So last we checked in we went over the Sprint version of the HTC Snap (hands on; review), which while a pretty solid WM6.1 Standard device, it did have quite a few annoyances (cough, keyboard, cough).

Lo and behold, the Verizon version (called the Ozone for some reason) is like a dream come true. It's as if someone waved their hand and magically fixed all the boneheaded problems with the Sprint model.  Not only is the design better, it has WiFi and is a world phone with a GSM radio — all for $100 less than Sprint is selling . How is that even possible?

Dare we say ... way to go Verizon? Read on for some quick pics, an overview of features and some brief comparisons to the Sprint Snap.

Jumping right to the specs, we see that the Verizon Ozone and the Sprint Snap compare pretty closely, but of course the Ozone edges it out for having WiFi and GSM:

  • WM6.1 Standard (OS 5.2.21041/Build 21043.1.6.2)
  • Available Storage: ~72mb available (256mb total)
  • Available Memory/RAM: ~70mb available (192mb)
  • External Storage: microSD (under cover)
  • Processor: Qualcomm MSM-7625 at 528MHz
  • Resolution: 320x240
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Data: EvDO Rev A
  • Battery: 1500mAh
  • Connector: MiniUSB
  • Camera: 2MP (fixed focus)
  • GPS: aGPS w/QuickGPS
  • WiFi (802.11 b/g)
  • GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

No joke, the Sprint Snap and Ozone have, like, 95 percent of the same hardware and software. They take the same battery, the speakers are the same, camera is the same and even the OS build is the same.

What's missing

  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • No side thumb-wheel
  • No trackball

Okay, while Verizon also let slip a couple of killer features, they more than make up for it in design and price point.

Software Included

(Items crossed out are different from Sprint's)

  • Internet Explorer 6 (new version)
  • Internet Sharing Modem Link
  • HTC Inner Circle
  • Windows Live/Messenger
  • MS Voice Command
  • Adobe Reader LE
  • MS Office
  • HTC Album
  • HTC Home
  • Audio Booster (for headphone use)
  • Bluetooth Explorer
  • HTC Camera/Video
  • HTC Comm Manager
  • HTC Streaming Media
  • HTC YouTube App
  • HTC Voice Recorder
  • Google (links to Google downloads)
  • Live Search
  • Mobile IM
  • HTC MP3 Trimmer
  • QuickGPS
  • Remote Desktop
  • RSS Hub (Illium Newsbreak)
  • Visual VoiceMail
  • Verizon Mobile Email (download link)
  • VZ Navigator (download link)
  • SIM Manager

First impressions

Lets not beat around the bush.  The keyboard on the Ozone is 100 percent better than the Sprint version. It has the traditional layout. The keys are actually larger and it just works. Plus it is easier to actually see. Sure, no Inner Circle (more gimmicky than anything, not missed), no shortcut keys to the camera or Internet Explorer, but the quick-keys to toggle Vibrate mode, speaker phone/mute and Comm-manager take up the slack nicely.

The overall design is also just nicer. The D-pad feels softer to the touch and is less tiring to operate. The two-tone color scheme plus green keys looks cooler, and that gray back is soft-touch paint, which handles so much better than all glossy black.  It just rocks.

How the phone operates is analogous to the Sprint version — they're basically the same. Both are extremely zippy and the Verizon version actually has less crap carrier software on board, giving a few more megabytes for storage and — we're quite okay with that.

Standalone GPS works. There, that is answered!  It also has "QuickGPS" for the added advantage of offline-aGPS. Cold boot got me 5 satellites in about 25 seconds. Using QuickGPS got me eight birds in  less than 10 seconds. (Caveat: By default, GPS is off on the device and you must enable under Settings --> Phone --> Location Setting!).  Also, its pretty funny that Google Maps and Live Search are not to be found anywhere on the device.  Ah Verizon ... ya still got it!

You also get HTC's new Home theme, which has its weather app and glossy design. Pretty sweet. Then there are those little things: MS Voice Command is included, like the Sprint version, but by default it is on for the Ozone and pre-assigned to the Green phone key. Heck, yeah! The Sprint version took me 10 minutes to figure out how to assign it. Smart, Verizon, very smart.

Look, for $49 (new contract; $429 month-to-month) this phone has a ton of killer features: EVDO Rev A, CDMA/GSM, WiFi, standalone GPS, it's fast, stable and rocks Windows Mobile 6.1. That's a lot of bang for your buck, plus it's actually a solid device with great battery life (just shy of 5 hours talk time).

Bottom line: Verizon has a killer phone/messenger device on its hands, and it trounced Sprint on this release. It's a winner.

Look for the full review coming up next week. Now, if someone can help me port this to Sprint's network.