Editors' note: Parts of this review were taken from theHTC Touch Proreview.
HTC is making some fairly popular products these days: Its Touch Pro, a QWERTY-keyboard version of the Touch Diamond, was picked up by Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and AT&T, the latter of which rebranded it the Fuze. At $299 (with a two-year contract and after rebates), it's not a cheap phone, but business users and Windows Mobile fans will like the productivity and entertainment features it brings to the table.
AT&T's Fuze hews closer to HTC's original design than the Sprint Touch Pro; we're glad to see the faceted diamond pattern on the back of the phone, instead of the staid flat back on Sprint's version. The Fuze is slightly smaller than the Sprint Touch Pro, with less-rounded corners and no chrome accents.
The AT&T Fuze feels bulky and thick but is well built. 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 Fuze. At 5.8 ounces, the Fuze was always noticeable in our pockets but comfortable to hold during phone calls.
The front of the Fuze is glossy and gets littered with fingerprints easily. Its face has the same controls as the Touch Diamond: Home, Return, Call, and End, as well as a center selection button that doubles as a four-way directional pad. You can also control the device by using the included stylus in conjunction with the large 2.8-inch, 640 x 480-pixel 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. Volume controls are on the left side, a power button on the top, and a mini-USB jack on the bottom. Pop open the back to find a microSD Card slot on the left. We wish the phone had been designed so that the card can be removed without taking the cover off.
The Fuze comes with a charger, an extra stylus, a USB cable, a carrying case, and a bulky adapter for adding a 3.5mm headphone jack and for charging and syncing via USB at the same time.
The Fuze's keyboard is configured somewhat differently than the Sprint Touch Pro. Instead of a dedicated row of numbers at the top of the keyboard, the Fuze has a set of symbols, including the @ sign. Numbers are arranged as on a keypad and activated using the function button. The keyboard also feels marginally more comfortable to type on than the Sprint Touch Pro; it was easier for us to type at a rapid pace.
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 our most-used content forward, such as contacts, messages, music, photos, and even weather. The Pro features the same 528-MHz processor as the Diamond, 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, you'll find yourself inside the plain but business-friendly Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional environment.
AT&T's implementation of the TouchFLO 3D interface is much more drab than Sprint's: Instead of white icons on a black background, AT&T uses gray icons on a white background. Even though the menu structure is similar, it looks duller.
Messaging and E-mail
The Fuze, like all Windows Mobile phones, includes Outlook as its primary e-mail application. As part of Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, you can input a Gmail, Windows Live, Yahoo, or other e-mail address, and the phone will automatically search for the correct settings; we were able to set up a Gmail account in less than a minute. The HTC Touch Pro also supports Microsoft Exchange e-mail, but if you want push e-mail without it, you can set up your account using AT&T's Xpress Mail service.
We like that TouchFLO 3D let us glance quickly at the messages in our inbox, providing not only the subject and sender name, but also the first few lines of each letter in an open envelope. We also liked that we could quickly scroll through our inbox by flicking downward on the envelope.
Like the Diamond, the Fuze uses the Opera 9.5 mobile browser instead of Internet Explorer Mobile. The Opera browser offers much better rendering of Web pages, and adds such features as 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.
Over AT&T's 3G network, we were able to load CNN.com in a typical 9 seconds. ESPN.com loaded in 13 seconds, 5 seconds longer than the Sprint Touch Pro required. NYTimes.com loaded in 18 seconds. For faster speeds, you can use the Fuze's 802.11b/g Wi-Fi: mobile versions of CNN.com loaded in 5 seconds, ESPN.com in 8 seconds, and NYT.com in 10 seconds, all just a few seconds slower than on the Touch Pro.
Users can download and install AT&T Navigator by selecting the AT&T GPS icon from the Programs menu. Powered by TeleNav, AT&T Navigator provides turn-by-turn directions and local search. The Fuze comes with a 30-day free trial of AT&T Navigator, after which it costs $9.99 per month.
Unlike Sprint's HTC Touch Pro, the Fuze does not come with its own earbuds. Since the phone has a proprietary HTC jack, you'll need to purchase compatible headphones ($23.99) or use the included bulky 3.5mm adapter.
Although you can't download songs over the air as you can with other AT&T devices, you can use Napster Mobile to purchase tracks on the Fuze, for $1.99 each, and then transfer them from your PC to the phone--but that's too much work. It makes more sense to sideload tracks to the Fuze via Windows Media Player, or subscribe to the all-you-can-eat Napster to Go for $14.99 per month. Another option is XM Satellite Radio, which offers 25 channels for $8.99 per month.
We liked that XM launched quickly and that the speaker was loud, but it sounded a bit tinny. Using our own JVC earbuds and the 3.5mm adapter, the device offered plenty of bass on Boston's "Smokin." We also liked that music from XM or the media player remained on while we were using other applications.
Like most of AT&T's phones, the Fuze also comes with MusicID ($3.99/month), which uses the phone's mic to identify unknown songs. When you hear a song you don't know and may want to download, simply launch MusicID and click ID Song. The phone listens and returns the song's name and artist. It correctly identified Kings of Leon's "Manhattan" on our test. However, it doesn't give you the option of downloading the song to the phone.
AT&T also lists ShakeControl as a supported feature on the Fuze--which lets you control the music player by physically shaking the phone--but we couldn't find any documentation on how to activate it, and AT&T wasn't available to comment. We will update this review as soon as we can get ShakeControl to work.
We snapped shots around New York City and indoors with the Fuze's 3.2-MP camera. Pictures taken in an office had a yellow tint at first, but once we applied the appropriate white-balance settings, they looked better. All pictures were generally well saturated and sharp, and colors were represented accurately. Outdoors, we snapped a few pictures of ice skaters in Bryant Park, and these had a cool blue tint to them, even with automatic white balance enabled.
A video taken of the same ice skaters came out well: They moved across the screen smoothly, and we were able to hear the lyrics of music playing in the background. The footage is borderline YouTube-worthy.
The camera can also be used with the included WorldCard Mobile business card-scanning app. Using the camera, it took a photo of our card, and then entered the card's information into the contacts database. It was largely accurate, with just a few spelling errors. Other applications include Office Mobile.
Call Quality, Battery Life
We were generally pleased with the Fuze's call quality. When we left a voicemail on a landline while standing on a busy street in Manhattan, our voice sounded very clear, and we could hardly hear any of the commotion in the background.
The Fuze is rated for up to 7.4 hours of talk time using AT&T's GSM network; after playing music through the headphones for 4 hours and leaving the screen on, the phone had 60 percent of its battery remaining. That's pretty good endurance.
Like Sprint's Touch Pro, the AT&T Fuze is a stylish and well-built phone with a good Web browser and an intuitive (if sluggish) interface. However, $299 is a lot to spend on a phone, and for that amount of money, we'd recommend the match-priced BlackBerry Bold for AT&T customers. It lacks a touchscreen but offers snappier performance and an even better keyboard. Nevertheless, the Fuze is one of the better Windows Mobile smart phones.