- Svelte and attractive design
- User interface can be slow
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
The head-turning HTC Pure is touch-friendly and inexpensive, but its lack of a headphone jack and its drab multimedia features are disappointing.
What’s in a name? A few months ago, this smartphone was known as the HTC Touch Diamond 2. Now, it’s called the HTC Pure ($150 with a two-year contract from AT&T). Rebranding aside, the handset improves significantly on its predecessor, the Touch Diamond, with better specs, a more sophisticated design, and the new features supported by Windows Mobile 6.5. Unfortunately, the phone lacks multimedia panache while retaining WinMo’s trademark sluggishness.
The HTC Pure looks sleek and classy despite being relatively inexpensive. Measuring 4.3 inches by 2.1 inches by 0.5 inch and weighing 4.2 ounces, the Pure is slightly bigger and beefier than the Touch Diamond. Rectangular with rounded corners, it’s well-shaped for your hand and your pocket.
The handset’s design is fairly minimalist, with four hardware buttons (Talk, Windows Start, Back, and End/Home) running beneath the display. A touch-sensitive zoom bar, similar to the one on the HTC Touch Pro 2, sits between the buttons and the display. The bar enables you to zoom in and out of Web pages with a flick of your finger; and in my hands-on tests, it worked quite well. The Power button sits at the top of the phone, and the large volume rocker is located on the left spine. Like many HTC-manufactured phones, the Pure carries a proprietary headphone/charging jack, which means that you’ll have to use an adapter if you want to plug in your own headphones.
Overall, holding the phone felt great during long conversations, with no discomfort. Call quality over AT&T’s 3G network, however, disappointed me. I heard a distracting hiss during most of my calls; and on some calls, voices sounded faint and distant.
A 3.2-inch WVGA touchscreen (a nice upgrade from the Touch Diamond’s 2.8-inch display) with an 800-by-480-pixel resolution dominates the face of the phone. Am I spoiled by multitouch technology? I felt that I had to push harder on the screen to get a response–not a very intuitive arrangement. Even so, I definitely noticed Windows Mobile 6.5’s enhanced support for touchscreens; navigating through the interface was much more pleasurable than on older WinMo phones.
The software keyboard felt a little cramped, but it was serviceable for short messages. The haptic feedback is a nice touch, however, and it did make typing a little more comfortable. If you’re looking to use your phone for messaging and e-mail, you might want to consider the HTC Tilt 2, which has a full QWERTY keyboard and is coming to AT&T within a few weeks.
The HTC Pure runs Windows Mobile 6.5 OS with HTC’s custom user interface, TouchFLO 3D. 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. Flick through the shortcut bar to find an application, and it will instantly pop up on the screen. TouchFLO 3D it is a little more customizable now, as you can rearrange and remove tabs from the interface through the Settings menu. Don’t want to go with TouchFLO 3D? Turn it off in favor of the default Windows Mobile 6.5 interface.
The spruced-up Windows Mobile Start screen displays your icons in a honeycomb pattern. You can customize the Start menu with a background image and add more widgets and applications to it via the Microsoft Marketplace. Move preferred icons to the top by pressing down on them for a few seconds. Thankfully, you no longer have to use the tiny scroll bar to navigate through the menu; instead, you can flick the screen to scroll to the bottom. The icons are much sharper, too, and pop out nicely on the screen.
Besides the new start screen, Windows Mobile 6.5 introduces some useful interface features. My favorite is the lock screen, which lets you to see missed calls or messages without unlocking the phone. If you want to respond to one, simply unlock the notification and you’ll jump straight to that application–pretty nifty.
The Pure was speedier than older HTC-manufactured Windows phones I’ve tested, but I still encountered some lag while scrolling through my music collection. The accelerometer was a bit slow at times, a shortcoming we noticed on the Android-based HTC Hero, as well.
The Pure ships with two browsers: the new Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile 9.7. To zoom into a page on Internet Explorer Mobile, you tap twice on the area that you want to enlarge. Though the effect isn’t as slick as the multitouch pinch-to-zoom control, it works just fine. Scrolling through pages on Internet Explorer Mobile isn’t as smooth as the iPhone’s Safari, but browsing is adequate overall. The Opera 9.7 system of displaying open pages isn’t ideal (it shrinks them to thumbnails and tiles them side by side), so I would go with Internet Explorer as my main browser.
For whatever reason, Microsoft chose to ignore the bland Windows Media Player in this update. I had high hopes before Windows Mobile 6.5 was officially announced that the player would get a makeover to resemble the gorgeous player on the Zune. The TouchFlo 3D player is a bit more aesthetically pleasing than Windows Media Player, with an iTunes-esque album-art navigation system. Sound quality was good overall, but the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack limits the Pure’s appeal as a music player.
The Pure’s 5-megapixel camera, on the other hand, was quite impressive. Despite not having a flash, the camera snapped great-looking images both outdoors and indoors. Colors looked accurate, details were sharp, and I saw no traces of graininess or pixelation.
While the updates in Windows Mobile 6.5 may seem incremental on paper, the upgrade in usability from version 6.1 is a big deal. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but I think Microsoft is on the right track. And pairing the new OS with high-quality hardware like the HTC Pure makes the OS even more attractive. At $150, the HTC Pure is a good deal for all of the features you get and provides a solid alternative to the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS.