HTC Touch Diamond (Sprint) Review

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$249

Pros: Beautiful design; Opera browser included; Fast data speeds; Good camera

Cons: Keyboard blocks some menus; Expensive; Mediocre battery life; No microSD slot

Verdict: This touchscreen phone offers an elegant design and fun interface along with speedy surfing, but is it worth the $50 premium over the iPhone 3G?

A luxury touchscreen phone with a better Web browsing experience than theSamsung Instinct, Sprint's Touch Diamond takes theoriginal unlocked GSM versionthat wereviewed June 2008and adds support for services like the Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV. The fun and intuitive TouchFLO 3D interface remains intact, and Sprint even kept the robust Opera browser, too. For $249, this is a sharp but slightly sluggish handset many will envy, even if it is pricey.

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Design

The largest difference between Sprint's Touch Diamond and the unlocked version is the lack of the original's faceted design. Sprint's version has a matte red color and is very attractive, but we miss the diamond-reminiscent facets that gave the phone its name. Likely due to the CDMA antenna inside, this version is 0.2 inches fatter than the original. Sprint's version also comes with a charger, a USB cable, an extra red stylus, mini-USB earbuds, a 4-in-1 adapter, and a carrying case.

We remain fans of the Touch Diamond's 2.8-inch, 640 x 480-pixel resolution display, and we appreciated accuracy of stylus taps during our testing. The included stylus slides into the device from the lower left-hand corner and is secured with a magnet.

The Touch Diamond has a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back, four buttons below the display for placing and ending calls, navigating backwards through menus, and returning to the home screen. A circular button serves as the menu selection button, and the four click-buttons around it are for navigating in four directions in menus; you can also roll your finger around the edge of the center button in a clockwise motion to zoom in on images or Web pages. The only remaining buttons are two volume controls along the left side of the unit and a power button; we would have liked a camera quick-launch button.

A built-in accelerometer senses when the phone is turned on its side and automatically reorients the screen to landscape mode; this was especially useful while we were browsing the Web.

User Interface

HTC's TouchFLO 3D interface loads on top of Windows Mobile. This slick UI lets you quickly navigate through each main menu choice with the swipe of your finger across the Touch Diamond's display. We prefer TouchFLO 3D over Windows Mobile's stock Today screen because it brings contacts, messages, music, photos, and more right to the home screen--all in a ribbon menu along the bottom of the display. We liked being able to play music and browse photos without having to leave the home screen, and we appreciated the animated weather application, which let us view the conditions in multiple cities. However, even with a 528-MHz processor, the Touch Diamond was frustratingly slow flipping through menu options with multiple tasks open. Also, accessing any standard application like your e-mail inbox brings you right back into the dreary landscape that is Windows Mobile.

Multimedia

Sprint's multimedia offering on the Touch Diamond is a mixed bag. The Sprint Music Store launches the Opera mobile browser to access a WAP store. We would have preferred a cleaner standalone application, especially since the music store often took more than a few seconds to load with anything less than a full signal. Tracks cost 99 cents each, but you can side-load your own using the 4GB of onboard storage. Unfortunately that's all you get--there's no microSD slot for adding additional storage.

Sprint TV is bundled on the device, but it's a poor experience overall. TV quality was pixelated, and voices were often out of sync with the video. There's an option to rent full-length new-release movies for $5.99 each (prices vary depending on age of movie), but every time we clicked the link, we were told the content wasn't available. When we tried to watch Be Kind Rewind, an error read, "Sorry, there was an error and your purchase did not go through. Please try again later." Once when trying to access the store, the handset locked up entirely until we removed the battery. A Sprint representative attributed our multimedia mishaps to "temporary server issues."

The YouTube application made browsing and viewing our favorite YouTube videos a cinch. A soccer match replay looked great in landscape mode and hardly lagged, but with all videos we had two narrow black borders on the top and bottom of the video.

Camera

Pictures from the Touch Diamond's 3.2-MP camera looked clear and crisp. On a visit to New York City's South Street Seaport at night, we snapped photos of the Brooklyn Bridge and of tourists nearby. The shots portrayed the people and streetlights below very well. Both indoor and outdoor shots came out good enough to post to online social networks, even without a flash. We also noticed that the yellow-tint issue in the GSM Touch Diamond's camera was gone, so it looks like the automatic white balance feature was fixed. Video shot around the office was decent, but quick movements with the camera made the video too blurry to view. It's best for shooting quick scenes of minor events.

