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Sprint's HTC Arrive - Review

Sprint customers who have been longing for a Windows Phone 7 unit are in for a treat. The latest Windows Phone, the HTC Arrive, is impressive.

We've shared a hands-on video of the new Windows Phone and now we'll take a little closer look at things.   We'll skip the formalities and jump right into it.

After the break that is.

First Impressions

When I first took the HTC Arrive out of the box, my first impression was that it reminded me a lot of the HTC Tilt2. It compares closely in size, weight and feel to the older Windows Mobile phone.  The Arrive felt really good in the hand, felt well constructed and just had a nice overall appearance.

The tale of the tape with the Arrive reads 4.63" x 2.32" x .61" and weighs 6.49 ounces. Compared to the Tilt2 which comes in at 4.54" x 2.33" x .65" and weighs 6.3 ounces.

These two phones are very comparable in size and feel.  The same can be said comparing the Arrive with the Touch Pro 2, as Dan's earlier photos indicate.  Oh, and for those transitioning from the Touch Pro 2 to the Arrive, with the size similarities your case can make the transition as well.

Design

The HTC Arrive's design has a sleek feel to it. The phone feels solid in the hand and from the brushed aluminum backing to the gun metal chrome accents, the phone looks good. There is a large set screw on the back of the phone that looks a little out of place but gives the design a touch of curiosity.

The key design feature of the Arrive is the slide-out keyboard and we'll touch on this more in a bit.

Other design features includes a camera button to the lower right and standard Windows Phone 7 three button face. To the top of the phone you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack and power button. One item of note with regards to the power button is that it sits so close to the slider hinge that you can confuse the two. As with most designs, with repetitive use you get used to things and after a days use I stopped pushing down on the hinge expecting the phone to wake up.

To the upper left side you will find the volume keys. The large volume button sits a little further back on the side of the Arrive. The sides of the Arrive curves slightly and this placement puts the volume button in a more natural position for ease of access.

To the lower left side of the phone sits the micro-USB slot. The USB port is exposed and I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I've grown partial to the sliding cover on the Samsung Focus's port. Having the port exposed may just be an issue to get used to.

The Arrive has one speaker, on the back near the camera. Rounding things up with the design is a 5mp autofocus camera and LED flash that sits on the backside of the Arrive.

Under the hood

The HTC Arrive is fitted with your standard Windows Phone 7 hardware including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1ghz Processor, 1500mah Battery and 16gb of memory. You also have the customary Bluetooth, Wifi, aGPS features that are customary to Windows Phones.

HTC did a better job of burying the memory card on the Arrive than they did with the HTC Surround to remove any temptation to swap it out. You'll have to do some digging to get to it, which will surely void your warranty.

Battery life was respectable with a full charge lasting through the day under heavy use (email pushed, web browsing, voice calls, etc.).

Keyboard and Screen

The main draw with the HTC Arrive is the slide-out keyboard and tilting screen. The keyboard is your standard five row style with a dedicated row for numbers. There is a function key to toggle between numbers and symbols and there is a smiley button. There are no short-cut keys as we've seen on Windows Mobile keyboards. The keyboard does have directional arrow keys, which comes in handy when editing text.

The keys are back-lit and overall, I'd give the keyboard a 10 out of 10 for feel and performance. As an alternative, you do have the Windows Phone 7 on-screen keyboard that you can use in situations where extending the keyboard isn't practical. The screen keyboard performed really well, just as it does on any other Windows Phone 7 device.

While I liked the keyboard itself, the slide mechanism is another story. One handed sliding is tough and the slider is best suited for two handed operation because of the stiff springs. The slider isn't as smooth as we saw with the LG Quantum or the Touch Pro 2 phones and has a rough feel to it.

The Arrive has a odd hinge system that has a protective bar that completes the chrome accents while the keyboard is retracted and rises to support the screen when the keyboard extends. This bar also conceals the battery cover divot.

When you fully extend the keyboard, the screen automatically tilts upward. The screen doesn't tilt as far as the Tilt 2's screen and you can't lay it flat with the keyboard fully extended. All in all, I would have preferred a sliding mechanism similar to the Tilt 2 than what is on the Arrive. The sliding mechanism on the Arrive felt solid but just lacked the smoothness I've seen on other HTC slider phones.

While I would have liked to have seen a slightly larger screen, the Arrives 3.6" 480x800 Super-LCD screen looks nice and is very responsive to the touch. Swipes, taps, touches, and holds registered nicely and without any delay. Appearance wise, the colors seemed a little subdued. Granted the AMOLED screen of the Samsung Focus has a bit more contrast and may have corrupted me. Regardless, the Arrives' screen can hold its own and is a very good screen with respect to appearance and touch performance.

