Phone Review: HTC Radar from T-Mobile

I was recently given the opportunity to test out an HTC Radar, and have been using the phone full-time for the past two weeks. I swapped out the SIM card on my regular phone and popped it in the Radar to fully immerse myself in the Windows phone experience. My first experience with a Windows phone was in 2006 with the Samsung BlackJack (another phone we got to review), which ran Windows Mobile 5.0. It was alright, but it didn't blow me out of the water. My experiences with that phone stuck in my memory, but I was a bit more excited to check out the Radar after hearing the repeated praises of Windows Phone 7 from my husband, who was an early adopter of the HTC HD7, which is also on the T-Mobile network. Having used the phone for awhile now, I can say that he was right - Windows Phone 7 is a great mobile phone operating system, and I have to admit that I've experienced no bugs to date, and I can't say the same for my Android phones recently, which have had some minor hiccups.

Before I delve into just how awesome the HTC Radar is, let me give you a brief overview of my mobile phone history. I purchased the Apple iPhone on its release date in June 2007. I fell in love instantly, but a number of software errors and mishaps later, I decided to abandon ship. I had the phone swapped out a record 3 times during it's 1 year warranty period, but the final straw was after having shelled out $200 to get a new iPhone after the screen was shattered, I dropped it and cracked the screen again. At this time, Google was just launching their very first Android powered phone, the G1 by HTC on T-Mobile's network. I eagerly jumped to Android, and have stuck with the OS for years now, having gone through at least two new Android powered phones each year since then.

Having been an Android user since 2008, I was semi-reluctant to give up the familiar OS for something that I wasn't quite sure about. But, eventually I cut the cord, and put my SIM card in the new new HTC Radar. The transition was exceptionally smooth. The only rough patch I experienced was in importing my Google contacts to Live, which would thus import them to the Radar. This, however, was entirely my own fault. 1,200 contacts were added because I never bothered to sort through my contacts on Google and had always relied on the "Favorites" feature of Android, so I never looked at the full contact list on my Android phones. So I was forced to sort through the contacts because no way did I need 1,200 contacts on my new phone.

Other than the contact snafu, transitioning to the Windows phone was surprisingly easy. I found that I did not miss Android like I thought I would. It is difficult to describe, but using the Radar with its Windows Phone 7 OS is intuitive and natural. It just makes sense. There is no wondering, "What's this?" or "How do I do this?" It just works. Everything is included that you need, and nothing is included that you don't. Everything is where you'd think it is. I can't say the same for Android phones, which vary from model to model, manufacturer to manufacturer, and carrier to carrier, and have an assortment of bloatware and suggested apps pre-installed. Windows has everything you need, and nothing you don't, but if you want to go beyond the basics, a quick visit to Windows Marketplace will help you find whatever it is that you're looking for.

Functionality aside, the HTC Radar along with the Windows Phone 7 OS is an exceptionally nice looking device. The phone's outer casing features an aluminum body, which is a feature I love. HTC seems to have been including this in many of their phones lately, and it's one I suggest that they keep. The casing is also accented with white plastic framing the screen and extending over the back edges on the top and bottom. It looks so pretty that it would be a shame to put a gaudy plastic or rubber case over it, and honestly, the phone is so sturdy that I don't think it'd even be necessary.

The operating system is also quite pleasing to the eye, and dare I say it, more graphically pleasing than both the iPhone and Android interfaces, which have grown stale (I personally think they could both use a revamp after having the same look for the past few years). It is obvious that great care and consideration was taken into account when Microsoft was working on the OS. Everything from the gorgeous fonts to the colors, shapes, and overall design just puts Windows Phone 7 and the HTC Radar miles ahead of Android and iPhone in terms of aesthetics.

