Holiday Gift Guide »

REVIEW: Sprint HTC Arrive – How does this CDMA Windows Phone measure up?

By: , IntoMobile
Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 at 4:59 PM

To avoid any obvious puns, the HTC Arrive is here! The world’s very first Windows Phone comes to use from Sprint, and sports some great features packed inside, even if it’s not up to snuff with some of the carrier’s upcoming handsets. Does the Arrive deliver the goods enough to give the CDMA world a taste of Windows Phone? Read on to find out!

HTC Arrive

Now available for $199 on a two-year contract from Sprint or as cheap as $49.99 on Amazon

Specifications (Spec-sheet)

  • Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone review1GHz processor
  • 3.6-inch WVGA display (800 x 480)
  • 5 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • 720p HD video recording
  • 16 GB internal storage
  • Windows Phone 7 OS with NoDo update pre-installed

 

The Good

  • NoDo update pre-installed – (Copy & Paste is here!)
  • The first CDMA Windows Phone available
  • Windows Phone 7 is a sexy and simple OS
  • Keyboard is nice to use
  • Dedicated number row on keyboard

 

The Bad

  • The pivoting display is implemented well, but takes some getting used to and the durability of the hinge is questionable
  • No WiMax support
  • Keyboard needs to be opened to access the battery
  • Upcoming devices for Sprint may be more worth the money
  • Windows Phone 7 needs better landscape orientation and landscape support for more apps

 

Hardware

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewThe Arrive is an interesting device that looks and feels like a premium product. The first thing you’ll notice when picking the device up is that it’s heavy, and it’s not just your mind playing tricks on you. The Arrive is 6.4 ounces, which is close to the T-Mobile G2′s weight, yet the latter sports a slightly larger display. The Arrive is also slightly thicker than the G2.

The front of the Arrive shows the standard 3 Windows Phone buttons on the bottom, back, home, and search. The room between the soft keys and the display make us wish the screen was just a bit bigger, as there’s certainly space for it. Above the display you’ll see the HTC and Sprint logos, and on both the top and the bottom of the front side are speaker grills that run all the way along the width of the device.

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewThe right side of the Arrive is rather clean, housing only a dedicated camera shutter button. On the top of the handset you’ll find the power/lock button (which got stuck many times with our review unit) and the 3.5 mm headphone jack, right where we want them. On the left side of the Arrive you’ll find the charging port, as well as the cheap-looking, almost too big, volume rocker. Some may like the size of it, but it’s not a favorite of mine.

The back of the device houses the 5 megapixel shooter, HTC logo, and the Windows Phone logo. The back plate looks nice with brushed metal accents, with a screw at the towards the bottom, which is purely aesthetic.

Overall, the Arrive’s hardware is pretty top-notch, but we’ve seen better from HTC before.

Keyboard

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewOne of my favorite things about physical keyboards is having a dedicated number row, and you’ll find just that with the Arrive. There’s efficient space between keys, and the keys give a nice click when pressed, but do seem a bit sensitive. This isn’t much of an issue, as you’ll likely get used to it quickly. The backlit keyboard lack the symmetry we’ve seen on some HTC keyboard, and you’ll only find one function key on the bottom left, with a directional keypad on the right. Overall, the keyboard on the Arrive is solid, and after getting used to its sensitivity, you’ll be banging out emails and texts with no problem.

As with most physical keyboard sliders, you push the display all the way up, but the Arrive’s display will pivot at an angle and lock into place when pushed up. Opinions will vary with this implementation, and I can’t say that I’m a fan of it. My main annoyance is that you can’t just close the keyboard. You have to push the display down until you hear the spring click, and then slide the keyboard back down. While the implementation seems solid, I question the durability of the pivot hinge over a long time of use.

Opening the keyboard is the only way you can gain access to opening the battery cover. When closed, a thin piece of metal covers the tab to lift the battery cover off, and will tilt slightly when the keyboard is opened, giving you access to it. In my short time with the handset, lifting the back plate snags on this piece of metal, resulting in small nicks and scratches (though it could have been our review unit). We can see why HTC chose to hide this piece when closed – so for whatever reason the back plate doesn’t fall off, but it hardly looks like the best solution.

Hardware tour:

Software

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewWindows Phone 7 powers the Arrive, and is the first device to ship with the NoDo update, which brings copy and paste to the table, as well as allowing third-party applications to save their states (think iOS’ fast app switching).

If you want all the nitty-gritty on the Windows Phone 7 operating system, check out Will’s extensive review here, as I will only be touching on some of the new features that come with the NoDo update.

A much wanted feature users wanted out of Windows Phone 7 out of the gate was copy and paste, and the Arrive is the first handset of its kind to ship with this functionality out of the box. When Apple released copy and paste for iOS, competitors followed suit and implemented the feature in a similar manner. Windows Phone 7′s iteration is no different. To copy and paste, all one needs to do is tap on a word, and said word will be highlighted. Surrounded the highlighted word are tabs that you can drag to highlight more text, and a floating “copy” icon will appear. Pasting is just as simple. After you copy text, just find a text area and the option to paste will appear where auto-correct suggestions would appear in the keyboard. Simple enough, right?

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewNoDo also brings “tombstoning” to the table, which allows applications to save their states and resume right where the user left off when returning the application. Some may not call this the best solution, but allowing an application to keep running in the background can make battery drain an issue. Something Android users know a thing or two about.

Copy/paste and application save states may be the biggest features within the NoDo update, but Microsoft didn’t stop there. There are enhancements throughout the OS, like WiFi, Marketplace, Outlook, audio, camera, and performance improvements everywhere, and just a bit of buff and polish to make the OS a bit more tight.

On the surface, Windows Phone 7 can seem a bit dumbed down, especially if you’re coming from an Android device. However, using applications is nice with infinite looping that will bring you back to the first screen if you swipe past the last. The software still has miles to go to really compete with the likes of the iPhone and the Android Army, but it’s the small touches found throughout Windows Phone 7 that make it enjoyable to use.

Web Browsing, Multimedia, Camera

Web Browser

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewThe Arrive’s web browser is your standard affair, that’s both easy to navigate, and a relatively smooth experience to use. Microsoft keeps it clean by providing just the essentials on the screen, and tucking more, less used features away.

On top, you’ll find the address bar, with the stop and reload options to the side. The bottom of the screen displays the option to add a bookmark, view your bookmarks, and see what pages you have opened. To the right of these options are three dots, and when tapped, and menu will slide up from the bottom, revealing forwarding, sharing, find on page, pin to start, and settings options. Simple. Then again, almost too simple.

Putting the G2 and the Arrive in a browser speed test showed that Microsoft needs to work on some speed enhancements for Internet Explorer for Windows Phone 7. This isn’t to say that the browsing experience is bad in any sense; it’s actually quite good, and there’s very little to complain about.

Multimedia

To get music on your Arrive, you can easily purchase music right from the marketplace without much hassle. But, to get your music library from your computer onto your device, you’re required to use the Zune desktop program. Android users are accustomed to choosing whether or not they would like a syncing solution, or manage their media manually by drag-and-dropping into the mass storage. iPhone users should be used to using required software, but even iTunes seems to be a bit more flexible.

Using the Zune software isn’t hard, and it has a nice UI, but at some points it just seems a bit useless. If you’ve never touched the Zune program before, you’ll feel right at home since it looks very similar to the UI on Windows Phone devices. You can sync music, videos, podcasts, and pictures – basically everything you’d think it would do. One thing that I do like about using Zune is that when your phone is plugged in, a phone icon will appear on the bottom left of the Zune window, allowing you to drag whatever content you want to it, and have it immediately sync. It’s a nice touch, I’d say, even if it’s painfully simple.

