HTC Fuze Smart Phone
At a Glance
The feature-rich HTC Fuze for AT&T is a stylish cell phone with a responsive touch screen and a gorgeous display. But the Fuze's sluggish performance and average keyboard proved frustrating in our tests.
The $300 Fuze is essentially Sprint's HTC Touch Pro rebranded to run on AT&T's 3G network. It's the same size as the Touch Pro, at 4 by 2 by 0.7 inches, but it's a half ounce heavier, at 5.8 ounces. Like the Touch Pro, the Fuze has a 2.8-inch VGA touch screen. Though both phones run on Windows Mobile 6.1 with the HTC TouchFLO touch-screen overlay, the Fuze has access to AT&T's multimedia and navigation features. Both handsets are similar to their sibling, the Touch Diamond, but have two significant additions: a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard and expandable memory (as opposed to the Diamond's 4GB of internal memory).
The Fuze is a bit bricklike in shape, but its high-quality plastic case feels great in the hand. The front is completely flat with four buttons (home, back, and phone send and end) surrounding a navigation button that is both press- and touch-sensitive. The handset has a dedicated volume rocker and a push-to-talk button on the left side, a stylus on the right side, a power button on the top, and a USB connector for charging the Fuze and using its included headset. (The Fuze lacks a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.)
Call quality was very good. My contacts sounded clear and I noticed only a bit of background static on one call. Parties on the other end reported very good sound quality with little background noise. HTC rates the Fuze's talk-time battery life at 6 hours, 36 minutes. We'll update this review with a final rating once the PC World Test Center completes its battery-life tests.
The slide-out keyboard springs open easily, but is sturdy enough so that it won't open when you don't want it to. The keys are fairly small--I found myself hitting the wrong key sometimes when typing long messages. They're also not as tactile as I'd prefer; they're more spongy than clicky, which makes typing a bit uncomfortable. The keyboard is nicely backlit, however, and has a variety of shortcut keys for instant messaging, the music application, Wi-Fi, and more.
The Fuze sports the improved TouchFLO 3D interface, a simple HTC overlay that runs atop the Windows 6.1 operating system. TouchFLO 3D looks spectacular on the Fuze's gorgeous screen, but its performance was hit-and-miss.
TouchFLO 3D consists of a bar of shortcuts to applications such as the Opera browser, e-mail, and the music player that runs along the bottom of the screen. Overall it's incredibly intuitive, making the sometimes headache-inducing Windows Mobile a breeze to navigate. You can flick through the shortcut bar to find an application, and it will instantly pop up on the screen. The programs present a 3D illusion (hence the name) that is very pleasing and futuristic-looking. The weather application, for example, was impressive with its animations of the current forecast.
Unfortunately, I noticed some lag when scrolling through contacts and messages, as well as when navigating through the music app. In addition, I saw a noticeable delay between my typing on the keyboard and the results' appearing on screen. Another drawback to TouchFLO 3D is that you can't customize your shortcuts without digging deep into the Windows operating system.
The Opera 9.5 Web browser loads quickly and is easy to use, due to the Fuze's navigation button. The touch- and press-sensitive button is similar to the iPod's touch wheel and can zoom in and out of pages. Like all HTC Windows Mobile phones, the Fuze has Microsoft Outlook, as well as Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat capabilities.
The music application, like the majority of the programs on the TouchFLO 3D interface, is aesthetically pleasing, with an iTunes-esque album-art navigation system. Sound quality was good, though I noticed a bit of distortion in certain songs. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack limits the phone's capabilities as a music player, though; to use standard headphones, you must insert a clunky adapter, included with the phone. Customers also have access to AT&T's Mobile Music service, AT&T video share, MobiTV, and XM Radio Mobile.
The Fuze lacks a dedicated camera key, but you can access the camera from the shortcut bar. On the Touch Diamond, the camera is located on the front of the device, enabling video calling. The Fuze, however, has its lens on the back, so there's no video calling option. The 3.2-megapixel camera has a flash, autofocus, and a few advanced controls such as flash light adjustment, white balance, and self-timer settings. You can zoom in to your subject using the touch-sensitive navigation button. Image quality was good, and I saw only a hint of interference on some indoor shots.
Overall the Fuze impresses with a gorgeous display and a variety of multimedia features, but HTC still has a few kinks to work out in the phone's interface, performance-wise.