Monday, 23 July 2007

Being HTC Touched

The hype is on – let you fingers do the walking – or in case of the touch phones – the sliding. There are two new touch phones in the market – one is the Apple iPhone and the HTC Touch.

I’m the happy guy with a HTC Touch Phone. The phone is one of the latest models from HTC, with Windows Mobile 6. Since many people already have described the Windows Mobile 6 interface, I’ll try to concentrate on what sets the Touch apart from other phones.

The Hardware
The basic HTC Touch is a very slim and elegant phone. Look absolutely stunning. A phone for the fashion conscious J You can’t really appreciate the tiny size before it is in your hands. It got the typical HTC Extended Mini USB for charging and for headsets – so don’t expect to use any Jack based headsets for it.

SIM card and memory card is hidden on the right hand side – a bit hard to get to – but works okay. Camera is a “standard” 2 mpix picture with okay quality but no autofocus. Quality of pictures are okay – but not better than okay.

Call and Hang-up buttons are very small – and a bit unhandy and hard to press – but in the “keeping” the design small – and nice looking I guess there was not a lot more they could do – or was there?

The “Rocker” pad is again a bit small for me. (The button you use to scroll up/down/right/left). Too often I find myself hitting the middle pad (enter) by mistake.

But the glass front on the touch is excellent. It makes it very easy to clean the screen and to keep it looking nice. It does not collect the dirt in the corners like other of the HTC phones with “embedded” screens does. Absolutely a nice feature. But it also seems like it hinders Pen operation a bit, since you feel like you have to “push” a bit hard on the glass for the pen to react. Hopefully a firmware update will change the sensitivity a bit. The screen itself looks okay. Very sharp but seems a little low key on colour resolution. The Colour dept just seems a bit low compared to some of my other PDA devices. But absolutely does the job.

The speed / processor / memory in the phone seem a bit “under” average. The phone is slow to react in many situations. Available memory is quite low, and quite often you will get the “Not enough memory to execute program” error message. But thanks good HTC has a “close” program feature which not many Windows mobile phones has as standard. (Hold the pen on the close “X” for a sec. too really close the program)

WiFi sensitivity is excellent though – just as good as my HTC S710. It can pickup and use WiFi where my different notebooks give up. (Sony UX90s, ThinkPad X60 tablet, and a lot of other devices). On connection with a Zyxel access point, the Internet Explorer shows some “fun” errors though. (Does not work) but any other access point I have tried works like a charm. Opera browser on the same access point works fine – what a puzzle..

Phone is only GPRS/EDGE based so no 3G. But speed seems usable.

Well the big thing here is Windows Mobile 6 + HTCs custom touch interface. The Touch interface is a shell / GUI on top of Windows Mobile 6, so you can operate your touch phone with your fingers – a lot easier than you can in standard Windows Mobile 6.

It works really well – a lot better than I expected. Using your fingers to navigate to your different applications is great. The only problem is that is a shell on top of the standard Windows Mobile 6. So in the middle of your joy and ease of use – you launch a program not optimized for touch (mail, browser, office pack and any other standard Windows Mobile software) you are then back at the standard not finger optimized piece of software, forcing you to get out your pen.

And this is where the concept fails. All the glitz and glitter falls apart and you are back at a standard pen based PDA.

But since most people do not really spend that much time editing documents on the PDA – I think most people will find the HTC Touch a nice phone for daily use. Most navigation is done with fingers between mail/sms and phone book, and here the Touch shines. Reading mail and sms works fine with your fingers – but replying to them does not. But the most used features are supported by the Touch overlay on the phone. So all in all – a big step forward in the usability of the Windows Mobile PDA interface. Now just modify the Message applications (SMS/E-Mail) so you can write on the screen with your fingertips. That would then cover 80% of the device usage. Then optimize the media player and we are at 90%.

Maybe this concept phone can show Microsoft some of the things needed for a great touch interface, and HTC and Microsoft can cooperate on optimizing future versions of Windows Mobile to be truly touch enabled. At least Apples iPhone is forcing them to look in that direction.
In conclusion – a great phone for its intended audience. A competitor to iPhone – I don’t know yet since I have not tried it on.... But my feeling is that is a semi worthy contender. Size is perfect, battery life is okay, WiFi is superb. Price is right and Windows Mobile is now actually a usable phone interface. So go get it :-) It is worth it!

Star rating (subjective) 8 out of 10. The last 2 stars will be awarded when majority of applications support “Touch” with your fingers.

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