Screen Rotation

The HTC Arrive's screen does automatically rotate when you extend the keyboard for key applications such as email, texting, calendar and web browsing. The Home Screen doesn't rotate nor does the Start Screen. I did notice some applications automatically rotate while others don't. For example, Stocks for WP7 does but Zune doesn't.

Magnetic Quirk

Remember the quirk with the HTC Touch Pro/Tilt 2's magnetic switch that woke the screen up when you extended the keyboard? Well the same quirk is present with the Arrive.

If you pass the top of the Arrive close enough to a magnet, say on a carrying case, the screen will wake up. It's not a deal breaker but rather magnets being magnets. We wanted to point this oddity out just in case you take your Arrive out of the case and wonder why the screen is already turned on. 

The good thing about this is with Windows Phone 7 when the screen wakes up the lock screen will prevent accidental app launches or phone dialing.

Software

Asides from your standard Windows Phone 7 software, the HTC Arrive is loaded with HTC's Hub and a Sprint Zone. The Sprint Zone includes Sprint News, Suggested Apps and tip/tricks. You also have a Stocks for WP7 by HTC and Telenav GPS mapping app installed. For the most part, Sprint kept the Arrive clean of apps leaving it up to the consumer to decide what extras should be installed.

As Dan pointed out in our hands-on video, the Sprint apps can be uninstalled. However, unlike the HTC Apps that are under one umbrella in the Marketplace, to re-install apps such as the Sprint Zone, Sprint Radio, etc. you'll have to search for the individual app in the Marketplace. They'll only show up on the Arrive and it's odd that Sprint didn't create a Sprint Zone in the Marketplace similar to the Samsung Zone or HTC App Zone.

The Arrive is loaded with the NoDo version of Windows Phone 7 which has the copy/paste feature and other performance enhancements. I can see a little more zip with the Marketplace, as well as overall performance with Windows Phone 7 on the Arrive.

Applications noticeably load and resume faster on the Arrive.  Here's a test launching and resuming Fruit Ninja on both the Samsung Focus and HTC Arrive. 

The Arrive, running the updated version of WP7, shaves a few seconds off the load and resume times.  How great a difference was dependent on the app.  For example the word game  Wordish loaded and resumed maybe a blink faster on the Arrive while the more graphically intense Zombies!!!'s difference was about three seconds.  It's not setting any land speed records but, however slight, you can see an improvement.

Camera

The HTC Arrive is loaded with your typical Windows Phone 7 camera software. It has the same annoying habit of returning to the default settings when you exit the camera application.

Image quality for still images nice but the video quality had a few quirks. Here are a few sample images taken with the Arrive.  These came straight from the phone with the only size being adjusted for publication purposes.

As with most smartphone cameras, the more light, the better the quality. I found the Arrive's camera to do really nicely outdoors but when things dimmed, quality became a little challenging. The Arrive's camera struggled to handle low light situations a little more than other Windows Phone cameras. You do have the LED light in these situations but the light tends to wash out pictures more than help.

For the most part, video quality was nice. In panning the camera, I did notice pixelization or moire appears from time to time. The distortions occurred randomly, mostly when I was panning the camera. It's noticeable around the 24 second mark of this sample video.

While image quality didn't knock our socks off, the camera software did have a little zip to it and we were impressed with the camera button design. I'm not sure if the software benefited from the NoDo update but it loaded quicker and the lag time between taking the picture and previewing it seemed to shorten as well.

The camera button sits a little lower on the side of the Arrive and a little towards the top of the phone. It rises up above the frame of the Arrive a little more than other Windows Phones, making it easy to identify by touch. The positioning of the camera button also prevents you from accidentally pushing down on the bottom of the phone which could muck up the photo.

Overall, the Arrive's camera is middle of the road. If image quality could improve slightly, it might stand out amongst the other Windows Phone cameras but the pixelation on videos and poor low light performance really holds this camera back. The camera isn't a deal breaker but instead, a feature with room for improvement.

Update: The above video was shot in VGA resolution.  We have a follow-up post here, shooting a test video in 720p resolution.

Phone performance

As capable as Windows Phones are, you sometimes lose sight that these devices are also phones. With respect to phone performance, the Arrive gets high marks.

Earpiece volume, microphone performance and speaker phone volume was all very respectable. Ringer volume was good and compared to other Windows Phones, the vibration setting was actually noticeable.

The speaker volume for music and videos wasn't very stereo like. Speaker performance improved by activating the SRS enhancements in the Sound Enhancement app but to really enjoy stereo sound, you'll need a set of earphones.

