Verizon Wireless’ HTC Imagio was the first Windows Mobile 6.5 (Windows Phone) device to hit the market, and it’s bursting at the seams with features, including Wi-Fi, broadcast-quality TV, and HTC’s TouchFLO interface. A multimedia and business powerhouse, it’s a device that will please business users and casual owners alike, if you can get used to the resistive touchscreen.
The HTC Imagio measures 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches and weighs a fairly heavy 5.3 ounces. It’s about the size of an iPhone 3GS (4.5 x 2.4 x 0.5), but dominating its face is a slightly larger 3.6 inch screen with a sharp 800 x 480-pixel resolution. The screen is bordered by matte black plastic that’s loaded with small divots (it looks like one massive speaker, but it’s not). The overall feel is sturdy, and this is definitely one of the best-looking Windows phones on the market.
Below the screen there’s a touch-sensitive zoom bar, send/end buttons, a media button, a return button, and a Windows key that brings up the start menu. There are volume controls on the right side of the phone. A microUSB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack are on the bottom of the device. There’s even a kickstand on the back for when you want to prop the phone on a desk to watch TV.
HTC covers up most of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 with its own finger-friendly TouchFLO 3D interface. From the home screen, simply slide your finger along a bottom row of icons to access your e-mail, messages, your music, the Web, and more. The home screen displays your call history, the time/date, weather, and calendar events. HTC’s touches are carried throughout the device in areas like the keyboard and settings menu as well.
The new start menu in Windows Mobile 6.5 has a honeycomb interface, which makes it easy to view multiple applications at once. Unfortunately, you can’t customize the order of application icons; users can only send icons to the top of the page (for more information on Windows Mobile 6.5, check out our full review).
During our testing, we ran into a few UI bugs that left us with a blank black screen all for the start menu icon, status icons, and our soft key icons. This usually occurred after exiting the mobile TV application. We found a quick fix was to hold down the Power key until we were able to exit out of the application. We had to restart the device once after the home screen failed to load TouchFLO correctly.
With Windows Mobile 6.5 comes Microsoft’s Marketplace for Mobile, a place to download applications. While it’s still growing, the number of applications available here is still in the hundreds, not the thousands. The iPhone, by comparison, has over 80,000 available applications. Some of our current favorites include Microsoft’s My Phone (free), which lets you store and backup your content online, and Twikini, a robust Twitter client.
The Imagio has a custom HTC on-screen QWERTY keyboard that works in both landscape and portrait modes. It’s similar to the one found on devices such as the HTC Hero and is large enough to type on with your fingers, although a stylus is included if that’s your preferred method of entry. We found that typing was a bit harder than on the Hero, however, because this device has a resistive screen. Auto-complete worked well, but it was inconsistent. Most of the time we kept this feature off, but it turned itself on automatically randomly, like when we were entering the settings for our out-going e-mail server.
E-mail and Messaging
As a Windows Phone, the Imagio natively supports Microsoft Exchange for full e-mail, contact, and calendar sync. You can also easily add your own IMAP/POP e-mail accounts by following through the standard e-mail setup wizard that has not changed since Windows Mobile 6.1; it recognizes common addresses like @google and @yahoo and automatically configures the correct settings. The Imagio also has Verizon Wireless’ Mobile E-mail shortcut for the application that lets you add your AOL, Yahoo, or Windows Live accounts.
Windows Phones come with Microsoft Office Mobile installed, so you can open Excel, PowerPoint, and Word document attachments, as well as make edits to these files. Also, the Imagio comes with Adobe Reader LE for opening PDF files.
We surfed the Web on the Imagio using both Verizon Wireless’ 3G EV-DO Rev. A network and our Wi-Fi network. Opera 9.5 is the default browser on the Imagio, which we prefer to Internet Explorer Mobile because it has faster rendering, better bookmark support, and a more streamlined interface.
Over a 3G connection, we loaded the full ESPN.com HTML page in 44 seconds, NYT.com in 47 seconds, and Laptopmag.com in 44 seconds. The iPhone 3GS, by comparison, loaded NYT.com in a zippier 17 seconds, ESPN.com in a slower 53 seconds, and our home page in a faster 35 seconds. Even still, we were able to begin interacting with all of these pages after about 20 seconds of loading.
Over Wi-Fi, we loaded the full NYT.com home page in 26 seconds, ESPN.com in 29 seconds, and Laptopmag.com in 20 seconds.
You can zoom in and pan around the page quickly, and the text was very sharp given the display’s high resolution. You can zoom using the area just below the screen that has small tic marks for panning in and out of the page, but that doesn’t provide an accurate zoom. Instead, we recommend double tapping the area of the page you want to view closer.
Loaded with V Cast Music (Rhapsody support), Qualcomm’s FloTV, and V Cast videos, the Imagio is a veritable multimedia powerhouse. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for watching TV or listening to tunes without any annoying adapters.
V Cast Music with Rhapsody lets you use a Rhapsody subscription to download unlimited music to your Imagio using the Rhapsody music player with a Rhapsody subscription ($14.99 per month). You can also download songs over the air for $1.99 a pop. We downloaded Owl City’s “Cave In” (1.88MB file) in 58 seconds. Audio was loud enough to fill a small room through the small speaker on the back of the phone, but it was hollow and tinny. When we plugged in a set of headphones the music sounded much fuller and was comparable to the audio quality you’d get from an iPod.
V Cast TV offers 14 channels to watch ($15 per month, a smaller 10 channel package is available for $10 per month). Before relying on the Imagio as a TV device, however, check your coverage from Verizon’s Web site. We popped out the antenna and watched The Daily Show on Comedy Central. The quality was good, not too pixelated, and we could make out text at the bottom of the screen. Voices were in sync with audio, too. By default there were two quarter-inch gray bars on either side of the TV feed, and while we could go full screen with a tap, the quality suffered.
The Imagio comes loaded with VZ Navigator, powered by Networks in Motion, for voice-guided turn-by-turn directions ($9.99 per month). VZ Navigator provides options for local search, traffic, movies, and more. The software located us in midtown Manhattan in just four seconds, and it took another 15 seconds to calculate our route from our office to our apartment building.
The Imagio has a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus. Shots taken indoors and outside were solid and on a par with other 5-MP camera phones such as the HTC Hero. In dim environments, however, shots didn’t come out very well because the camera doesn’t have a flash. The phone doesn’t have a dedicated camera shortcut, either, so it’s hard to grab quick shots because you have to the start menu and then launch the camera application.
We recorded video at the maximum 640 x 480 resolution around our office and found the quality to be YouTube worthy, but it wasn’t as good as the Samsung Instinct HD.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The Imagio supports Verizon’s 3G network as well as European voice and data networks, so it will double as a world phone with an appropriate plan. During our tests, call quality was very good on our end. However, our caller said we sounded a bit distant and asked if we were on speakerphone. Also, they could hear our TV running in background.
Under heavy usage where we browsed the Web, listening to music, and checked our e-mail about every half hour, the Imagio barely made it through a full work day. By 2 p.m. we had a half charge, and we found ourselves charging the phone again by 8 p.m. You’ll want to keep your charger close by if you go on overnight trips.
At $199, the HTC Imagio is a fairly priced smart phone for what you get: the solid TouchFLO user interface, a good camera/camcorder, Wi-Fi, TV, GPS, and a sleek design. If you want to sacrifice the TV for a full QWERTY keyboard, we suggest you check out the HTC Touch Pro 2, which has much of the same qualities, but does not have TV. Some may prefer the BlackBerry Storm2 for its better touchscreen keyboard and longer battery life, but the Imagio is a better multimedia device.