HTC HD2 Review| By Emily Anderson
The HTC HD2 is bigger than many smartphones you may expect, but the 4.3-inch screen best displays what the phone is good at: showing movies, downloading e-books and typing messages with the swiftest new thing in keypads -- Swype.
Swype lets you swish your finger between letters to form a word, so the mistakes made by pecking at keys are easier to avoid. The phone also comes with two built-in movies, five games, a 5-megapixel camera and a 1-gigahertz chip. It has a lot to offer for pleasure, but its business features can be found on almost any other smartphone. Messages are separated by their source (email, text or instant message), Microsoft Office documents can be viewed and edited, and social networking sites Twitter and Facebook can be integrated into the phone. The HD2 is a lot of fun. But you may wonder where the innovations are for keeping up with application downloads and social media offerings on similar phones.
The HD2 is a big phone, measuring 4.7-by-2.6-by-0.43 inches, with big features. Considering all the features that come built into the phone -- including two full-length movies -- it shouldn't be surprising the phone is as large as it is. Unfortunately, it's also heavy, weighing in at five and a half ounces.
The reflective screen is large and dominates the face. There's only room on the face for a thin speaker and a thin bar of keys for sending a call, ending a call, reaching the home screen, pulling up a menu of options and a return key. The touch display also uses HTC's "Sense" technology for navigation by tapping on an on-screen keyboard, scrolling through menus by flicking a finger up or down, and sliding a finger across the screen to move side-to-side.
The rear of the phone has an external speaker, a flash and the lens of a 5-megapixel camera. The bottom of the phone contains a headset jack, a microphone and the outlet for a USB cable and charger. The left side of the phone has volume keys. The all-black phone with a reflective screen dominating its face is incognito and professional looking. It's not a good size for sliding into a pocket -- it's not a featherweight by any means. But if a big screen is more important to you than a compact size, the HD2 may be a good choice. Out of the box the HD2 comes with a battery, a charger, a USB cable, a stereo headset and a start guide.
Including the 5-megapixel camera is quickly becoming the trendy thing to do. Living up to the hype, the 5-main lens takes colorful, bright and detailed photos. But it's still no substitute for a digital handheld camera -- the images have a bit of a gray cast and get washed out easily when a lot of sunlight is present.
The camera has a self-timer, zoom, white balance and brightness adjustments, widescreen or regular screen mode, time stamp option, effects (grayscale, sepia or negative), flicker adjustment, optional grid mode, and the choice of basic, normal, fine or super fine photo quality. Each photo is taken in 2,592-by-1,552 pixel resolution unless pre-adjusted to fit for a multimedia message. Flash and focus options can be manual or automatic.
Once a picture is taken, you can tag where you were when the photo was taken via geotagging, upload the photo directly on to Facebook and save it in your album. Videos can also be uploaded directly to YouTube or sent through email. These handy steps save time and virtually eliminate the need for a USB cable, but that still comes with the phone just in case it's needed. Unfortunately, you won't be able to edit photos -- there's no cropping, rotating or other image adjustments on the phone, which is a letdown if you've ever taken a picture that wasn't exactly centered or perfectly sharp.
The camcorder has white balance, brightness, zoom, flicker adjustment, focus, flash, effect and recording limit options, plus the choice to record with or without audio. Videos can be captured in H.263 or MPEG4 format and resolution choices include 640-by-480, 352-by-288 and 320-by-240 pixels. Again, there are no post-shoot editing options. Editing is needed here more than with the camera because the images come out grainier and darker than pictures taken by the camera. The phone picks up audio at a passable volume, but it's not exactly booming -- and people sound farther away from the camcorder than they really are.
Overall, the HD2 has a solid camera and a less-solid camcorder. Both would benefit from a menu of editing options, but the phone scores points for its easy system for uploading images and video to the Web.
The HD2 has a big screen, a powerful camera and a lot of memory -- 16-gigabytes. It needs a lot of that memory right off the bat, considering it has two built-in, full-length movies, five built-in games and offers MobiTV channels with clips and Blockbuster On Demand mobile delivery of movies.
It also has the ability to hold music downloaded from Windows Marketplace or uploaded from a laptop, store an album of pictures and videos, and instant access to YouTube, a task manager, calendar, Slacker Radio satellite radio and a Barnes and Noble eReader to read books right on the screen. The phone also has a stock manager, a search widget, a place to back-up stored material and instant messaging on Windows Live, Yahoo, MySpace IM, Google Talk, MSN Messenger and AOL.
The HD2 can instantly check and store emails from Outlook, AOL, Gmail, Windows Live, Yahoo and similar accounts, so checking work and personal email can be checked throughout the day without going through one of the Opera Web browser. Email attachments can be read on the phone thanks to Office Mobile, which allows you to read and create Excel, Word, OneNote and PowerPoint documents.
