capsule review

HTC Touch Cruise (Unlocked)

At a Glance
  • HTC Touch Cruise

    PCWorld Rating

An unlocked brother to the HTC Touch series phones, the HTC Touch Cruise ($550, unlocked, as of 4/9/2009) has an eye-catching look and a beautifully designed touch interface. But like the other HTC phones we've tested, the Cruise suffers from sluggish performance--a common problem with Windows Mobile touchscreen phones.

The Touch Cruise is thin and lightweight, measuring 4.0 by 2.1 by 0.6 inches and weighing a featherlight 3.6 ounces. A generous 2.8-inch touchscreen with a gorgeous, bright 240-by-320-pixel resolution dominates the face of the phone. Sitting below the display is a cluster of navigational buttons consisting of four flush buttons and a four-way navigational pad encircled by a navi-wheel. The navi-wheel moves smoothly, and its rubber coating makes it comfortable to use. The four buttons are shortcut keys to Navigation, End, Send, and Footprints (a feature that lets you geotag photos) .

Over T-Mobile's 3G network, I found the call quality disappointing. I heard a faint hiss in the background, but it wasn't loud enough to be distracting. What was disappointing was the frequent echo on my end. But parties on the other end said that they could not hear a hiss or echo. Call recipients also said that my voice sounded loud and natural, with no distortion or tinny effect.

The Touch Cruise sports the improved TouchFLO 3D interface, a simple HTC overlay that runs atop the Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard operating system. TouchFLO 3D looks spectacular on the Cruise's display, but its performance was hit-and-miss and downright pokey at times.

TouchFLO 3D consists of a bar of shortcuts to applications such as the Internet browser, e-mail, and the music player that runs along the bottom of the screen. Overall, TouchFLO 3D is 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, while applications popped up quickly, I noticed some lag when scrolling through contacts and messages, as well as when navigating through the music app. I often found myself swiping the shortcut bar multiple times to get it to move. I also had to tap keys on both the QWERTY and numeric keyboards until a letter or number appeared on the screen. Another drawback to TouchFLO 3D: You can't customize your shortcuts without digging deep into the Windows operating system.

For browsing the Web, HTC preinstalls both Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile. The Opera browser can handle regular Web sites as well as mobile sites. But like similar smartphone browsers, it does not include Flash support out of the box. The Opera 9.5 Web browser loads quickly and is easy to use--the Cruise's touch- and press-sensitive navigation button is similar to the iPod's touch wheel, with the ability to zoom in and out of pages. Like all HTC Windows Mobile phones, the Cruise has Microsoft Outlook, as well as Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat capabilities.

The music player, like most of the programs on the TouchFLO 3D interface, is aesthetically pleasing, with an iTunes-esque album-art navigation system. Sound quality was good overall. 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.

The Cruise 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, so it doubles as a video conferencing tool, too. The Cruise, however, has its lens on the back, so it lacks a video calling option. The 3.2-megapixel camera has no flash, but it does have 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 average, but shots in low-light environments suffered due to the lack of flash. You can view your photos in a touch-friendly, flickable photo album, similar to the iPhone's.

The HTC Cruise impresses with its gorgeous display and variety of multimedia features. But like other HTC Touch phones we've seen, the Cruise's touch interface gets is bogged down by Windows Mobile, which makes for a sometimes frustrating experience.

--Ginny Mies

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The HTC Touch Cruise has a featherlight design and attractive user interface, but its performance can be slow.

    Pros

    • Gorgeous touch interface
    • Lightweight and slim design

    Cons

    • Spotty call quality
    • Performance sometimes sluggish
Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon