The HTC Radar 4G is one of the first Windows Phone devices to come running Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) out of the box. It’s also one of the first Windows phones to be 4G friendly and to sport a front-facing camera. It has been about a year since the first generation of Windows Phones came out, like the HTC HD7, that we reviewed. Twelve months later, Microsoft and their partners have unleashed a slew of new Windows Phone devices that manage to make Windows Phone really shine. In particular, the HTC Radar is T-Mobile’s first 4G Windows Phone running Mango. Read on for our full review of the HTC Radar for T-Mobile.
The HTC Radar 4G’s unibody-style silver and white design is lovely and actually very apple’esque. It’s also a very unique design in comparison to most of the other Windows Phones out there, with the exception of the Nokia Lumia 800 and 710. We love the Radar’s design and form-factor. It’s curved edges make it a pleasure to hold on your hand. The quality of the device also feels outstanding.
The Radar’s display hits the sweet-spot at 3.8-inches and a 480×800 resolution. The display produces sharp visuals with vivid colors and great viewing angles. However, colors aren’t quite as vivid as they are on Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays, but it’s still a really excellent display. We actually wholeheartedly prefer the display on the Radar 4G to the display on the Nokia Lumia 800 and Samsung Focus Flash, which both sport AMOLED displays that are also PenTile based. PenTile displays have an annoying mesh artifact that we don’t like very much.
Under the hood the device is packing in a 1 GHZ Qualcomm MSM8255 processor with 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage. These are hardly cutting edge specs, as a matter of fact, they are nearly mediocre. That said, the device performs great and is super responsive. This is undoubtedly do to the optimizations and improvements that Mango brings to the Windows Phone 7.5 operating System.
The HTC Radar 4G sports a 5MP rear-facing camera with auto-focus and a F2.2/28mm lens with a LED flash, 720P video recording, and a dedicated camera button. This rear-facing camera on the HTC Radar is about average. Photos tend to be pretty sharp, but colors are a bit dull. Fortunately, the saving grace of the camera is that it’s very fast and responsive, with super quick auto-focus. Also, the flash doesn’t wash out photos the way they often do on so many phones. The Radar is also one of the first Windows Phones to come with a front-facing camera, so you can use it to make video calls using cross-platform apps like Tango.
Web browsing speeds on the Radar running Mango are a massive improvement over the previous generation of Windows Phone. Web browsing with Mango is so much more fluid and responsive, as is pinch to zoom thanks to Internet Explorer 9. Sites also render more smoothly, plus switching from portrait to landscape is fast without a lag. As a matter of fact, speeds even beat many 4G Android phones with dual-core processors that we have recently put to test. Using the SpeedTest app the device’ s average speed shows at 313 KBytes/sec.
Also, while not all the Mango phones have this feature enabled yet, the HTC radar 4G comes with Internet Sharing so that you can transform the device into a mobile hotspot.
The HTC Radar’s battery is not removable, which might seem irritating at first. But in this case, you won’t care much because the battery life on the HTC Radar is superb and above average for a smartphone. The device can last for 24 hours on a single charge with moderate use! How many smartphones can do that nowadays?
The Windows Phone interface is straight out beautiful. At first the menu system might be a bit disconcerting because it’s so unlike the icon based smartphone operating systems that we’re used to from all the other big guys. But after using it for a while you’ll really come to appreciate the efficiency, and overall slick U.I. that Windows Phone provides. One of our favorite aspects of Windows Phone is also its amazing and super responsive on-screen keyboard. It’s better than any on-screen Android keyboard we have tried. Plus, Mango addresses most of our complaints with the first generation of Windows Phone 7. The Windows Phone experience now feels more fluid, responsive and enjoyable than ever.
