HTC Touch Review| By Hillary Borrud
As its name makes clear, the focus with the HTC Touch is on the touch screen. The compact, professional looking Windows Mobile smartphone is offered by Sprint and from the simple design of the phone to the unique Touch Cube interface; many features highlight the TouchFlo technology in the screen.
The simple hardware design generally gives users all they need, although the only keypad available is on the touch screen and it is small. Fortunately, there is a keyboard layout available which could keep some users from reaching for the stylus that comes with the phone. Overall, the screen is very responsive to finger taps and swipes, although occasionally the need to keep tapping repeatedly to press a button on the screen can be frustrating.
While the highlight of this phone is the touch screen, some other features -- notably the sound quality -- are just okay. But for users looking for a practical, professional smart phone, the Touch has a lot to offer. It does fall short when compared with Apple's iPhone, on which the interface is much more intuitive, aesthetically attractive and simple to use. The iPhone's larger screen makes better use of the touch screen feature, giving users the opportunity to accomplish more through a touch of the finger -- no stylus needed.
The Touch offers great potential for connectivity, with access to Sprint's high-speed Ev-Do network, the ability to sync the phone with a computer and to use it as a modem for a PC, if the user is signed up for Sprint's Power Vision Modem Plan.
Since the TouchFlo technology takes care of most of the operations on the Touch, HTC was able to keep the phone itself very simple. There are only three buttons on the front face of the phone: a green-lit talk key, a red-lit end key, and a large silver navigation and "enter" key between them. The multi-directional navigation part of this key allows users to move right, left, up and down, and then make a selection by pressing the "enter" key at the center. This key is convenient, and allows users to choose between touching the screen and using the key to navigate through some of the phone's functions. In terms of design, it makes the Touch a little chunkier than the sleeker iPhone navigation key, which is one simple button in the same location near the bottom of the phone.
The smooth black exterior of the phone seems well-made and does not pick up marks or scratches very easily. The surface is hard yet slightly rubbery to the touch, making it easy to grip. The touch screen avoids smudging relatively well, an important feat since users' fingers will come in contact with it a lot -- unless they prefer to rely exclusively on the stylus.
A small power button sits on the top left side of the phone, and the small, square earpiece -- combined with the notification LEDs -- is centered at the top of the phone's face. These LEDs could be helpful, if users can remember the meanings associated with all the different lights. The left LED shows green and amber lights for standby, message, network and battery charging status. The right LED shows an amber light to indicate GPS status, and a flashing blue light when the Bluetooth system is powered up and ready to transmit a radio signal.
The stylus slides into a slot at the upper right corner of the phone, and in general it can be removed easily when the user pushes up on the small ledge on the stylus' head. Below the stylus on the right side of the phone is the storage card slot cover. Unfortunately, plugging in the tiny microSD card can be inconvenient because it requires the back to be removed and a flexible tab on the right side of the phone to be pulled out.
On the bright side, the back of the phone slides up easily in one motion to remove the battery or plug in the microSD card. Immediately below this long tab is the photo button.
There is a tiny reset button at the bottom of the phone, toward the right side, which can be used to soft reset the phone. Since the button is so small, the stylus must be used to do this. The micro-USB port sits in the middle of the bottom of the phone, between a reset button and the microphone, and it does not have a tab. This lack of a tab on the micro-USB port makes charging the device and connecting it to a PC very simple, especially for people who are frustrated by constantly having to fiddle with small tabs every time they charge their phones. Hopefully the uncovered port will not pick up dirt or get damaged.
To the left, at the bottom of the phone, is a small microphone. There is also a slot for a lanyard, and further up the left side of the phone is a volume slider that users can push up or down to adjust volume. The speaker, which is a small circle, is on the back of the phone. The 2-megapixel camera is also on the back of the phone, and the self-portrait mirror is just above the camera lens. This unique feature looks like a small silver button and while it isn't big enough to enough to check one's appearance, it does allow users to make sure they are positioned correctly to show up in a photo.
