HTC is on a hot streak. The company behind such smart phones as the T-Mobile Dash and the Sprint Mogul has now released a PDA phone under its own brand called the HTC Touch. The handset is aptly named for its 2.8-inch touch screen and its touch-based user interface. Though I like the device's general concept, a few kinks prevent the Touch from being a great phone.
HTC's TouchFlo technology lets you use your fingertips to navigate menus and perform basic tasks in the Touch's various applications. Swiping my fingers from left to right turned the page to the media menu for music, photos, and videos. Swiping from left to right again brought up an applications menu for e-mail, the Web browser, the communications manager (showing my Bluetooth, phone network, and wireless-LAN connections, among other things), SMS/MMS messages, tasks, and the calendar. The Touch remembers the order in which these menus appeared during your previous session and replicates that look when you relaunch it.
Though the swiping interface is appealing, Windows Mobile 6 Professional (the operating system that ships with the Touch) isn't especially well suited for touch-of-a-finger functionality. WM 6's interface design functions better with a stylus, which HTC includes with the Touch. On the other hand, many WM 6 apps, including contacts, e-mail, and the calendar, work best with a keyboard; the Touch doesn't have one, and using its tiny on-screen keyboard becomes tiresome quickly.
It's a pleasure, however, to view Web pages on the Touch, thanks to the full HTML support available with the device's Internet Explorer browser. In Gmail, I opened a Word attachment easily; you can view Excel, PowerPoint, and Acrobat files, too. The Touch is compatible with Outlook and Windows Live/Hotmail e-mail, and you can set up personal (POP3 and IMAP) e-mail accounts as well.
The Touch's camera was a tad slow to snap photos--I noted a 4.5-second shutter lag per shot at the high-resolution (2-megapixel) quality setting--but I appreciated being able to change the camera settings (resolution, effects, and so on) via the touch screen. Call volume and sound quality on the Touch were adequate, though I (and the people I called) noticed slight background noise through both the earpiece and the speakerphone. In our lab tests the Touch's talk-time battery life was a poor 5 hours.
HTC's Touch is being billed as an alternative to Apple's iPhone, and for the most part it is a worthy one. The Touch's price is about the same as that of the iPhone: It costs $350 (as of 12/20/07) with a two-year AT&T contract.
Advanced phone's touch-based interface and Windows Mobile 6 OS are promising applications, but the two don't mix well.
- Slim design
- Touch screen responds to finger swipes
- Doesn't always behave properly