The Sprint Touch Pro is essentially the Sprint Touch Diamond with a full QWERTY keyboard, the same 3.2-MP camera, but with a flash, and room for 16GB of storage (up from 4GB of internal memory). Plus, the Touch Pro keeps the Diamond's speedy EV-DO and Wi-Fi connections, along with quick access to Sprint's over-the-air music store and Sprint TV. However, HTC's TouchFLO 3D user interface isn't as smooth or responsive as the iPhone 3G or T-Mobile G1, and the underlying Windows Mobile operating system feels a bit dated. Does this smart phone have the right stuff for demanding power users?
The Sprint Touch Pro feels bulky and thick, but is well built. Its metallic accents make the device look a bit like a hot rod in the smart phone space. Measuring 4.0 x 2.0 x 0.7 inches, it's a tad smaller than the AT&T Tilt and Sprint Mogul, but those HTC devices lack the chic design of the Touch Pro. At 5.3 ounces, the Pro was always noticeable in our pockets, but was comfortable during phone calls.
The front of the Touch Pro is reflective, so it gets littered with fingerprints easily. Its face has the same controls as theTouch Diamond: Home, Return, Call and End keys, as well as a center selection button that doubles as a four-way directional pad. You can also control the device by using an included stylus in conjunction with its large 2.8-inch 640 x 480 touchscreen. Each stylus tap was accurate out of the box, and we appreciated that it could be stored in the bottom right corner of the Touch Pro. On the other hand, we wish we didn't need to use a stylus at all.
The ports and buttons of the phone are the same as the Diamond, too. There are volume controls on the left side, a power button on the top, and a mini-USB jack on the bottom. Unlike the Diamond, you can add a microSD card (up to 16GB) by removing the rear cover of the device. We would have appreciated a camera quick-launch button somewhere on the phone as well.
The Touch Pro comes with a charger, an extra stylus, a USB cable, mini-USB earbuds, a carrying case, and a bulky 4-in-1 adapter for adding a 3.5 or a 2.5-mm headphone jack and for charging and syncing via USB at the same time.
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 when we were browsing the Web or when we wanted to access the landscape menu of TouchFLO 3D: in this orientation, the Touch Pro offers quick shortcuts to your bookmarks, calendar, contacts, e-mail, messages, notes, tasks, and Web search, all on one screen.
The Touch Pro's QWERTY keyboard is good, but it's certainly not our favorite. Each key is large, but the layout is pretty flat, and we found it difficult to type quickly without making errors. We appreciated the quick launch keys for text, e-mail, and the Web browser. Given the plethora of buttons we wish that "@" was given its own key, instead of having to share real estate with the "2" button.
HTC's TouchFLO 3D interface loads on top of Windows Mobile; this feature-rich UI lets you finger swipe through each main menu choice. We prefer this overlay instead of Windows Mobile's stock Today screen because it brings all of our most used content forward, such as contacts, messages, music, photos, and even the weather. The Pro features the same 528-MHz processor that the Diamond has, though, so the sluggishness of the UI was still noticeable from time to time when we tried to flip through the ribbon menu quickly. Once you leave the TouchFLO shell, though, you'll find yourself inside the drab but business friendly Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional environment.
Messaging and E-mail
Since the Touch Pro runs Windows Mobile, it comes with Outlook Mobile as the primary e-mail program and supports Microsoft Exchange accounts. However, TouchFLO 3D adds a convenient spin to your inbox by providing previews of each message on the home screen in the Mail tab. We set up our Gmail account in under a minute. Because the Touch Pro supports Windows Mobile Professional you can view and edit Office attachments.
AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo chat clients are all available on the Touch Pro. You can sign in to all three at once, and each list is divided into separate tabs. We signed in to our AIM account in a jiffy and were able to view our entire buddy list, not just the mobile buddies that most phones provide.
Like the Diamond, the Touch Pro uses the Opera 9.5 mobile browser instead of Internet Explorer Mobile. The Opera browser offers much better rendering of Web pages, and adds features like the ability to create new tabs. You can also zoom in on pages by either double clicking on the display or running your finger around the D-pad in a circular motion.
We were able to load CNN.com in 17 seconds, which is about 10 seconds longer than is typical, but its election coverage page had more images than usual. ESPN's mobile Web site loaded in 8 seconds, the same time that it took the Touch Diamond to load the site. NYT.com loaded in just 4 seconds, a second faster than the Touch Diamond. When we loaded National Geographic's home page, we could read the site after just 10 seconds, and it finished loading all of its pictures in 30 seconds--which is very quick.
