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Windows Phone 7 Now Available, Heats Up U.S. Smartphone Competition

Windows Phone 7 Congratulations, Microsoft! You've finally shaken off the shackles of your aging mobile OS, and joined the class of modern smartphones with Windows Phone 7 (WP7). Starting today, WP7-powered devices are available though Microsoft retail channels, on Amazon, and from AT&T and T-Mobile. T-Mobile customers have only one choice right now for WP7 devices: the HTC HD7. It packs a large 4.3-inch touchscreen and an HD video camera -- basically an Evo loaded with WP7 and T-Mobile-friendly radios. AT&T customers can choose between two models: the HTC Surround, which hides a pair of slide-out speakers behind its 3.8-inch screen; and the Samsung Focus, which is like a WP7-outfitted Galaxy S, and sports the Galaxy's same 4-inch Super AMOLED screen.

Outside of size and a few hardware features, the current crop of WP7 devices are more or less the same. They all pack 800x480 screens that match high-end Android devices, 5-megapixel cameras that can shoot HD video, and 1 Ghz processors that push the pretty interface and plow through data from your social networking accounts. The similarity might be an intentional move on the part of Microsoft, as the company's ad campaign argues that we're too involved with our phones. WP7 is designed to tell you what you need to know at a glance; the subdued UI displays the most relevant information right up front.

Still, no matter how pretty a user interface is -- or how many gimmicky hardware features the phone makers cram into it -- the success of any mobile operating system rests on applications. The WP7 Marketplace is launching with an impressive 1,500 apps. Quality is key, especially when you're launching against iOS and Android, and Windows Phone 7 comes out of the gates with full support for heavy hitters like Foursquare, YouTube, Shazam, IMDB and more. Some of the first batch of must-have apps are obvious choices, such as Twitter and Facebook, and they are integrated nicely into the OS. Those apps are all free, but a few premium apps, like Zagat ($9.99) and the stylish Google Voice client GoVoice ($2.99), are also worth checking out.

Tags: apps, att, CellPhones, htc, microsoft, samsung, t-mobile, top, WindowsPhone7, wp7

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