensation and EVO 3D), but that brings up a larger question for Microsoft—with most of the high end Android devices moving to dual core processors and higher resolution qHD displays and Apple already with a high res screen and moving to a dual core SoC in the near future, when will Microsoft decide to take the next step to compete on the bleeding-edge hardware level?

1GHz Snapdragons and WVGA displays were high end in mid-2010. A year later, they’re still good enough for most smartphone users, but what about the high end market now? Most indications I’ve seen out of Microsoft seem like there will just be a bump to the 2nd generation 45nm Snapdragon chips for the second generation WP7 devices. Those will probably hit late this year, around the same time as the 5th generation iPhone and the next wave of dual-core Android phones (not to mention quad-core tablets), so WP7 handsets will still be lagging far behind the competition.

It’s a twofold problem. One is that Microsoft’s tight control of the system is creating the reverse effect of the fragmentation problems afflicting Android. While there’s a lot of software diversity in Android phones, there’s an equal amount of hardware diversity. With WP7, there’s zero software diversity, and correspondingly little hardware diversity as well. HTC has five different WP7 handsets on the market—one has a slide-out keyboard, one has a slide-out speaker, one has a marginally larger screen, but other than that, they’re all practically the same. The biggest differentiating factor from device to device is the type of screen it has; beyond that, all ten WP7 devices have nearly identical hardware.

Microsoft’s desire to keep a consistent experience across all Windows Phones is an admirable goal, but there’s only one way to do that and stay with the times technologically, which brings me to the second problem. They need to iterate faster, and not just on the software end (though I’ll address that on the next page). Microsoft is still playing catch up in the smartphone game, and matching Apple’s release schedule will not get them caught up. There either needs to be a large number of smaller iterations (Google-style, a new OS revision and new handsets every four months) or, really significant steps forward every 12 months. The former is where NoDo comes in.


Camera - Standard Snapdragon Fare Somebody Forgot Donuts?
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  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    nice clip vivek. :)

    i am interested in WP7, but i am totally underwhelmed by the weak hardware, especially the displays!
    basically, a phone is like 90% display, and it seems like apple is the only company that gets that.
    but i am not huge IOS fan.

    i am going to be back in the US at the end of June after working overseas for 3 years, so i am really hoping that something awesome comes out by about then. (droid 3 maybe?)
  • sviola - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I know everyone here is a hardware enthusiast, but I don't think it is a major problem with WP7, that seems to run very well on the current hardware, in terms of processor and memory. Of course there is room for improvement and I could add a few examples: cameras, 4G, front facing camera, removable flash storage, multi-SIM; but this will probably come with the Nokia handsets (seems their first handset will be built with the N8 as reference, so we will get 12 mp camera and many other nice stuff).

    As for the software, there is a need to improving it and I'm sure that with Mango we'll see a lot more than has been disclosed so far:

    - Multitasking
    - IE 9
    - Twitter integration
    - Turn by turn navigation
    - Voice to text
    - Bing Audio
    - Bing video
    - Messenger integration
    - Unified Inbox
    - SkyDrive sink for Mobile Office
    - Skype

    Of course, we'll have the complete list on May 24th when they'll show it to the press.
  • Silent_Rage - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    To say that WP7 runs well on last generation hardware is an understatement. I currently have an HTC Arrive (gotta have the keyboard) and while there are features I wish it had such as front-facing camera and 4G, I really enjoy using it. I got one for my wife and the best part was that she didn't need me to show her how to use it....she figured it out herself!! I think that WP7 has a lot of promise, but I agree with Vivek that the update cycle must be more aggressive to catch up with the competition. From what I read about Mango, it looks promising but they cannot afford to delay this update like what happened with NoDo.
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    the only thing i really want is a better display. that's it. processors they have are good enough to do what i want for the most part, but i would really like a nicer, crisper, display, and hope against hopes, one that is easy to read outside!
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I don't think that removable storage is a sensible thing. We used to have people here who simply didn't 'get' removable micro-sd storage back in the 6.5 days and neither do many of the people out there in the street. If it works for apple then I say 'don't' have removable storage as you open the company to complaints. People will also buy MEGA cheap cards and THEN complain of speed issues.
  • FrederickL - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    I have to say that I really disagree. I do not see why my choices should be damaged by the brain-dead amongst the customer base. I have some respect for what MS are doing with Win7 and will definitely be interested when Nokia start delivering. If however there is no removable storage (and they continue like other companies with non-removable batteries) that will be a total deal-breaker for me. MS are clearly running hard to catch up on the software front but if every new release of a WP7 is more of the same old same because Redmond refuse to lighten up on the hardware restrictions, I for one will not even bother to look at a Windows phone.
  • xype - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    iOS 5. :P
  • xype - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Damn, should have been a comment to softdrinkviking… anyhow, the hardware will get its updates—if WP7 looks like an interesting alternative, I wouldn't worry too much about the hardware part.
  • Psycownage - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    As always a great review from ananndtech however i have noticed a couple of problems with the graphs, first on battery graphs 2 are identical, looking at image links i guess one of these should show talk time. second, shouldn't black levels be lower is better not higher is better?
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Fiiiiixed, thanks for catching!

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