The Touch feels quite small in the hand and is more compact than Apple's iPhone, although the Touch is a little thicker. The Touch is 2.4-by-4.0-by-0.6 inches. By contrast, the iPhone is 2.4-by-4.5-by-0.5 inches. The Touch is also a light phone, weighing in at four ounces.
The Touch is attractive on its own but if design is a top concern, the iPhone is still sleeker and more beautifully designed than the Touch. Out of the box, the HTC Touch comes with the necessities and also some useful accessories. This includes a headset that plugs into the mini-USB port, a USB sync cable, a 2.5 mm headset adapter, a two mini-USB adapter, a microSD card, a stylus, a pouch, an LCD screen protector and a software installation CD for Microsoft ActiveSync 4.5, Windows Mobile Device Center, a user guide and 60-day trial for Microsoft Office Outlook.
This puts the Touch on par with Apple's iPhone, which also has a 2-megapixel camera, and the two phones were on par with each other in photo quality. Video quality for the Touch was also okay and similar to the iPhone's, although it was a bit grainy indoors. The one-touch camera button is located on the lower right side of the phone, but users can also press the large silver navigation button on the front of the phone to take photos.
When the camera is loaded by pressing one of these buttons, the screen displays several options to control the quality of photos. These capture modes include video and six different photo modes. The photo modes range from standard still photos to "burst," which takes a series of up to 30 photos as long as the camera button or front "enter" button is pressed down.
The Touch also provides a lot of options and information when the camera is open. This ranges from the number of photos or amount of video that the Touch can record with available memory, to a "quick settings" panel to control brightness, white balance and resolution, among other things.
It took some time to figure out how to go from the photo screen to saved photos -- tap on an arrow on the lower left hand side of the screen -- and how to get back from saved photos -- tap twice on the screen to bring up a menu, and select the backward arrow. When the photo screen is open for a while and no selection has been made, the options displayed on the initial screen disappear. You can bring them back up with the tap of a finger on the screen.
The Touch runs Windows 6.0 Professional, so there's access to Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile and Word Mobile. It is also sold with Internet Explorer already installed.
The phone turns on to a home screen, also referred to as the "Today Screen." This includes a very large clock, weather to customize to your city and new messages and missed calls. There is also a customizable launcher to add applications of your choice. Whether you prefer the "Today Screen" or the iPhone's simpler home screen depends on your preference. But it did seem easier to reach these things on the iPhone, rather than finding them on the Windows Start menu.
The three-dimensional Touch Cube interface is, nonetheless, one of the highlights of the Touch. This feature is accessed by swiping a finger up from the bottom of the screen, and then swiping a finger to the right or left to spin the cube and pan through applications, media and contacts. The contacts side of the cube displays your top nine contacts with photos. Unfortunately, Touch Cube is only available when the phone's display is in portrait view. Therefore, make sure the display is not set to landscape view, to enable this feature to work.
Basic features on the Touch include a calculator, calendar and camera album. The one-touch talk button near the bottom of the phone brings up a keypad to make a call, and the end button closes this. The Touch also has access to GPS through Sprint Navigation. The Touch features a battery, and the phone generally has up to four hours of talk time. The media playback time is up to eight hours for video and 12 hours for audio.
The Touch features a colorful, sharp screen with 65,000 colors and resolution of 240-by-320 pixels. The LCD measures 2.8-inches diagonally, and what really sets this screen apart is TouchFlo to navigate by tapping and swiping your fingers across the screen. After using the display for a short time, it becomes intuitive and is easy to use.
Relative to other LCDs, the Touch's 65,000-color screen is mediocre, with many video-focused devices delivering 262,000- to 16.7 million-colors. Built from TFT, or Thin Film Transistor, technology, the Touch offers brighter imagery and faster response rates over older STN, or Super Twisted Nematic, screens. While the screen is better than most handhelds on the market, it fails to measure up to the iPhone's 3.5-inch 320-by-480 pixel display. Apple doesn't disclose the iPhone's screen colors.
