HTC Touch with WM6 Professional

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INTRODUCTION

    Almost a month before
the Apple iPhone will be released, the first
touch-sensitive finger-oriented-user-interface
mobile phone was released by HTC. It's called the
HTC Touch and builds upon Windows Mobile 6
Professional with some new touch screen technology
and finger gesture recognition software. While the
Touch will not compete in the same market as the
Apple iPhone and HTC has said that it was in
development long before the iPhone announcement,
it's impossible to ignore the similarities and make
comparisons.

    Will the Touch
earn the hearts of the European and Asian markets
longing for the flashy Apple iPhone? Or will the
one-finger-touch-screen interface prove to be less
user-friendly than built-in hardware keyboards? In
a time where the entire smart-phone industry has
been moving towards hardware keyboards for
one-handed tactile-based interaction, it's anybody's
guess. Read on for our thorough review!

WHAT’S HOT

    The most innovative feature about the
Touch is its touch screen and animated software.
The screen actually recognizes when you're pressing
with a finger versus a stylus. This is very
important for features such as scrolling through a
web page with your thumb, or selecting text in a web
page with your stylus. Now, once you look at the
screen shots or animated video of this new TouchFLO
interface you might think it's pretty limited and
only applies to the customized programs with big
buttons. Once you get to the regular Windows Mobile
programs, you have to take out the stylus to press
those small buttons, right?  Au contraire mon
frère! This new TouchFLO screen actually understands
what your finger is trying to press and seems to average the
large surface area around the center of your finger
in order to activate the smaller buttons. Furthermore,
push-scrolling has been implemented across the
board. As soon as you come to a screen that requires
scrolling, just push in the middle with your thumb
and drag it around. You can even flick it to scroll
quickly.

    The push scrolling is a lot of
fun, but when it comes down to actually finding a
contact, typing in their name is much faster and
easier. The T9 PhonePad shown here was installed
separately and is NOT INCLUDED. 

    The other
coolest thing about the Touch may not be as apparent
in its marketing materials. The Touch is VERY
SMALL. This is the smallest Pocket PC Phone I've
ever seen. Normally, if I want to travel light, I'll
slip my SIM card into the
HTC StarTrek
(the smallest Windows Mobile
Smartphone around). However, the Touch is even
thinner than the StarTrek, and only a bit wider,
thus making it extremely pocket friendly.

As for it’s
specifications, it’s got Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi b/g, 201Mhz TI
850 OMAP
CPU, 128Mb ROM, 64Mb RAM, Windows Mobile 6
Professional, 2.8" 240x320px 64K color screen,
Triband GSM/EDGE and a
2Mp camera.  

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

(all images link to higher resolution)


Yes, it's that small.

WHAT’S IN
THE BOX

    The HTC Touch comes with a USB sync cable, AC
adapter, stereo headphones with talk button/mic/volume
control, leather pouch,
screen protector, software CD including ActiveSync
and a trial version of Microsoft Outlook 2007,
extensive full color
manual, Getting Started guide, CD containing 3rd
party software, an extra stylus, and a 1Gb MicroSD
card. The adhesive
screen protector is key since you're going to be
doing alot of rubbing and touching on the screen,
and the inclusion of a 1Gb MicroSD card was an
excellent addition. 1Gb MicroSD cards retail for
about $8 these days, so I'm sure it was no big deal
to include one. Me, I'll just drop my 2Gb MicroSD card into it instead.


 

The packaging for the HTC Touch is
very nicely designed.


 

The Touch comes with an
illustration stuck to it's screen showing you how to
activate the 3D TouchFLO launcher with your finger. 

THE DEVICE

    The HTC Touch continues HTC's
implementation of a soft-touch rubbery covering
which was originally
introduced with the HTC Prophet (i-mate
JAMin
). The Touch's body isn't quite as soft as
the T-Mobile Wing, but it is softer than the
Prophet. I have been a fan of this soft-touch body
covering since the beginning and the Touch is no
exception.


Using the Touch as an MP3 player
on the train works great.  


 

In terms of hardware buttons on
the front, all you've got are two tiny black
Answer/End buttons and a directional navigation
button with a big action button in the middle.


 

 On the left side, there's
a volume slider and a lanyard hole.


 

At the bottom, you'll see a
soft reset hole, the ExtUSB
connector, and a microphone hole. The ExtUSB
connector is used for everything including Audio,
Charging, and Syncing.


