HTC Touch HD

Has HTC finally created a viable competitor to the iPhone, or is the Touch HD just another good-looking phone that struggles to cope with Windows Mobile?

The default browser is not Microsoft's Internet Explorer, though this is still installed on the phone. Instead HTC is the latest smartphone maker to adopt Opera as a default web browser. However, despite the TouchFLO screen, forget about easy iPhone style gesture controls for zooming in on web pages. Instead you have to use a scroll bar along the base of the display to zoom, or by tapping on the screen.

One nice touch is the use of the vibrate motor to provide force feedback when pressing on-screen buttons. This provides a nice tactile experience not found on most touch screen phones, with the exception of the Storm, which has a physically clickable display area.

Moving on to the camera, we see a major step up on previous Windows smartphones. The HD has a five megapixel camera with auto focus. However there is no flash. Pictures are bright with reasonable colour depth. However, even with auto focus images frequently came out with an element of blur (even when the freeze-frame on screen was pin sharp), as the HD is very unforgiving of hand shake. Meanwhile the lag between pressing the shutter button and the image being taken is a good three seconds.

Despite the large, bright display, the battery life on the HD is very good indeed. Manufacturer quoted times are up to 420 minutes in 3G mode and a slightly baffling 680 hours in standby, the latter being a full third more than the quoted GSM standby time. We tested on the Orange network with a full strength 3G signal and with moderate use (30 minutes of phone calls, one hour of browsing), managed a respectable 129 hours standby. This was helped significantly by the HD switching its display off at every possible opportunity to conserve power, a normal and welcome Windows Mobile feature.

Other nice touches include a 3.5mm audio jack for normal headphones, along with being able to access the microSD card slot without removing the battery, though you still have to remove the battery cover. Charging and syncing is done via a mini USB port, so chargers and cables will be plentiful in the accessory market.

While we really like the HD as a device, it is held back by HTC's choice of software. Windows Mobile 6.1 is a mild update to the smartphone OS, but retains many of the characteristics of 6.0, including being very slow and juddery. Even HTC's TouchFLO interface lacks the finesse of rival platforms.

In an ideal world, users would have a choice of what operating system they could run on their phone. The Touch HD would be a great case in point as there is little to fault about the physical device other than the average camera. How well would this phone work if it were running Symbian or Android that's the real question?

Verdict

The Touch HD has a fantastic display, OK battery life and no shortage of built-in software features. It’s pretty good as a telephone as well. Our only gripe, and it is a big one, is that yet again this is a phone that is let down by Microsoft’s lacklustre and bloated Windows Mobile software. Despite the hardware, use is slow and clunky, not the smooth and responsive experience we expect from the likes of the iPhone and RIM’s Storm. Maybe HTC should try putting Google’s Android OS on one instead.

Size: 115mm x 62.8mm x 12mm Weight: 147 grams Display: 3.8inch TFT-LCD flat touch-sensitive screen with 480 x 800 WVGA resolution Mobile phone: Quad band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), Dual band 3G (900/2100 MHz) Data support: 2Mb/sec up and 7.2Mb/sec down (if supported by network) Wireless: Bluetooth® 2.0 with EDR and A2DP, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi Camera: 5 megapixel with auto focus, VGA CMOS front-facing camera for video calls Talk time: Up to 420 minutes (3G), 480 minutes (GSM) Standby: Up to 680 hours (3G) 440 hours (GSM) Video call time: Up to 140 minutes Memory Expansion: microSD slot (SD 2.0 compatible) On-board memory: 512MB ROM, 288MB RAM Operating System Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional

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