The actual music and video players on the Arrive aren’t anything special, in that they are both clean, simple, and to the point. The music player will find a picture of the artist, and use it as the background when playing, and use the album cover for specific songs that you can swipe to change the track, along with the dedicated controls on the bottom. Video playback is a bit more simple, as there’s just a list of videos you tap on to play. Simple.

Camera

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewWe can’t help but say that the camera on the Arrive is one of the sore spots on the handset. HTC is known for providing great hardware for their devices, with at very least a decent camera. That said, the camera on the Arrive is a step below decent. Pictures can look nice on the phone’s display, but zooming in shows very soft and slightly blurred edges, rather than sharp detail.

Video isn’t much better. When taking a sample video from the device, playing it back made me think I messed up, and didn’t record in HD at all. The second attempt didn’t prove to be any better. Videos are virtually void of fine detail, and playing them back onto a computer is a sad sight to see. Hopefully future updates can address these issues, and we’re hoping that HTC didn’t just opt for a lower quality camera sensor.

Video recording samples:

Image samples:

Full daylight, outdoors, auto settings

Full daylight, outdoors, no flash, auto settings

low-light, indoors, no flash, auto settings

low-light, indoors, no flash, auto settings

 

 

Call Quality and Battery Life

Riding on Sprint’s network, the Arrive performs very well in terms of call quality. No dropped calls, voice distortion, or white noise in the background on either side, and the person on the other end was hear loud and clear. The experience may not be the best we’ve heard, but there’s no qualms to speak of when using the Arrive as a phone.

Since this handset doesn’t support WiMax, and is just your regular 3G device, the battery lasts a rather long time. Easily getting a full day out of the battery with moderate use, the Arrive will likely outlast a good chunk of Android phones out there. But, since this is a smartphone we’re dealing with here, playing music while surfing the web, with the screen brightness all the way up will result in faster battery drain, so power users may need to keep their eye on the battery meter. Nonetheless, the Arrive will serve up at least a days worth of juice, if not a bit more if you’re a casual to moderate user.

Is the Arrive the Windows Phone for you?

Sprint HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 smartphone reviewAs a primary Android user, I really wanted to give Windows Phone a chance, and I came away enjoying the experience for the most part.

Most issues with the OS itself will be ironed out in time, so in that respect, I have few complaints – any outstanding issues I have will be addressed in due time. Windows Phone 7 is definitely an attractive OS that will grow into a stunning OS with many features that Android and iPhone users have been loving for a long time now. Copy/Paste and state-saving apps may not seem like that much of a big deal, but it didn’t take half as long for WP7 to receive these features as it did for competing OS’s.

What’s disappointing about the Arrive is on HTC’s side of things. With the questionable hinge on the device (although when closed, the Arrive feels very durable), and a poor quality camera, it makes us think that HTC, along with many other manufacturers just haven’t invested too much time and effort into their Windows Phone 7 hardware. It seems like HTC are taking a wait-and-see approach to see if WP7 gets enough traction to really throw their weight behind it. Until Nokia debuts with WP7 devices, at least. Either way, we applaud HTC for giving us the first CDMA Windows Phone.

It’s hard for me to say I’d recommend this phone, but then again, it may be your only option. If you’d like a Windows Phone on a CDMA network with a keyboard, well, the Arrive is all you have to choose from. The Arrive is in no way a bad phone, despite the issues I’ve run into with it. We’d just suggest waiting until we see what kind of new hardware is coming this summer before you make this jump. Still, the Arrive could be the perfect device for you, so we suggest getting the thing in your hands before making any final opinions on it.

About The Author

Blake Stimac

Blake was born in Beaumont, Texas, about 100 miles away from Houston. A tinkering geek by nature, he first became interested in MP3 players, which gave way to his nerd-love for mobile technology today. When he's not playing with the latest gadget, you'll most likely find him watching a ton of horror movies or playing video games.