Microsoft has this knack of releasing products before their ready, so it’s OK to be skeptical of the latest batch of Windows phones. Sure, they include Xbox Live connections, but that promise comes from the company that launched Xbox Live a bit prematurely in the first place on the original Xbox, right? Or that five years ago at E3 promised mobile connectivity to the XBL community? Funny thing: Microsoft must have learned its lesson, because if the HTC Trophy Windows Phone is any indication of all the other Windows phones out there, Android had better watch out.
I’ve been an Android fan for the past several years, and although I don’t technically have anything against Apple or the iPhone, I also don’t get the rabid fascination with iOS or anything else Steve Jobs touches. Still, I would’ve taken either of those mobile platforms over Windows any day — before I tried the HTC Trophy on for size.
The HTC Trophy feels good. It looks good. It operates with buttery smoothness and interfaces with everything Office as if it’s a PC in your pocket. Heck, even the interface, with its squarely iconic indicators of mail, messages and appointments is intuitive and clean. On those merits alone, I can honestly tell you my next personal phone may very well be an HTC Windows Phone. This Trophy is just that slick.
The Xbox Live connections and gaming experiences are just gravy. Thick, rich, sausage-filled gravy, but gravy nonetheless. But much like Microsoft has finally found its stride with Xbox Live on the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s gaming connections with the HTC Trophy are high-quality and addictive as hell.
When I reviewed the T-Mobile G2x Android Gaming phone, I noted its incredible horsepower and ability to handle just about any gaming experience thrown at it. I still stand by that claim. The G2x is an absolute beast of a piece of hardware, and I’m still surprised it handled a first-person shooter and racing game that were graphically on par with titles from the previous console generation. But as I started playing more with the HTC Trophy, it dawned on me that I’m never going to replace my console with a smartphone. The G2x controls worked fine. The audio and graphics were great. But I just can’t see myself using that device as my long-term gaming solution. The HTC Trophy won’t fit that bill either, but I’ll tell you what: I’m more likely to play games on the Trophy because the experience seems more “natural” to me.
The HTC Trophy completely embraces the concepts of mobile games and mobile gaming. It doesn’t try to upsell you on the idea of the phone being anything more than it really is, although it is one heck of a phone. The Trophy takes the best interfaces and graphical fidelity of the highest-rated XBLA games and puts them in the palm of your hand. The graphics are solid, even the free games are entertaining, and you can adjust your Xbox Live Avatar directly on the phone and have it reflected online within minutes. Oh, and the HTC Trophy (like all Windows Phones) supports this little thing called Achievements. You may have heard of them. And yes, every Achievement earned on your Windows phone counts toward your total Xbox 360 Achievements.
Games like Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, Bejeweled and even Sudoku are really quite fun when played on the HTC Trophy, and much like playing an Xbox 360 game, I found myself playing them a bit longer than I may have otherwise just for the sake of unlocking a new Achievement or two. The G2x Android phone has horsepower in spades, but it just can’t compete on a gameplay addiction level with the HTC Trophy Windows phone.
If I’ve been talking a lot about Xbox Live, it’s because I should be. The Trophy is a fantastic phone, and any Verizon customer lucky enough to have one knows what I’m talking about. Its integration with Outlook and Exchange, even on the corporate level, is second to none, and reading Excel and other Office documents on the Trophy is a breeze. But this site has “game” in its name, so focusing on the handset’s gaming qualities is to be expected. You’re not likely to play a Call of Duty game on the Trophy, and you’re probably not going to drop into Forza Motorsport on it anytime soon. That’s not to say the hardware couldn’t support a mobilized version of those franchises, but it’s focused on the bread and butter of mobile gaming: simple, fun titles rather than hardcore ones.
That focus, combined with an outstanding overall quality and tight integration with Xbox Live makes the HTC Trophy my personal choice for a gaming phone. I honestly never expected to say that with a Windows phone, because I was a total skeptic that Microsoft would deliver. But deliver they did. I’d proudly sport the HTC Trophy even without its gaming functionality. With it, I’ve honestly found my next phone.