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HTC Touch Pro 2
Banking on the popularity of its Fuze (aka Touch Pro) phones for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, HTC has launched the unlocked Touch Pro 2 ($800; price as of 7/14/09) with a slicker design and a spruced-up user interface. But like many Windows Mobile smartphones, in my tests the Touch Pro 2 exhibited a familiar sluggishness when doing certain tasks such as launching apps or scrolling through contacts--definitely not ideal for always-on-the-go types.
The Touch Pro 2's design is eye-catching, functional, and well constructed. A roomy 3.6-inch, 480-by-800 WVGA display dominates the front face of the phone. Below the screen is a touch-sensitive zoom bar, which allows you to zoom in and out of Web pages with a flick of your finger. In my hands-on tests, the zoom bar worked quite well.
Four small hardware buttons sit below the zoom bar: Talk, a shortcut to the Windows Start menu, Back, and Home/End. Some users might find these buttons a bit small (a colleague with larger hands said that they were difficult to press), but personally I had no issues with their size. Other than these buttons, the Touch Pro 2's control layout is minimal: A power button resides in the top-left corner of the handset, a volume rocker sits on the left spine, and the proprietary headphone/charging jack is on the bottom.
I've praised HTC phone keyboards in the past, and the Touch Pro 2 keyboard lives up to my expectations: The horizontal slide-out keyboard is spacious, ergonomic, and sturdy. Button placement is intuitive, and the phone also offers a number of other useful keys, including browser and SMS shortcut keys, a Ctrl key, and page up/down keys. The aluminum keys are easy to press and have the right amount of clickiness for typing long messages quickly and comfortably. The Touch Pro 2 also has an on-screen keyboard that you can switch between landscape and portrait views. The display supports haptic feedback, which vibrates slightly when you open an app, press a key, or select a link in the browser. The haptic feedback improves the typing experience on the somewhat small on-screen keyboard, but I noticed some lag between what I typed and what appeared on the screen. That isn't a huge problem, though: Because the Touch Pro 2's hardware keyboard is so well designed, you most likely won't use the software keyboard for anything longer than a few words.
The TouchFLO 3D interface consists of a bar along the bottom of the touchscreen that provides shortcuts to the Opera browser, e-mail, the music player, and other apps. 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 aesthetically pleasing and futuristic. The weather application, for example, is impressive with its animations of the current forecast. The TouchFLO Start screen isn't your standard pull-out Windows Mobile menu; instead you get an Android-esque customizable screen that displays all of your apps.
The newest version of TouchFLO 3D caters to message-happy owners by displaying all of your communication history with each of your contacts. Essentially it's like a miniature version of the TouchFLO home screen for each contact: You can flick through five different screens displaying contact details, text messages, e-mail, Facebook information, and recent calls. Overall the feature is a streamlined way to keep all of your contacts organized--a boon to business users. Other new features in TouchFLO include Stocks and Calendar pages, as well as a landscape view of the home screen.
However, I experienced some delays and sluggishness when opening apps--a common experience with Windows Mobile devices. Additionally, Windows Mobile crashed a few times when I tried to link a Facebook profile to a contact.
For surfing the Web, both Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile come preloaded on the Touch Pro 2. The Opera browser can handle full Web sites as well as mobile sites; but like similar smartphone browsers, it does not support Flash. Pages loaded reasonably quickly over AT&T's 3G network, and even faster over Wi-Fi.
The music player, like most of the programs in the TouchFLO 3D interface, is visually attractive, with an iTunes-style 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.
Video looks great on the Touch Pro 2's gorgeous 3.6-inch screen. When the keyboard is out, you can adjust the handset's display to decrease glare depending on your viewing environment. Video playback was fairly smooth (though a few of my videos had to stop and buffer a few times), with a bit of noise and pixelation.
The Touch Pro 2 lacks a dedicated camera button, but you can access the camera from the shortcut bar. The camera has an on-screen shutter button, which occasionally caused shaky or blurred images. Though the 3.2-megapixel camera has no flash, it does offer autofocus, plus a few advanced controls such as white balance and self-timer settings. You can zoom in to your subject using the touch-sensitive navigation button. Image quality was average in my tests, but shots in low-light environments suffered due to the lack of a flash. You can view your photos in a touch-friendly, flickable photo album, similar to that of the iPhone 3GS.
The Touch Pro 2 marries Windows Mobile functionality with HTC's clean aesthetics and intuitive usability. If you need a stronger camera or quicker-loading apps, you might look elsewhere, but otherwise the Touch Pro 2 does not disappoint.
HTC Touch Pro 2
The Touch Pro 2 marries functionality with clean aesthetics and intuitive usability, but the camera is mediocre.
- Sophisticated, minimalist design
- Improved TouchFLO UI
- Camera is just average
- Software lags at times
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