HTC Touch (GSM Triband) Handheld - Review

HTC Touch (GSM Triband) Handheld - Review

A few weeks ago, we reported that HTC will acquire subsidiaries of Dopod International, and that new products will use the HTC branding rather than Dopod's. It didn't take long for the first product to surface and, in an event in Europe, the HTC Touch was announced. Obviously wanting to start with a bang, the Touch is touted by HTC to have features that will revolutionalize the way we think about how we interact with our mobile phones. Available immediately in Singapore and soon in the rest of Asia Pacific, this new Windows Mobile 6 Professional PDA-phone costs S$848 without operator subsidies.

Design of the HTC Touch Handheld

Without a doubt, the Touch is one of the most attractive PDA-phones to date. It has a soft-touch finish throughout the front and back, and a minimalist design with curves not unlike that of a smooth pebble. Its most unique design feature is the flush LCD. Unlike most other PDAs, the screen on the Touch does not sit slightly lower than the front surface, but is level with it to accommodate the device's TouchFLO interface--which we will discuss at length in a moment. While attractive, one possible disadvantage of this design is that screen films applied for protection may be a tad unsightly, especially the high-quality ones which are usually quite thick.

The appeal of this PDA-phone is also due to its size. It is very slim at just 13.9mm, certainly one of the slimmest Windows Mobile devices with a touch-sensitive display. In comparison, the O2 Atom Life, another very popular model with a similar form factor, is 18mm thick. This also restricts the amount of space available for buttons.

On the front, there are only a directional pad and two buttons for calling and hanging up. Aside from those, a volume rocker and a camera shutter key are found on either side of the Touch. These two, as well as the expansion card slot, power key and a single USB connector, are all found along the silver strip that runs around the four sides of the Touch.

Unlike most phone devices, the Touch does not have its SIM card slot in a position that requires battery removal to access. A cover on its right side opens to reveal both the SIM slot and microSD slot. With much difficulty, this cover can be opened with the battery cover at the back still on. However, the diagrams that show you which way to insert the cards can be seen only when the back cover is off, which leads us to infer that removing the back is a necessary step when switching cards. And even though you can remove or insert a SIM card without touching the battery, the device still turns off automatically when you do that--which makes any reason for not having the SIM card under the battery moot. This part of the Touch is certainly awkward and needs not to be repeated in future models.

Features of the HTC Touch Handheld

Connectivity options on the Touch are almost complete, if not for the missing 3G. The availability of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as triband GSM will suffice for many users, but no doubt many will avoid this PDA-phone because the option to use the faster 3G or HSDPA standard is absent.

By default, the Home screen of the Touch has a different look from Windows Mobile's standard one. It is gray in color and has as its focus a large digital clock. A few large tabs below this clock will switch the view to a weather report or a launcher to commonly used settings pages. Below this special portion of the modified Today screen are regular items like upcoming appointments and message/email notifications.

Determined to make the Touch more than just a regular PDA-phone, HTC has introduced the TouchFLO interface in it. Like the VueFLO feature found in the Dopod U1000, TouchFLO seeks to make the handheld more user-friendly. This time it's not done with a motion sensor but a system which allows the use of finger swipes to perform certain actions. According to HTC, this is implemented through both software and hardware, and thus cannot be ported to an older device without problems.

By placing a finger below the display and swiping upwards a virtual cube appears on the screen. You are then presented with a quick dial screen which can be populated with pictures of nine contacts. Four icons below that bring you to applications like the dialer and contacts. By swiping left or right, the virtual cube turns two other screens which have shortcuts to commonly used applications and multimedia functions. A downward finger action from the top to bottom will switch the display back to the Today screen, or whichever application that was being used when the virtual cube was brought up.

While that part of the TouchFLO software is purely for quicker access, there are other more useful aspects to it. In lists that span more than one page, scrolling is usually done by pressing the directional pad or manipulating the scroll bar on the right with a stylus. On the touch, a quick stroke upward with the finger on the contact list or messages will send the page moving. To stop, you just have to put your finger down on the screen again. It knows when it is a finger or when a stylus is being used, so there is no problem selecting multiple items with a stylus. Though very cool, this feature may not be all that useful, especially with long lists.

Like other Windows Mobile devices without keypads, text input is done using a stylus either by writing or tapping on the onscreen keyboard. Writing text messages and emails is always two-handed affair, so those who dislike this method should avoid this PDA-phone.

The camera found on its rear is a 2-megapixel one without autofocus. It produces decent images for a phone camera and is reasonably responsive when in use.

Performance of the HTC Touch Handheld

Equipped with the OMAP850 201MHz processor, the Touch isn't exactly Speedy Gonzales when it comes to responsiveness. In fact, when a few applications are active, it begins to slow down significantly. Programs not in use should thus be closed completely, and this is easy to do because of HTC's Task Manager which makes it more convenient to shut down apps from the Home screen.

Call quality and reception were fine throughout our use with no issues there. The rear placement of the speakers is not ideal for speakerphone conversations, but otherwise the Touch performed well as a phone.

Though it doesn't have a huge battery, the Touch lasted us almost three days of normal use. This will vary according to different individual's usage patterns, but it's safe to say the Touch will last most people more than a day without having to recharge.