Phone functions, as with other Windows Phone 7 devices, are controlled from the screen. The keyboard has no functionality with respect to dialing, answering or other phone functions.

Overall Impression

The Arrive gets high marks all the way around from design to performance. Windows Phone 7 ran smoothly on the Arrive (the updated version adds a little spunk to the system); the touch screen looks good and is nicely responsive to the touch; and the keyboard performance ranks among the best we've seen. Call quality is nice and the speaker performance good with calls but needs a little chutzpah for music and videos (enter the Sound Enhancer App).

Another plus for the Arrive, and this may seem small compared to other positives, is the vibration feature is effective. Many Windows Phone users will find the need to set their phones to vibrate from time to time. Compared to the other Windows Phones (who's vibration setting can barely be felt), the Arrive's vibration will rattle your fillings loose. Maybe it has something to do with the size of the phone but it's nice to have a vibrating ringer that gets your attention.

While I have my reservations about the slide mechanism, it appears to be solidly built and durable. The slide action is stiff but manageable and likely a characteristic you won't notice after repeated use. The camera has a few short comings with regards to video quality but still image quality is nice.

Sprint customers will be very pleased with the HTC Arrive and find the new Windows Phone 7 device was worth the wait. If you are currently using the Sprint Touch Pro 2 and like the fit and feel, we think you'll be very pleased with the Arrive.  The Arrive will also appeal to those considering Windows Phone 7 for the first time.

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Reader comments

Sprint's HTC Arrive - Review

33 Comments

Look up my user name on PPCgeeks and XDA...You'll see that I am the same exact wait...been following info like a halk

I have a couple of questions...1)So when the phone is in speaker mode are all of the speakers in use? Or just the back and the bottom speaker? Or just the back speaker?2) Is there any major/minor changes from the Touch 7 Pro from Europe (hardware, not software)?3) So it rocks a SLCD, is the difference noticeable between its screen and the current Evo I have?That is all and just a comment that I have is that I am afraid I will not like it (reserved it the first day it was available)because of the screen difference. I have become so accustomed to the 4.3 incher and a 3.6 is greatly lacking. I was expecting at least a 4, how do you think I will fare out in this area? Will the SLCD make up for lack of screen?Thanks and great review!

(1) I'll be honest, I disagree with George here. I'm pretty sure those are NOT speakers on the front, though they look like it. There is one speaker, on the back.(2) Don't have a Europe version to compare too(3) Apples/Oranges; I have an EVO and being it's not the same OS, it's hard to compare. All I can say is the Arrive's screen is very nice.Re: how you will fare with the scree, you'll only know if you try.

I stand corrected. I could have sworn sound was coming out from the front but when covering the rear speaker, it basically mutes the sound. Definitely looks like a speaker screen though.

Where did you read that the arrive came with a SLCD ? According to HTC it does not. The only CDMA model that is "Claimed" to come with a SLCD is the HTC Trophy and that is due to the overseas verson having the SLCD.Unless something changed, I still don't think it has the SLCD display.

I cannot recall but I read it in a couple of places. I also did go to the HTC site and was curious why it was not stated on there and if it really had it. It sounds pretty sharp though!

Seriously, guys. This site is good and it's my go-to site for WP7 news, but please stop misspelling lose as loose. It's driving me insane, lol.

How is the 720p video recording?I recently tried to shoot some scenes for a commercial using a Focus and an EVO. All of the Focus video was outstanding (minus my own shaking.) None of the EVO footage was usable, constant tearing, streaks, pixelation, and the dreaded pink hue of course. And the frame-rate jumped from 8fps to 22.7 but never staying stable let alone hitting 24fps. I am worried that my recently ordered arrive is going to have a terrible camera when shooting HD video... any examples or thoughts?

Thanks! I look forward to it. I ordered mine from wirefly, but now I am starting to have second thoughts about getting it directly from sprint...well because I am impatient.

To the tester (I'm not in Sprint and never will be but, I am wondering) of this phone.The Touch Pro 2 was one of the best phones made by HTC in the Keyboard and speaker phone area, never mind some other things.Is the Arrive/Pro 7, as good or better in at least these 2 areas ?Maybe Verizon will at some point release the Touch Pro 7...heh

I actually found the keyboard to be slightly better than the Touch Pro 2/Tilt 2. The speaker phone... on par with the other HTC models.

I picked mine up yesterday, and so far have been very pleased with it (coming from Android). The review is pretty spot on with my impressions of the device, and my only complaint is the phones weight, but it's not that bad.I would have preferred the first WP7 on sprint to be the Focus, but this is a great phone also.