The device comes preloaded with T-Mobile TV, TeleNav GPS Nav, Slacker, My Account, HTC Hub, Netflix, along with your standard Windows Phone apps like Outlook and Office. The app selection in the Windows Marketplace is getting better and better, and we’re especially digging the apps that are optimized to use Mango. Live Tiles are more addictive than ever, especially now that 3rd party apps can take full advantage of them. For example, FourSquare, Slacker and eBay all take advantage of Windows Phone Live tiles, so that you can – pin an eBay auction to your Start screen, while the FourSquare Live Tile shows your ranking on Foursquare. You can even pin a boarding pass from the Delta app. Third party apps can now even use multiple tiles at once. How third party apps use the Live Tile functionality should get more and more creative as time goes on.
The Marketplace is currently at over 35,000 apps and growing. Kik Messenger, WhatsApp, Spotify, WordPress, iHeartRadio, SoundHound, Angry Birds, and Rdio are some of the other big player apps that are available now in the marketplace. All in all, most of the major players are there now, although apps like Skype have not yet arrived.
Mango, AKA Windows Phone 7.5, addresses most of the issues we had with the first generation of Windows Phone. For starters, multitasking has finally arrived and it’s as easy as holding down the back button at the bottom of your device and then flicking through apps. That said, 3rd party apps will need to update their app’s code in order for their apps to stay suspended when you switch between them.
Social Media integration has been taken a step further and now includes all the major players, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Windows Messenger, etc. Using the Me hub, you can go ahead post a status update across all of your multiple social networks at once. The Me Hub also lets you initiate check-ins. Meanwhile the People Hub offers quick access to all of your friends status updates, again across multiple social networks. No other smartphone OS provides such seamless social media integration without having to download a third party app.
Furthermore, the OS provides so much functionality, even from Bing alone, that downloading many third party apps is practically redundant. For example, Bing search results make sure that you don’t have to switch out to another app. Snap a pic of a book cover, a bar code, or a QR code and it will provide you with descriptions, pricing, reviews, and suggested related apps. Eg: Amazon Kindle to download a digital book
Bing has been really improved and has become a lot more than your standard search. For example, it offers a similar function to SoundCloud in the way that it’s able to listen to music and identify the song in the MarketPlace. Bing also works as a QR code and bar code reader, plus it can even identify book covers.
Other new features include the ability to tag Facebook photos right from the camera app. Groups let you send an IM, email, or text to an entire group at once. Plus the new Local Scout is kind of like the Where app, as it lets you find and browse thorough nearby shops, restaurant and activities. A unified inbox and threaded conversations are now apart of the OS too. Of course the staples of Windows Phone 7 has been carried over and that includes the best Outlook and Microsoft Office experience that you can find on a smartphone. Other core aspects like Xbox Live also make it a serious gaming device.
That said there is still room for improvement here. For starters we would love to see drop-down notification tray like you find on iOS and Android. We also wish that we could resize the Live Tiles, and that there were more color schemes for the themes. Finer control over brightness setting, and folders for apps would also be welcome improvements.
Windows Phone’s Zune Heritage is strong with all Windows Phones, but we were particularly impressed with the sound quality coming out of the Radar which is excellent. The device also has SRS surround sound and an equalizer. Even Slacker streaming over 3G sounds great.
Call quality on the HTC Radar is very good. Callers sounded loud and clear and they have said the same of me.
We can’t emphasize how much we love the HTC Radar 4G. Maybe it’s a chick thing, because the guys on our team actually prefer the Nokia Lumia 800, but we are totally smitten with the HTC Radar 4G. It’s just the right size, has got just the right curves, and all of that combined with its above average battery life, great display, and the improvements to Windows Phone via Mango, make it a highly functional yet fun smartphone. This phone is also a really good value for just $99 (after rebate) with a two-year contract. Alternatively, it can be purchased for as little as $499, unlocked. We consider the Radar to be more desirable than many competing smartphones that are priced $199 on contract. So if you haven’t given Windows Phone a consideration until now, between Mango and this latest selection of Windows phone handsets like the HTC Radar, HTC Titan, and Samsung Focus Flash and Samsung Focus S, it’s really time you gave it a chance.
The Good: Gorgeous Mac-like unibody design; mango brings tons of U.I. and performance improvements; fast web surfing speeds; seamless social media integration is better than ever; now with multi-tasking, above average battery life
The Bad: No MicroSD slot; mediocre camera