ElCondor · Jan 24, 2011 at 09:00 pm

XDA Phone Review: HTC HD2 (Windows Mobile – Android – Windows Phone 7)

After the introduction of the XDA Phone Review, we asked you which phone we should review first. Not really surprisingly, the amount requests for an HTC HD2 review were huge. So, the choice was made to review the HD2, covering all three major OS’s that are available for this phone. We’ll compare the HD2 to other phones running the same OS, talk a bit more about the future of this huge development, and if it’s worth buying the phone now.

Five operating systems
As you probably know, the HD2 is probably the most popular phone ever when it comes to custom OS development. The developer base is almost endless, resulting in many new improvements to the user experience of the phone. It is now capable of running five mobile operating systems: Windows Mobile (which is the native OS), Android, Windows Phone 7, MeeGo and Ubuntu. There is no other phone that’s able to do this. There are a few reasons for that. First of all, the HD2 is a beast in terms of hardware. The hardware is good enough to support Windows Phone 7 and all other operating systems. Also, the extreme popularity made it a first priority target for developers. Thirdly, the native software is not locked down, allowing developers to replace it with other software.

Yet it took a while before these OS’s came out. The SD version of Android finally started to get serious attention when the first compatible HaRet came out. And then, in december, MAGLDR was released, offering NAND Android and Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s new mobile OS was receiving massive attention, and people where anxiously waiting for it to run on their HD2. The release of WP7 for the HD2 can be seen as one of the most advanced hacks ever achieved to a smartphone.

Android and Windows Phone 7 experience
So, if you like Android, but also want to give WP7 a try, buying the HD2 could be a great idea. Both OS’s are running almost as fluid as on any other phone. I’m saying “almost”, because it always lacks true stable builds. You see, the Desire HD for example is born to be an Android phone, and the HD7 was born to be a WP7 device. The HD2 will always have to rely on software that’s created by third party developers, instead of the original software developers. Some functions that are dependent to services that are offered by Google or Microsoft, and, because it’s no official Android or Windows Phone 7 phone, these services can’t be used.

One example is that you won’t receive updates from the OS maker. For Android, this isn’t a problem at all since you will be using custom ROMs that are in many ways better than stock software. But we think that WP7 will be another deal. The upcoming update seems to be pretty significant, and as far as we know, getting the update to work on the HD2 will probably be pretty difficult. The new build will probably have new protection added to it (we already now ChevronWP7 won’t work on it), and even if it’s not, it will take a lot of work to port it.

Another thing is the way Microsoft tries to relock the hacked Windows Phone 7 build on your HD2, making it impossible to make use of the Windows LIVE services. These services are very important to have the full experience, so if Microsoft constantly locks everything up, you will probably not enjoy WP7. There are some ways to avoid this but you’ll never stop having to add several fixes and patches. So for now, we think the Windows Phone 7 builds aren’t ready yet for everyday use.

Comparison to competition
So, how about Android? Is the HD2 a true phone to consider if you’re looking for an Android phone? The developer base is huge, and we expect this incredible support to continue for a long time, since this phone is so popular. The native Android alternatives to the 4.3″ phone are the EVO 4G and the Desire HD. Hardware-wise, the EVO is better with its 4G, HDMI, front-facing and 8MP camera capabilities, and the Desire HD offers the unibody construction along with better performance under the hood. The EVO is also massively supported by the development community, with many ROMs being available.

If you want to use Windows Mobile, there is no question if you should use the HD2 or another phone. If you want the 4,3″ screen size and still have a thin device, this is the ultimate phone for you. Besides, you will always have the option to switch to Android or Windows Phone 7, which is something you can’t have with any other phone.

The verdict
If you’re looking for a multi-OS phone and really want to hack everything on your phone, the HD2 may certainly be a phone to consider. Its hardware is still pretty decent, although the EVO 4G does offer a lot more features hardware-wise. If you want a large-screen phone solely for Android, it might just be an idea to wait a little longer until the first generations of 1,2Ghz phones come out. The Motorola Shadow for example, that has been released in China, would be a very good competitor to any big Android phone.
If you want a Windows Phone 7 device, don’t buy the HD2. The lack of support from Microsoft really makes it impossible to get all the features that are available. The HTC HD7, Samsung Omnia 7 or Dell Venue Pro should be phones to consider.
For the real poweruser, the HD2 is the ultimate device with its endless hacking possibilities, but if you want more stability, we suggest you look away and consider phones that are running native OS’s.

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ElCondor is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users.
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