HTC Touch (2nd generation) Handheld - Review

HTC Touch (2nd generation) Handheld - Review

The HTC Touch consistently appears in our monthly Top 5 handhelds feature since its launch. This means it's selling well among the shops and operators surveyed, which in turn implies that it's a popular PDA-phone. Thus, it didn't come as a surprise when HTC recently announced an updated version of Touch with a couple of enhancements.

The Touch now comes in two additional colors, burgundy and white. In addition, HTC has doubled its memory so it now comes with 128MB RAM and 256MB ROM. These changes have prompted us to give it a review score of 7, up from the original 6.8. Read on to find out why.


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.


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 keypad, text input is usually done using a stylus either by writing or tapping on the onscreen keyboard. After the release of the new version, HTC added two new text input methods to the Touch. These are the Touch Keyboard and Touch Keypad. Both of these are suited for one-handed text input and they utilize T9 to speed up typing. The Touch Keypad will be especially familiar to those switching over from a regular mobile as it simulates a numeric keypad found on most phones. For those using the first generation Touch, these new input methods are also available as a download from the HTC Web site.

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.


A 201MHz TI OMAP processor powers the HTC Touch, unchanged from the previous version. Nonetheless, performance has been greatly improved thanks to the doubling of the RAM to 128MB. The old Touch slowed down with just a few applications running in the background. But in this version, even with many programs opened, the device didn't feel sluggish at all.

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.

We are still putting this handheld through its paces for battery life. So far, it has lasted over a day and the battery meter still show more than half full. Check back for an update of its battery performance.