Microsoft on Monday introduced a portfolio of smartphones based on the new Windows Phone 7 operating system to take on the iPhone 4 and the Android army. Of the ten new Windows Phone 7 devices, six will be headed to the U.S. market: AT&T will have the HTC 7 Surround, the LG Quantum, and the Samsung Focus; Sprint will have the HTC 7 Pro; and T-Mobile will get the HTC HD7 and the Dell Venue Pro (aka Lightning).
The phones will arrive in the United States on November 8 (except for the HTC 7 Pro, which will arrive in 2011) for around $200 a pop (with a two-year contract, of course). Now that we know the specifications for these smartphones, we can pit them against category titans Apple iPhone 4 and Motorola Droid X in our traditional smackdown. (Click the chart at right to view a full breakdown of the specs.)
The six new Windows Phone 7 devices due out next month all run on a 1GHz processor, as do most smartphones on the market today. The LG Quantum and the Samsung Focus have 256MB of RAM, the Dell Venue Pro has 512MB, and each of the three HTC devices offers 576MB.
The HTC 7 Pro, the HTC HD7, and the LG Quantum carry 16GB of on-board storage for your music and videos. The HTC 7 Surround, the Samsung Focus, and the lower-end version of the HTC HD7 come with 8GB of storage.
If you're looking for a large-screen Windows Phone 7 device, you have a wide range of choices. Screen sizes start at the 3.5 inches diagonally (the same size as the iPhone) for the LG Quantum, and move up to a whopping 4.3 inches diagonally (the same size as the Droid X) for the HTC HD7. Display resolution is 480 by 800 pixels on all of the Windows Phone 7 devices, putting them on a par with the Droid X and the T-Mobile G2. The iPhone 4, with its 3.5-inch display still boasts the highest pixel density and the largest resolution in this comparison.
If you want a hardware keyboard, you have three choices: the Samsung Focus and the HTC 7 Pro have lateral slide-out keyboards, while the Dell Venue Pro has a vertical QWERTY slide-out keyboard. If you don't need a keyboard, you can always go for the HTC 7 Surround, the Samsung Focus, or the HTC HD7.
All six Windows Phone 7 devices come with a 5-megapixel camera, with a flash. All of the cameras can record video, too, and on the HTC devices you get HD (720p) video capture, as on the iPhone and Android phones. The only U.S.-bound Windows Phone 7 device with a front-facing camera for handling video calls is the Samsung Focus.
Other features shared by all six Windows Phone 7 smartphones are Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth; none of them has an HDMI slot, however, as the Droid X does. On the other hand, perks such as a slide-out surround-sound speaker on the HTC 7 Surround, and Dolby Digital sound on all three HTC phones, should compensate for this omission.
Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 OS has some difficulties to overcome. The OS lacks such functionality as copy/paste and multitasking--features that rivals like Apple took their time to implement but now do have on the market. Like iOS, the Windows Phone 7 devices lack Adobe Flash support; and in contrast to most Android smartphones on Verizon, they can't act as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Applications will be another challenge for Microsoft, as developers have yet to rush to create apps for the platform (despite cash incentives). In comparison, Apple has over 270,000 apps, and Android over 100,000, so Microsoft has some catching up to do in this department.
The as-yet untested Windows Phone 7 devices could have a bright future. My colleague Ginny Mies spent some hands-on time with the new OS, and despite her doubts, she was impressed with it. The OS on an HTC HD7 was fast, Mies reported, and she liked what she saw in the first encounter.