I won't speak for George, though we both have both phones (Focus and Arrive).Personally, I'd go with the Arrive. Yes, it's heavier/thicker than the Focus, but I really like the KB. And that's what it comes down to, do you want/prefer a hard KB or not?That's not to say I don't like the Focus, in fact I'll switch between the two, but for now, I grab the Arrive.All else being equal, I also like Sprint much better than AT&T.

AT&T provides the best coverage in my neck of the woods so switching carriers is not an option.I've grown rather fond of the Samsung Focus and it would be a hard choice for me if an AT&T version of the Arrive hit the market. The keyboard on the Arrive is really nice and the size/weight really isn't an issue. But if push came to shove, I'd opt for the larger screen of the Focus. The Arrive is a great phone and I agree with Dan that it comes down to whether or not you need a physical keyboard or not. Either way, Focus or Arrive, I don't think you can go wrong between the two.

George,Thanks for the review. I don't understand why people mention that the home screen doesn't rotate with the keyboard open. I'm a former TP2 user (couldn't wait long enought for the Arrive to, err, arrive), and now on an EVO. My EVO doesn't rotate the home screen, nor the phone keypad screen, for example. (neither does an iPhone, right?) Of course, they don't have keyboards, but I don't see that as being necessary or really useful for the Arrive. You would only use the keyboard when entering text into a field, which you wouldn't do on the home screen anyway. Maybe it's just me.As for the Arrive keyboard and tilt, I agree that HTC should have just used the TP2 keyboard design and amped up the screen and guts with that of the Arrive. Ideally I'd prefer this in a 4" screen now that I'm used to and enjoying an EVO. My TP2 seems small now, but still heavy.The strong vibrate is great for the Arrive, which I think appeals to business users like me. I almost always have my phone on vibrate out of courtesy for others at meetings or on a plane.I surely want to try an Arrive, but it came up too late now that my initial period with EVO is long past. For Sprint, I'd surely take an Arrive over an EVO Shift. But I'm not sure whether I'd take an Arrive over an EVO, if I had the choice. I love those options, though. Even better would be an EVO, the Arrive and the Pre 3.My two cents.

I am glad I waited a bit for this. I had the Focus but reception in NYC and tri-state is not so good for me as I use it for work being on call. I am picking mine up this weekend if Sprint actually gets them in stock, seems like no one at some of the sprint shops know what the Arrive is.Also I hear March 22nd, Sprint announcing some androids like Nexus S 4G, EVO 3D and HTC View 4G tablet. Maybe we will hear about some upcoming WP7 CDMA devices as well and 2ng gen hardware? I really wanted tethering/hotspot and 4G option would have been nice. I am sure I wll find a tethering hack soon.

Great review. I'm a Sprint Pre user and I love webOS, but I'm also a Zune HD user and am considering jumping to WP7 for my next phone. Not sure I want a hardware keyboard, but hey, I'm sure there will be more choices by the time my contract's up!Mostly I just wanted to say that I think it's very classy that George Ponder and Daniel Rubino both are watching the comments and engaging with the readers, answering questions and the like. Too many sites put up articles and then never seem to respond to questions in the comments section, and I think that's a shame. I'm glad to see you guys do it differently here at wpcentral.

I appreciate the thorough review. I'm considering moving from my laggy HTC Hero to the Arrive.Quick question: how does the Arrive do with voice dialing? My Android OS phone is just awful -- never accurate and poorly designed. Reflections on your experience with this feature on the Arrive would be much appreciated.

I really like the phone. Having come from Sprint HTC TP2, I LOVE the speed improvements. There isn't a size difference. However, for me - a computer consultant with non-Exchange Outlook, there isn't a way to "Synch" via a cable or bluetooth to Outlook! There is a work around that others are saying is limited to 1000 contacts, you are keeping notes out on the web, the email retrieval process takes your data bandwidth (I have unlimited data - whew), and even with the work around, NO Outlook Notes come over. I'm using the work around and it's not too bad...guess i don't know 1000 people - lol. Coming from the TP2 with 6.5 Win Mob, Sprint TV is better and more capabilities. The battery life is much better too.I'm pleasantly surprised with the internet speed even though it's a 3G device. It's not 4G speeds, but it's not too bad either.The keyboard is a nice improvement too. The keyboard is 5 rows like the TP2 (the Evo Shift is 4 rows), and the keys feel better and give better typing action - fewer typos from your finger sliding off the key to the next one.Yesterday, I was seriously thinking of getting the Evo 3D. Today, I'm going to give my Arrive a little more time And see how Mango performs.

Love your reviews George Ponder. You always share the kind of information cell phone buyers like myself need to know without trying to overshadow obvious flaws. Of course this phone doesn't have many but I find your reviews to be technically honest. Keep up the good work. We're counting on you.