As we suspected during our original review, the camera on the front of the original Touch Diamond was removed from Sprint's iteration, likely because the carrier doesn't offer a video-calling service.

Messaging and E-mail

We like that the Touch Diamond shows a preview of each new message when you click the Mail tab in the TouchFlo 3D UI. We clicked the displayed envelope icon to open our inbox. However, the default HTC QWERTY keyboard took up a majority of the screen real estate, and this problem hasn't been fixed since we first noticed it. When we set up an IMAP Gmail account on the unit, we entered our username but couldn't see the password field without minimizing the keyboard. Entering our account settings took 30 seconds.

Web

The Touch Diamond uses the Opera 9.5 browser instead of Internet Explorer Mobile, which offers better formatting of HTML pages, faster speeds, and zooming capabilities (via tapping the touchscreen). We were able to load m.ESPN.com in 8 seconds, m.CNN.com in 4 seconds, and m.NYT.com in 5 seconds using Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network. We preferred selecting links with the stylus, which was more accurate for the small text presented on Web sites than our finger. However, non-mobile optimized sites, such as Laptopmag.com, took 27 seconds to load. If you want faster speeds, use the 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi connection.

GPS

Sprint Navigation, powered by Telenav, comes preloaded on this version of the Touch Diamond. It cost $9.99 per month (included for free with the Simply Everything plan) and works well on this device. We appreciated the easy-to-use standard layout, which you can use to search for directions to everything from ATMs to restaurants and gas stations. When we had the device locate us in our Manhattan office, it placed us a block away. However, when we looked up directions to Newark Liberty International Airport, we were able to choose a starting point on our correct street.

You can also search by voice. The device quickly dialed out to a preset number when we selected that option, which was answered by an automated operator asking us to state our destination. We asked for Newark Liberty International Airport, confirmed our selection, and then hung up. Five seconds later, our phone displayed a map with directions to the airport.

Call Quality and Battery Life

Overall, call quality was good but not stellar. We didn't get complaints from our callers and had none of our own, even while placing calls on the noisy streets of Manhattan. A voicemail we left, however, sounded watery, and our voice faded in and out.

The Touch Diamond is rated for up to 4.2 hours of talk time. We listen to music and surf the Web using the phone to and from work--an hour and 15 minutes in each direction--after which a third of the battery remained. After two additional half-hour long phone calls, our battery was nearly dead, which brought us to a total usage time of 3:30. We suggest bringing a charger along on weekend trips, because if you're going to take advantage of the Touch Diamond's multimedia capabilities, you're going to need it.

Verdict

We like the compact design of the Touch Diamond, as well as its TouchFLO 3D interface, the YouTube application, and Opera Web browser. And most of Sprint's services work as advertised. But too often we had to sit through Windows Mobile's spinning circle while waiting for things to happen, and typing on the Touch Diamond is frustrating. If you're on Sprint, the Samsung Instinct offers many of the same features of the Touch Diamond for a much lower price of $129. If you're willing to put up with occasional sluggishness, however, the Diamond's interface, Outlook integration, and sharper camera make it a worthwhile option. We just think it should be priced at $199 like the iPhone, not $249. Want a better messaging experience? Wait for theHTC Touch Pro, which will sport a slide-out keyboard, a microSD Card slot, and a flash for its camera.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Carrier Sprint
Form Factor Candy Bar
Operating System Windows Mobile OS
Data EV-DO Rev. A
CPU 528-MHz Qualcomm MSM7501A
Internal Memory 4GB
Memory Expansion Type N/A
Display (main) 2.8 inches (640 x 480 pixels, 65,000 colors)
Display (secondary) N/A
GPS Yes
Bluetooth Type Bluetooth Stereo
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
FM Radio No
Camera Resolution 3.2 MP
Talk / Standby Time 4.2 hours
Size 4.0 x 2.0 x 0.6 inches
Weight 4.1 ounces
Company Website http://www.sprint.com