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BRIEFLY: Beautifully small Pocket PC

PROS: Touch screen, form factor, features

CONS: No keyboard, half-arsed screen implementation

SCORE:


HTC Touch Phone Review
Compact, fully featured smartphone
Review by urban75 for Digital-Lifestyles, 26th June, 2007


We were recently invited to the launch of the HTC Touch phone - a new slimline WM6 phone sporting 'TouchFLO' touchscreen technology - and the assembled herd of head honchos told us that HTC was hoping to steal some of Apple's thunder ahead of the release of their (over) hyped iPhone.

Now we don't go in for all this 'unpacking video' nonsense, but we feel that HTC's packaging was especially noteworthy, with the Touch coming in a stylish black box containing a large, full colour manual, which made a very pleasant change from the usual multi-language folded leaflets instructing us to, "Read the PDF file for more."

There was also a pair of proper stereo headphones, a smart carrying case and a spare stylus included in the package too. Good work, HTC!

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Look and feel

The Touch is a delight to hold, with its slim profile and small dimensions lending the phone a pebble-like form factor, and the rubberised soft-touch grip hopefully stopping you from accidentally skimming it down the toilet.

The device measures up at just 99.9mm (L) x 58mm (W) x 13.9mm (T), and weighs just 112g with battery, so it's a phone you can slip in your jacket phone and carry about all day with ease.

There's barely any buttons to be found on the front of the device, which is dominated by a 2.8" LCD touch screen with backlight, supporting a 240 x 320 pixel (65,536 colours) resolution with a D Pad and two teensy-weensy Talk/End buttons.

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The edges of the Touch are similarly bereft of controls, with only an on/off button lying flush with the casing at the top (tricky for podgy finger pokers), a volume up/down control on the left hand of the device and a camera launcher on the opposite side.

At the back is a 2.0 mega-pixel CMOS colour camera with the usual useless mini-self portrait mirror turning your face into a balloon.

HTC Touch Phone Review, Windows Mobile 6 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC Review

Opening up the Touch
The phone may be elegant on the outside, but it's not such a pretty picture when you need to get inside.

Opening the phone was tricky enough, requiring a fair bit of energy to slide the back off to install the battery, but worse was to come when we looked to install the SIM and MicroSD card.

Although both slots are accessible via a single flap on the right hand side of the phone, opening this up was a hell of a fiddly job. No matter how we tried to coax the flap open, it wouldn't play ball, until we eventually gave up and opened the back again and then pushed it open from inside.

HTC Touch Phone Review, Windows Mobile 6 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC Review (Part 2/3)After some more cajoling, a very fragile-looking flap reluctantly parted from the case and then we had another frustrating few minutes trying to poke the SIM card in. It's really badly designed.

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Connectivity
Instead of the stingy little cards often bundled with phones, we were pleased to see HTC include a generous 1GB MicroSD card with the Touch, supplementing the 64MB RAM and 128MB ROM of onboard memory. Another nice, err, touch.

When it comes to connectivity, the Touch almost has a full house, sporting GSM/GPRS/EDGE Tri-band: 900, 1800,1900, IEEE 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0, with the company quoting a battery talk time of up to 5 hours (200 hrs standby time). Our tests so far would suggest that HTC haven't been exaggerating.

After some initial frustrations with the less-than-helpful OS, we managed to connect the device to our Wi-Fi network and found it reasonably speedy in use.

HTC Touch Phone Review, Windows Mobile 6 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC Review (Part 2/3)Multimedia
The phone comes with a speakerphone, smart dialling, voice commands and dialling, and the usual SMS and multimedia messaging.

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The onboard 2-megapixel camera offers a 8x zoom and video-recording capabilities, but with no flash. There's a choice of five photo sizes and four quality settings with other features including white balance settings, a night shot settings, self timer, time stamp option and a picture counter.

Videos can be recorded with or without sound in MPEG4, Motion JPEG, or H.263 formats in just two resolution choices.

Picture quality was reasonable, although a little pixilated.
HTC Touch Phone Review, Windows Mobile 6 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC Review
HTC have redesigned the Windows Today screen, with a moody dark finish displaying the time in big LCD-style numbers, and three thumb sized buttons giving quick access to basic weather updates, a program launcher and a link back to the home screen.

A handy strip displays the number of unread emails, SMS messages and missed calls with upcoming appointments listed below.

Of course, the big news about this product is the new TouchFLO technology offering what HTC describes as an "innovative new concept in intuitive touch screen navigation."

The technology impressed us at first, with main screens being flipped through with the swipe of a finger across the screen and long pages being scrolled up and down by a flick of the finger. Tapping the screen stopped the scrolling.

HTC Touch Phone Review, Windows Mobile 6 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC Review Although we initially warmed to the novelty of this approach, we couldn't help thinking that the job could sometimes be done much quicker and more intuitively with an old fashioned bash on a button.

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Inputting text
Once you've finished swishing and swiping your way around the groovy 3D interface, you're likely to be in for a big disappointment when you want to do something useful like input text or send a SMS.

At this point, the swish grey interface vanishes and you're dumped straight back down to the less than glamorous graphics world of Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition.

Anyone looking for an innovative approach to inputting text is going to be very, very disappointed as all you're left with is a tiny onscreen keyboard and no option but to get out the itty-bitty stylus (or start growing your nails).

This, we feel, is something of a disaster. What's the point of strutting about with a swanky style phone if you've got to start pecking about with a little stylus like a chump every time you want to answer an email or write a short note?

HTC Touch Phone Review, Windows Mobile 6 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC ReviewConclusion
When we first clapped eyes on this little fella and got a peek of the TouchFLO system, we thought that HTC had created something rather special, but the more we played with it, the less we liked it.

As a simple style statement phone, it's rather a lovely number with great looks and reasonable phone quality, but as soon as you want to start using its smartphone features the frustrations begin.

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There was a noticeable lag when switching between some applications and all that swishing about the screen soon gets the thing covered in finger marks. We also had concerns about the screen's longevity.

But our biggest complaint was the lack of a proper keyboard. With only a tiny little set of onscreen characters available for writing emails and SMS messages, we soon grew tired of even trying and swiftly went back to our beefier, infinitely less sexy Treo 650 to get the job done.

We have to say that some elements of the HTC Touch impressed, but it feels like something of a rushed release to us, with the company looking to steal a bit of pre-release glory from the iPhone.

We like the idea of gesture based navigation, but unless it's carried through consistently throughout the phone with some sort of genuinely useful keyboard provided, the HTC will continue to fall considerably short of its promise.

Contract price depends on the carrier, but an unlocked Touch can currently be picked up for around 300.

Our verdict
Ease of use: 55%
Build: 60%
Features: 65%
Phone quality: 65%
Value for money: 62%
Overall: 62%


THREE STARS


external web link HTC

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