Touch by HTC (Sprint) Review

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$249
Editors' rating:
The Pros

Sleek, compact design; Stereo Bluetooth; Multi-platform messaging

The Cons

Poor speaker quality; Doesn't let you choose which keyboard you want; Messaging is a challenge

Verdict

HTC and Sprint hope to get fingers tapping on something other than an iPhone.

Maybe it was a case of iOverkill, or iWant-something-new, but we were itching to check out how much fun we could have tapping and sliding on the Touch by HTC, a device whose 3G data speeds, large touchscreen, and unique user interface make it compelling on paper. While this phone offers a number of features beyond business apps, the Windows operating system isn't built to accommodate them, and HTC's efforts to give the OS a mini makeover fall short. Maybe the fact that the Touch still comes with a stylus should have been the first indication that HTC's premier touch device wasn't a worthy adversary.
HTC has kept up with the Joneses, and Jobses, by designing the Touch to look like a screen with a bit of phone surrounding it. Half an inch shorter than the iPhone, the Touch is small enough to slip unobtrusively into a pair of jeans, an evening purse, or a blazer pocket. Its black rubberized body helped stave off some fingerprints and actually stabilized the video camera when we tested it out. Below the 2.8-inch screen are Send and End call buttons and a minimalist square five-way button to navigate onscreen programs. There's a small master volume switch on one side, a power button on top, and the camera button, microSD slot, and stylus on the other side.
Navigating with HTC's TouchFLO technology (HTC's method of finger-swiping navigation) starts with the straightforward, albeit cluttered, main menu. It has icons for programs such as e-mail, text and call notifications, a live weather tool, a music player, upcoming appointments, and photos and video. Some seem a bit unnecessary: Do we really need two icons for Sprint TV? However, all of the items were easy to launch because they were designed with the human finger, not a stylus, in mind.
The Touch became less finger-friendly the deeper we went into Windows. Though it was designed with human fingers in mind, scrolling down menus on the phone was inefficient at best. The screen's sensitivity was arbitrary, probably a result of the device's slow-moving Mobile 6 technology. On some occasions we successfully closed applications by tapping lightly on a teeny corner exit box, but others times the icon required repeated tapping, or even turning the phone off to get the job done. Trying to peck out a text message or an e-mail in Outlook sent us scrambling for the stylus.
Internet usage on Sprint's EV-DO Rev. 0 network was good. The phone-as-modem loaded sites such as ABC News and Gawker in about three to five seconds, depending on the strength of the available cellular signal. Video content streamed on Windows Media Player or viewed on Sprint TV was fairly consistent, and the image looked better in full-screen or landscape mode. We wish that Sprint had included Wi-Fi, however, which came on the European model.
The sound, on the other hand, was terrible. The one little speaker on the back of the Touch, to the side of the camera, didn't deliver clear sound for any of the programs we watched (or videos we recorded ourselves). Music playback sounded somewhat better than video for some reason. Thankfully, the Touch comes with a pair of headphones (with an embedded microphone to take incoming calls) that mitigated the problem, but it's disconcerting to rely on them all the time for such a media-rich device.
The phone feature is fairly utilitarian. While the keypad dominates the screen, we experienced no instances of cheek-taps during testing. The calls we placed were very clear and went through swiftly. Pictures taken with the two-megapixel camera were average but easy to view, delete, and send by using the large onscreen thumbnails and pop-up icon menu.
Since the summer, Apple's iPhone has made the word "touch" synonymous with "cool," and so the predominant issue for the Touch by HTC will be its struggle to define itself as either a corporate organizer or hip touch phone. By touting Windows Mobile 6, the stylus, and Microsoft Office, the Touch is clearly more of a businessperson's device (even though it lacks Wi-Fi). The Touch is loaded with 3G plus all the multimedia goodness Sprint has to offer--Sprint Music Store, Sprint TV, etc.--but the Touch's finicky user interface pales in comparison to the champ's. This is a good but not great low-cost iPhone alternative.


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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Carrier Sprint
Form Factor Candy Bar
Operating System Windows Mobile OS
Data EV-DO
CPU 400-MHz Qualcomm MSM7500
Internal Memory 256MB Flash, 128MB RAM
Memory Expansion Type TransFlash/MicroSD
Display (main) 2.8 inches (240 x 320 pixels/65,000 colors)
GPS No
FM Radio No
Camera Resolution 2 MP
Talk / Standby Time 3.5 hours/10.4 days
Size 4 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight 4 ounces
Company Website http://www.sprint.com