For faster speeds, you can use the Pro's 802.11b/g Wi-Fi: We loaded m.CNN.com in 3 seconds, m.ESPN.com in 3 seconds, and NYT.com in 4 seconds. National Geographic took 15 seconds, although a Mercedes advertisement alone took 5 seconds to load.
The Touch Pro comes loaded with Sprint Navigation GPS software powered by TeleNav. You can use this software for voice guided directions or for local search: we asked for directions from our house to a bagel shop, and the software found our location and accurately routed us in just 14 seconds. We also liked that the software provided us with the phone number for the eatery, too.
In comparison to the Diamond, much remains the same in terms of software and multimedia functionality. Clicking the music store icon, for example, loads a Sprint Music Store WAP site via the Opera Internet browser. We much prefer Verizon Wireless' standalone application, which makes the whole process feel smoother and more efficient. Sprint tracks cost 99 cents each, but you can side-load your own using a microSD Card or the included USB cable. We downloaded Kenny Chesney's "Key's in the Conch Shell," and the music came through the speaker loud and clear.
Sprint TV comes preinstalled on the Touch Pro, but performance was not good. After 4 seconds watching CNN Mobile, voices were out of sync. While it was far from what we'd describe as sharp or crisp, video looked OK most of the time, but there were periods where we couldn't read text, or an anchor's face became so distorted they looked like an extraterrestrial. You can subscribe to MSpot Movies for $6.95 per month, but its typical fare are titles like "Steve-O: The Early Years" and "Ramones Raw," even though the app's description leads you to believe you're getting full-length films that you'd actually consider watching.
The custom YouTube application was very good: clips played back in full screen in landscape mode and voices were in sync with the video. It was also easy to search for clips, create favorites, or watch recently viewed videos.
When shooting photos or videos, the Touch Pro automatically reorients the screen to landscape mode. Pictures taken with the 3.2MP camera looked superb. We took a few shots of a friend sleeping on the train; rain droplets on the train's window were sharp, even on our 19-inch monitor. Our friend's brick red sweatshirt was hued accurately, too. The phone does take about a second or two to autofocus, which can be annoying if you want to take a quick shot, but the results were worth it.
The Touch Pro's camera also features a single LED flash; photos taken in dark areas were good, but the flash worked best with objects closer to the lens. Considering that almost every other camera phone features an automatic flash, we thought it was absurd that we had to manually turn the Pro's flash on and off.
The Panorama feature is really fun; after we took the first shot, the phone displayed a faded version of the image so that we could align the next two appropriately to create a full panoramic image.
Our video recording of the same friend sleeping was decent, but showed some pixilation and the colors were a bit washed out. We could clearly make out the train conductor announcing the next stop and a few people talking around us, but the audio did have a few pops and some garbled noises.
The Touch Pro comes with several applications that increase its functionality. One is an MP3 trimmer which will help you turn your tunes into ringtones. Another is called ClearVue Presentation 5 for editing PowerPoint documents; you can create new slides, insert pictures, and change the transition schemes. While there's an option to create new documents, we couldn't do anything but add blank slides; an optional cable ($13.99) lets you output PowerPoint presentations on a TV. Other applications include an RSS reader and an Adobe PDF reader.
Call Quality and Battery Life
From outside, we left a message on a landline phone with the Touch Pro. Listening to the message, we could easily hear cars and noise in the background, but our voice came through loud and clear, and we didn't hear any popping or clipped words. Other callers sounded clear to us as well, but sounded a bit low, even with the volume at full blast.
The Touch Pro is rated for up to 4 hours of talk time, so you'll want to bring a charger along if you'll be using the phone as your primary multimedia device. We listened to music, surfed the Web, and made a few phone calls during a 24-hour period before the battery died.
The Touch Pro is solidly built and has a ton of great features, even if its UI is sluggish at times; it's certainly worth the $50 premium over the Diamond. At $299, however, it's still a bit expensive compared to other devices with similar features. If you're looking to save money, we recommend the Sprint BlackBerry Curve. It lacks Wi-Fi but costs just $99 and offers EV-DO, Sprint TV, and the Sprint Music store, as well as a superior e-mail client. If you do have $299 to spend, we prefer the BlackBerry Bold from AT&T, which lacks a touchscreen but offers snappier performance and a superior keyboard. At the end of the day, though, the Touch Pro is one of the better Windows Mobile smart phones.