Prior to using the Radar, I was testing out the HTC Amaze (an Android phone available through T-Mobile). I loved it, and it's massive 4.3-inch screen. I thought going down to a 3.8-inch screen with the Radar was really going to bother me, but it didn't. I think the reason I didn't have such big screen withdrawal was because I wasn't going down in class with the phone to a "cheaper" device, and I pretty much fell in love with the Windows operating system. If the phone did have a larger screen, I think I'd be even more blown away by it. But 3.8-inches is more than sufficient, and actually turns out to give you more usable screen space than on the iPhone or Android phones because most of the phones apps and functions do a full-bleed, even to the top where normally various network notifications, such as signal strength, voicemail notifications, and such take up the top of the screen. In Windows Phone 7, this is not the case and those network notifications disappear once you've unlocked your screen and start using it.

I find it slightly annoying that I have to turn off the screen, turn it back on, and unlock the phone in order to see the signal strength or if I am picking up 2G, 3G or 4G data. As I live out in the country, but travel to the suburbs and big city, I am picking up the full range of data speeds, depending where I am. I also come across dead zones where I can't pick up anything. I like to know if when my internet is loading slowly, if its due to a phone problem or if I'm just on a slow or non-existant data connection. Most of the time though, it's a nice perk that you can actually use the entire surface of the screen.

The text message interface is reminiscent of the iPhone. Instead of rounded bubble quotes, however, Windows features boxy, square-cornered quotes. The camera function of the phone is also up to standard. Taking pictures with it, I did have some that were blurry, but usually that was because I moved or because I didn't bother to attempt to adjust the focus before snapping away. Nevertheless, the shutter speed is pretty quick and the phone turns out some great shots.

It is hard to put into words or to describe, but the Windows Phone 7 operating system is just so well put together. The phone's "home" page features a series of squares known as "live tiles" which are completely customizable. Think of them as the desktop icons on your computer. These are the things that you use all the time. So for example on my live tiles I have the phone, messaging, camera, Facebook, Netflix, notifications, and a few other things that I use frequently. There are plenty of other apps and functions that I have installed on the phone, but I don't use those as frequently and can access them by going to the full list. That to me makes sense.

I was told that the "Me" tile is one that I would use frequently, and that is true. Here I can go to just one page and see all the information I need to know, including activity on Twitter and Facebook in response to my activity on those sites. I can update my Facebook status from my "Me" tile, without having to actually pull up the Facebook app or go to their site. Everything you need is here, and it's well integrated.

Windows computers have become well-known for the occasional "blue screen of death", and I've encountered a similar situation with several Android phones failing to boot and instead taking me to a boot menu (not frequently, but on occasion). When I had the iPhone, I also ran into the "black screen of death" and the frozen white Apple icon on screen. So far, with the HTC Radar I've not experienced any freezing, failures, any color screen of death, or any boot up issues. It plain and simple just works, and it works well.

Right now, the HTC Radar is the only Windows Phone in T-Mobile's line-up. The HTC HD7, which was available earlier in the year, has been retired. The next Windows phone that will be available with T-Mobile is the Nokia Lumia 710, the first Windows-based Nokia phone to be available in the U.S. The Lumia will launch on January 11, 2012. While I am excited that another Windows phone will be available with T-Mobile, if you are trying to decide whether to get the Radar now or wait on the Nokia, consider this: I would consider the HTC Radar to be "high-end" mobile phone, the Nokia will be more of a mid-tier device aimed at first-time smartphone users. Knowing that should help you make your decision.

My time with the HTC Radar will unfortunately becoming to an end. I will next be reviewing the HTC Sensation (so keep your eyes peeled), and I am somewhat sad that I will be giving up the Windows OS to go back to Android. I'm sure I'll like it, but, I'll miss Windows, and that's something that I thought I'd never say! I'm actually hoping that T-Mobile picks up a few more of the Windows powered Nokia devices that are slated to start hitting the U.S. in 2012, as well as those made by other mobile phone manufacturers, such as HTC. I am anxious to make a permanent switch to Windows.

You can pick up an HTC Radar now from T-Mobile for just $99.99 with a new two-year contract. It'd also make a great Christmas gift, either for yourself or your loved ones, and would make for a stocking stuffer that won't soon be forgotten. If you're reluctant to take the Windows plunge, I hope that my review will have helped to ease some of your fears and push you to take the leap of faith and adopt the HTC Radar and the Windows Phone 7 platform.