Editors' note: This review focuses on the HTC Arrive's design, performance, and differentiating features. For more on its operating system and core functions, please read our full review of Windows Phone 7.
First known as the HTC 7 Pro at its New York unveiling, the HTC Arrive is Sprint's inaugural foray into the brave new world of Windows Phone 7. And the Arrive also represents two other minor "firsts": it's the first CDMA Windows Phone 7 phone in the United States, and it's the first Windows Phone 7 model to ship with Microsoft's cut-and-paste update.
As a result there's a lot riding on the Arrive's rounded shoulders, and for the most part it succeeds in carrying that weight. Like the HTC Surround, the Arrive is a thick chunk of handset, but that extra bulk makes possible a responsive keyboard and a screen that tilts for optimal typing and media consumption. While the data speeds are fine, we were a little disappointed that 4G WiMax isn't an option.
While there's a lot to like, the Arrive also has its drawbacks, some having to do with the handset's construction and some stemming from the Windows Phone 7 OS. For the most part, though, it acquits itself well as a Sprint newcomer.
The HTC Arrive looks good, and looks strong. Rimmed with shiny, dark-gray paint, the handset has a glossy appearance and feel. It has barely rounded corners, like the iPhone 4, and two cutouts that reveal the front-facing speakers. On the back, a swath of brushed stainless steel and a decorative screw reveal that this is not a phone to be trifled with. And if there were any doubt, the phone's dimensions (4.6 inches tall, 2.3 inches wide, 0.6 inch thick) and weight (a whopping 6.4 ounces, nearly half a pound)--attest that the Arrive is one brick of a phone. Its bulk makes it a bit less comfortable to slip into a pocket, but you won't have to worry much if you drop it. We noticed, however, that the gray paint that rings the face easily flaked off in our bags and under our nail.
At 3.6 inches, the WVGA capacitive touch screen is slightly smaller than that of the HTC Surround, but has the same 800x480-pixel resolution. While it's a fine screen that shows off bright colors and sharp edges, it doesn't have the richness or pop of the Super AMOLED display on the Samsung Focus.
Below the screen are three touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Home, and Bing search. A camera trigger button is on the right spine, and the Micro-USB charger and a large volume rocker are on the left. Up top there's a standard 3.5-millimeter headset jack and the power button. The Arrive's back houses a 5-megapixel camera and a flash. As with all Windows 7 phones, there's no card slot for expanding the phone's memory, but the 16GB built-in storage should be enough for most casual users' needs.
More than anything else, what makes the HTC Arrive stand out is its tilting screen. HTC is no stranger to this design; it brought us the AT&T Tilt and HTC Tilt 2, much ballyhooed back in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Those two handsets ran Microsoft's earlier Windows mobile operating systems.
As with its predecessors, the Arrive's screen slides out to expose a full QWERTY keyboard before tilting up 30 degrees (previous models tilted up 40 degrees.) You simply push the front face flat and slide it back over the keyboard when you're done. It takes a fair amount of pressure to open, and our thumb kept slipping on the phone's square design on our first few tries. The Arrive's tilting mechanism appears to be fairly sturdy, and makes a metallic click when you lay the face flat.
The tilted display is best when you're typing with the phone in your hand or setting it down to watch a video play; be aware, however, that the handset will rock back slightly if you put it down and then tap on the screen in the open position.
Below the display, the Arrive's keyboard manages to be spacious without being overly wide. Keys are fully separated, but barely rise above the surface. The backlit buttons are smooth and very responsive, although a skosh less comfortable than buttons with a more rubbery feel. There are dedicated buttons for emoticons and diacritical marks, and for adding currency symbols for euros and pound sterling.
We've examined Windows Phone 7 in depth elsewhere, but there are several features worth noting here. First, the Arrive comes with Microsoft's copy/paste feature installed, the first Windows Phone 7 device to ship with it. Touching a word on a Web page or in a document presents tags that you can easily drag to select an area. Highlighting a word also causes a "copy" icon to pop up. Tapping it then saves the selected text to the clipboard for later pasting. Finally, a "paste" icon appears when you tap an input field, like a Word document or a search field.
Copy/paste works intuitively and smoothly, and we love the visual panache. You can paste the same text multiple times. However, the functionality isn't strictly systemwide, although it does appear in the obvious locations, like the browser, e-mail, documents, maps, contact cards, and search results. For instance, copy/paste doesn't appear as an option in some of the settings menus, so you can't use it when configuring your e-mail--something we could do with both Android and iOS.