Getting connected to social networking is a snap, with the ability to stay connected to Facebook at all times so a person can instantly upload photos to the site and view and type updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day without constantly logging in. The phone also supports Visual Voicemail, which converts voice messages into text, so you can read a message rather than darting out of a meeting to listen to it, you can buy applications, songs and games in the Windows Marketplace, connect to your computer via Remote Desktop Mobile, get instant weather updates and see colored Google Maps and get directions from TeleNav navigation service, which uses the phone's built-in GPS system to get traffic updates and spoken directions to an address.
One of the phone's most buzzed-about features is Swype, which allows a person to "swipe" a finger through all the letters in a word without ever moving a finger off the screen. It's kind of like the cursive of phone typing. The device recognizes which letters that were touched during the swiping and figures out which word you meant, making for a quicker and more accurate typing experience.
The HD2 doesn't have the most extensive list of options. The marketplace isn't as well stocked as the Android and iPhone App stores, for example, and the screen can get a bit clogged without the ability to have multi-panel screen menus, like on Android-based phones. But the phone does have a lot to offer in entertainment, messaging options and business necessities, like remote access to a computer and Microsoft MyPhone, which is password-protected and backs up information stored on the phone. The HD2 is also fun, with a quality movie-viewing experience and integration to social networking sites.
In the smartphone market, a 3.0-inch screen is considered to be on the larger side. Anything approaching 4.0-inches would be nearly unheard of. So a 4.3-inch screen is huge. That's the size of the HD2's screen and it makes for an amazing touch screen experience.
HTC Sense technology powers the touch screen navigation, which lets you flick a finger to navigate between screens, up and down menus and press to select items and type on an on-screen keyboard. The screen may be too bulky for some, but it comes in handy for watching videos, which come through with great resolution -- 480-by-800 pixels -- helpful
The large display is helpful for those that struggle with typing on a touch screen. Because the screen is bigger, the keys are bigger and mistyping with fat or clumsy fingers is less of a risk. It's also easier to avoid mistakes with predictive type, which helps you form the right word -- even if you miss a few keys. Swype also makes typing easier and helps avoid mistakes.
Bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to phones. But for a better typing experience and to make videos easier to see and more fun to watch on a phone, the HD2 has an advantage in its 4.3-inch screen.
Speakers on the back of a phone may seem like a good idea in theory because they're bigger and louder than what you'd find on the front of a phone, but they're not nearly as impressive as dual speakers on the left and right sides of a phone and certainly don't produce the same surround-sound effect. That's why the HD2 won't get a better grade here -- HTC went for the back of the phone speaker.
When placed on its front, the phone emits music with decent clarity and volume. But sound is easily muffled when the phone is being held or placed on its back. Even at its best, music still comes out just slightly off -- its likely because the sound is coming from one speaker and doesn't sound as good as it would distributed in two streams through a headset. Thus, the stereo headset that comes with the phone is recommended for a better music-listening experience.
Call volume and quality are good and people sound loud and clear. Just be careful not to put the phone too close to your head -- the touch screen is still sensitive while you're dialing. Audio is best on the phone when making a call or using a headset. The speaker on the back of the phone isn't terrible by any means, but it's a disappointing experience for those used to surround-sound.
The HD2 offers access to text and multimedia messaging, allows you to integrate personal and work email accounts so messages appear in real-time, and replies can be sent out without opening the Web browser. In addition, there are plenty of instant messaging options -- you can chat on AOL, Windows Live, Yahoo, MySpace IM and Google Talk.
There are two places to see messages: in a mail section and in a message section. The message section has text and multimedia messages. The mail section is just for email and can include Outlook, Gmail, AOL Mail, Windows Live Mail, Yahoo Mail and other accounts. You can view email attachments that use Microsoft Word, OneNote, Excel or PowerPoint and create and send their own documents using these services. Texting and typing are made easier with predictive text and the swift motions used in Swype typing.
The HD2 has good messaging options, but nothing new or special. If your work doesn't use Outlook, you're probably out of luck for syncing work email with the phone. You can access multiple messages, but have to view them in a single menu according to the source (i.e., there's no group list of messages from email, text or instant sources, let alone social networking). Twitter and Facebook updates are separate and harder to find on the phone. The only real option showing effort to keep up with the crowd is Swype.
The HD2 comes with an interesting set of entertainment features, including Blockbuster On Demand, MobiTV, Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And, no, it's not two Transformers games or clips you get, it's the whole movie and its entire sequel that come built into the phone.
That's handy if you like those movies, but it's a lot of memory if you'd rather watch something else. Still, the phone can load and launch two hours-plus movies in a few seconds, which is pretty impressive. And the quality is amazing, better than some televisions on the market.
The large screen eliminates the squint factor, so watching movies on the phone feels natural. And the ability to launch YouTube through a shortcut is also a nice feature. MobiTV is also a solid offering, with more than 35 channels of made-for-phones programming offered in short bursts for a monthly fee of about $10. The clips come from places like ESPN, MSNBC and Disney.
The phone also has a section for storing music, which can be uploaded from a computer via ActiveSync or downloaded from the Windows Marketplace or Web2go, which also sell applications, games and other entertainment. There's also a Barnes & Noble eReader for downloading books to read on the phone, Slacker Radio for music and talk fans and five built-in games: Ferrari GT Evolution, Millionaire 2010, Prince of Persia HD, Teeter, Guitar Hero 5 Mobile and a Tetris demo. Plenty of smartphones don't bother to offer more than one or two built-in games and the free supply of quality games is amazing.
The HD2 is a great phone for entertainment -- and even better if you're willing to pay a bit extra. The two free movies and five free games on the phone, complimented with a song library uploaded for free from a computer, provides hours of entertainment.
For a price, MobiTV, Blockbuster On Demand and a list of new applications, games and songs from the Windows Marketplace could really turn the HD2 into a fun phone. But still, the phone doesn't have the best mobile shop in the Windows Marketplace, which still has some catching up to do with the Android Marketplace and iPhone store when it comes to variety and quantity of offerings.
A 1-gigahertz processor powers the HD2, so you can expect lightning-fast speeds when zipping through Internet sites and services on the phone. You can instantly connect to the Internet by having a shortcut to YouTube, where you can instantly upload videos recorded on the phone and being constantly logged in to both Twitter and Facebook. There's a menu for Twitter, so tapping on that menu item will show a person updates from their Twitter friends and give them a place to put their own updates.
With Facebook, you can type and view updates, and upload photos from the phone. But you have to visit the Facebook site to manage your accounts or do more advanced things, like manage a Farmville account -- and there's no one Facebook-centric screen like there is for Twitter.
You can connect to Wi-Fi or use T-Mobile's 3G network to connect to the Internet with the Opera browser, which allows you to bookmark favorites, create new tabs and view a page history, plus see websites in the same format viewed on a computer desktop. The phone also has the Web2go system, which is T-Mobile's application, game and song store and Gogo, which offers Internet service usable when you're on an airplane.
The HD2 offers speedy Internet service with a 1-gigahertz chip through Wi-Fi or 3G, ensuring connection pretty much anywhere you go. It has instant connection to Facebook and Twitter, but leaves out other social networking sites, like MySpace. The Opera browser operates much like a browser on a computers and Web2go and Gogo services offer applications and a way to stay connected in flight. The Windows Marketplace and Web2go don't have the best selection of downloads, but two offerings for on-phone stores are better than one.
Having 16-gigabytes of memory built into the HD2 means there's room for some serious storage. However, the phone already comes packed with quite a bit, so not all of that space is free. The phone has more than 12-gigabytes of free memory, about 235-megabytes of free program space and more than 600-megabytes of free storage space, which is still a respectable amount.
The HD2 has plenty of space used up, but plenty free, so storing libraries of songs and photos shouldn't be much of an issue and the built-in microSD card helps. But don't go too crazy -- loading on applications and especially ordering one too many movies could slow the phone down.
The HD2 comes standard with a stereo headset for listening to music in privacy and comes with a USB cable for connecting to a computer to upload music onto the phone. It also connects remotely to a computer desktop to check on files and calendar items, has the benefit of satellite radio, Microsoft Office capabilities and Blockbuster On Demand and an eReader for beaming movies and books directly to the phone.
The handset also stays connected by having instant access to various email account types, instant messaging and text and multimedia messaging, plus the ability to stay logged in to Twitter and Facebook. It is also Bluetooth compatible and works with headset and hands-free devices. The HD2 connects to Bluetooth, computers and the outside world seamlessly. But be prepared to spend some extra dough for certain remote services, such as Blockbuster On Demand, MobiTV and the Barnes and Noble eReader.
In an era when it seems like a lot of smartphone makers are aiming to make messaging and keeping up with business the main goal of a phone, HTC took time to focus on one area lacking in most competitor's phones -- entertainment. Sure some of the cooler features, like Blockbuster On Demand and eReader, cost money, but there are also plenty of free choices like built-in games and movies and the ability to upload music from a computer.
The high-quality screen is large enough to make reading books and watching movies an enjoyable activity on the phone, and the screen size also helps ease you if you're used to a physical keypad. It might be a bit big for your taste, but the screen size is worth the extra bulk. Swype also aids the experience of typing by making it faster and also making it harder to make mistakes.
It comes with lots of memory and connecting to a computer, remotely or through a cable, and Bluetooth is simple. But the phone isn't perfect, though. The messaging options are decent, but require searching through panels to see every message rather than making them all appear in one place -- rather basic in the modern era.
The integration with social networking on the phone is also lackluster -- you can see Twitter and Facebook updates, but you can't do much else with your accounts without going on the Web. The online stores that bring new items onto the phone are passable, but don't offer software that's as interesting, or plentiful, as the stores for the iPhone or Droid.
Audio on the phone works well with movies, but music sounds a bit tinny on the back speaker, which would have worked better as a side speaker. And the 5-megapixel camera works well, but the camcorder doesn't keep up, and editing options for both would be appreciated.
Overall, the HD2 is not the best fit if you're looking a slim device, looking to stay in touch with social networking, or want a simplistic layout with functions like messages grouped together. But if you want an entertainment powerhouse in your pocket, and staying in touch between books and movies, then the HD2 is your phone. ♦
Categories: Windows | Business | Fun
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