High Tech Computer (HTC), the largest maker of handsets that run Microsoft Windows Mobile software, unveiled updates to two of its most popular smartphones ever on Monday, the HTC Touch Diamond2 and HTC Touch Pro2 handsets. (See our hands-on report).
The sleek new handsets are both 3G touchscreen devices, but while the Touch Diamond2 is a consumer smartphone designed to compete with Apple’s iPhone 3G, the Touch Pro2 is geared toward business people and could be a hit with its speaker phone function.
Both handsets continue the Touch line’s tradition of attention to design and detail. They are both metallic colors mixed with chrome and black and are designed to make people stop and ask ‘what is that?’ according to Horace Luke, chief innovation officer at HTC.
“This is definitely more of a trendy look. I think 2009 is turning out to be a little more bling, a little more confidence,” he said.
HTC improved both handsets by a large measure over their predecessors, starting from the screens, which are much larger, more visually stunning and more responsive to touch commands.
The software inside — a customized version of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.1 with a new version of HTC’s TouchFLO 3D — has also seen major improvements.
Two new features are Push-Internet, which enables the handset to download favorite Web site information at specified times so users don’t have to wait for the sites to download. The handsets also have so-called unified communications so people’s contact books and most recent conversations are right on hand no matter what form they came in, either from a phone call, SMS (Short Message Service) or e-mail.
The new Touch Diamond2 has several advantages over the original Touch Diamond. For starters, the Diamond2 sports a larger screen at 3.2 inches, compared to 2.8 inches for its predecessor. The overall handset is still slim at 13.7 millimeters thick and small enough to fit easily into your pocket.
The larger screen offers two noticeable benefits right away. The touch function works much better than on the older model and HTC’s 480×800 wide-screen VGA resolution, the same as on many laptop PCs, is stunning.
Luke says the improved touchscreen functionality is due to improvements on the company’s TouchFLO 3D software.
The Touch Diamond2 also boasts a 5.0-megapixel camera with mechanical auto-focus, a bid to make cameras in handsets work more like regular digital still cameras. You can snap pictures much faster due to the mechanical auto-focus, according to HTC.
The device will be available in Europe and Asia early in the second quarter of this year, with North America to be included later in 2009. The Touch Pro2 will be available globally beginning early in the summer, HTC said.
Pricing information was not immediately available.
The Touch Pro2 carries a 3.6-inch touchscreen with the same WVGA resolution as the Touch Diamond2, but even thought the screen is nice, it isn’t the best physical feature on the handset.
The best feature is that it doubles as a speaker phone for conference calls.
Even if a user is already in a call but just wants to open the caller up to a conversation or meeting in the room or even add more callers, that can be done without hanging up. To change the Touch Pro2 into a speaker phone, you just lay it on a table face down and it immediately transforms. The backside of the handset is the speaker phone, with two microphones and speakers that run like a race track around the back of the handset.
For heavy e-mail and data users, the device also offers a QWERTY keypad with spacious lettering. The screen actually tilts up to improve the view while typing. It almost looks like a mini-laptop when the screen is tilted up.
The two smartphones both feature several software improvements.
One of the main improvements is the Push-Internet. Users can change settings on both handsets to update favorite sites, such as news Web sites, every several hours or sooner each day. The phone will then make the updates itself so that when the user is ready to open a Web site on their handset, it’s already been downloaded and there’s no need to wait as the phone starts the connection.
The other is the unified communications on the two handsets. All data and e-mail addresses for a contact are stored together. Contact histories are also in place, with the latest e-mails, SMSs and phone calls ordered by date and time so that you know exactly the last bit of information you sent out to your contact and their response. Other information is also stored by the contact, including birthdays, anniversaries and other data as helpful reminders.
Battery life has also been improved on the two smartphones, HTC said. Specifications on the handsets were not immediately available.