Audio quality on the Touch is limited, but then music does not seem to be the focus of this smartphone. The volume produced by the small speaker on the back of the phone is low, and the phone tends to have a tinny, one-dimensional sound. There are plenty of options to access media from Sprint. Through the Music Store, you can access to more than 1.8 million songs, and download them wirelessly. You can also stream more than a dozen radio stations, among them Sprint Radio and Sirius.
The Touch can access email from POP3, IMAP4, SMTP and Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, as well as Direct Push for real-time service the instant it arrives in the inbox. It also comes with instant messaging through AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live. Instant messaging can be accessed from the home screen, by touching the letter icon on the left side of the screen.
One of the main difficulties with the Touch is the size of keypads. You may be forced to navigate with the stylus if you want to use the tiny touch screen buttons. The problem becomes more apparent once you move past the Touch Cube. Fortunately, the phone lets you to choose a keyboard, which does make typing easier. Like the iPhone, the virtual keyboard offers easier text entry. Designed to be used with the fingers, the stylus-designed entry method is rather cumbersome to use with fingers.
Basic features preinstalled on the Touch include a calculator, calendar and camera album. The one-touch talk button near the bottom of the phone brings up a keypad to make a call, and the end button closes this. As mentioned earlier, it has access to Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV to listen to music and watch videos with Windows Media Player.
Through Sprint Music Store, you can choose from hundreds of thousands of full-length songs from virtually every genre. And tracks can be simultaneously downloaded to both the phone and a personal computer. Though Sprint TV, you can view more than 50 channels of live and on-demand including ABC News Now, Bloomberg, Fox News Channel, Discovery and the Learning Channel. This wealth of media is excellent, since the Touch is competing with the iPhone, which allows you to buy songs and television shows through Apple's popular iTunes website.
You can also customize on-demand information such as sports, weather and news information, so you know all the up-to-the-minute news of what is going on. Sprint streams more than a dozen radio stations, and that includes Sprint Radio and Sirius.
Sprint Navigation offers access to GPS navigation, helping travelers explore local restaurants and shops, or look for the lowest gas prices. The voice-guided and on-screen driving directions speak street names for each turn. In addition, 3-D moving maps, similar to an in-car navigation system or personal navigation device, help you avoid traffic. You can even get real-time intelligent traffic alerts and one-click rerouting, while local search provides more than 10 million points of interest.
The Touch supports Sprint's Ev-Do broadband network for high-speed data of around 300- to 500-kilobytes per second, which makes it easy to connect to the Sprint Music Store, Sprint TV and other media. The Touch also comes with Internet Explorer to browse the Web. Ev-Do service quickly accesses email accounts including POP3, IMAP4, SMTP and Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, and sends and receives instant messages through AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live.
The Touch has only 128-megabytes of built in memory, so it's nice that it comes with a 512-megabytes microSD card. The Touch supports cards up to 4-gigabytes, which can be purchased separately. Putting in the microSD card and taking it out is inconvenient, since the back of the phone must be removed to pry loose the tab that covers the slot.
The Touch supports various methods of Bluetooth communication, like A2DP to listen to stereo music, in addition to using headsets and handsfree devices. You can also sync the phone with a PC via Wireless Backup or ActiveSync software, or use it as a wireless modem for a laptop -- but that requires a fee with Sprint's Power Vision Modem Plan.
The Touch offers a wealth of features in a small package and the innovative Touch Cube interface takes advantage of the TouchFlo screen. This screen technology offers quick access to many one-touch features, such as text message and photos.
The audio quality isn't great, but this phone provides a solid smartphone that is perfect for on-the-go professionals to stay organized. The design of the phone itself is simple and gives just enough control through minimal buttons to get through some operations without the touch screen. And the connectivity to Bluetooth and PCs is another plus.
Windows software works well with the TouchFlo and for the most part, it was intuitive and easy to navigate. HTC and Sprint clearly put some thought into the whole package with this phone in order to show off the touch screen. If you're looking for the most beautifully designed touch screen device, it's still the iPhone -- the Touch is not as sleek or artistically designed. But if you want a Windows phone with a touch screen, the Touch still has a lot to offer.
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Categories: Windows | Business | Trend Setter
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