The right side includes a camera button
and the stylus silo at the top. The silver area in
the middle here is also a flap that opens to reveal
the SIM card slot and MicroSD Memory card slot.


 

The top end of the HTC Touch only has
a power button.


 

On the back is the 2 Megapixel
camera, along with the reflection mirror and speaker
grill.


 

The MicroSD card and SIM card
slots are underneath a flap on the side. You have to
take the battery cover off in order to open the
flap.


 

The LED indicators are actually
within the speaker grill. 


 

Here you'll see from left to right,
the Qtek 8500,

HTC P3300,

T-Mobile Wing
, and HTC Touch.


 

Here you can see a comparison of
the thickness. On top is the

Qtek 8500,
then the HTC Touch, the
HTC P3300,
and the

T-Mobile Wing
on the bottom. You can see the HTC
Touch is significantly smaller than the other Pocket
PC type devices here.


The screen looks great when you're
indoors, but if you take this outside, the screen
becomes very difficult if not impossible to see even
on its highest brightness setting. If you look
closely you can see that the weather report on my
Today screen does in fact indicate that it is sunny
outside.




INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

     The HTC Touch includes some
very innovative and useful software customizations
and changes to the Windows Mobile 6 Professional
operating system.

 


     The Touch Flo launcher application cannot be found
in the Start Menu, you have to slide your finger
from the HTC logo on the device upwards in order to
open it. Sliding your finger left to right or vice
versa rotates the launcher to different 3
dimensional sides which give you access to different
screens of buttons. The first one is for Music,
Photos, and Videos. The second has buttons for
email, internet, and PIM related applications, and
the third shows photo speed dial buttons along with
some other phone related functions.

     The
Today screen adds a nice big plug-in up front. The
bottom row has 3 buttons that you can use to switch
between the "home" area, weather, and a launcher.
The home screen shows a very large clock and in the
second row you see icons for unread emails, unread
text messages, and missed calls. Pressing the
weather button shows a big graphic of today's
weather, and gives you access to the forecast for
the week. The third button has a series of buttons
for easily launching programs. The second row in the
screen is customizable, meaning you can choose any
programs you want, while the first row has
device-specific controls such as: comm manager,
programs folder, brightness control, rotate screen,
and lock device. It's a very nice touch having these
controls easily accessible with just a finger press.


     The speed dialing screen is very easy to use once
you understand what the icons mean. The first icon
on the bottom brings you to the phone dialer, the
second is the call history, third is the normal
contacts list, and the 4th is used for deleting
speed dial listings. The program nicely uses the
contact photos synchronized from Outlook.

     The phone dialer uses a custom skin designed by HTC.
The buttons are nice and big, but we're missing
on-screen Talk and Speed Dial buttons. In the menu,
you'll also notice the ability to send text messages
and search the company directory is missing. The
default Windows Mobile 6 Pro dialer does have those
features. The left soft key is also assigned to
"Contacts" rather than "Hide Keypad" as on the
native dialer.

     When you type numbers, the blue display area shows
names of contacts who may match the name you're
typing. These can be selected instead of typing out
the full number. The Touch's dialer uses HTC's Smart
Dialing program for this rather than Windows Mobile
6's smart dialing built into the native dialer.

 

When you're in a call, there's a lot of blank space
in the dialer.

 

     The Comm Manager mainly handles
Phone, WiFi, and Bluetooth power settings. It also
has a Flight Mode button for turning all wireless
radios off at once, a Direct Push on/off button, a
data connection disconnect button, a button that
toggles the audio settings to vibrate mode, and an
ActiveSync button that simply launches ActiveSync.

The custom Music Player (Audio
Manager) created by HTC offers a much more
user-friendly and finger-navigatable library view
than the native Windows Media Player. Also, the
library view here supports push-scrolling with your
finger of course.

The Player view uses large buttons
easily pressed with a finger. Unfortunately it does
not support Album Art.

 

When you've got music playing, a
mini-player shows up in one of the screens on the
Touch Launcher.

Pressing the "Pictures" button
just brings you to the regular Windows Mobile
picture viewer.

Same with the Videos button. The
videos will play in Windows Media Player.

 

Incoming calls show the caller ID
and photo as usual.

HTC's Task Manager application
adds some interesting options, including the ability
to make the X button close applications instead of
smart minimizing.

     While this is a newer build of
Windows Mobile 6 Pro (compared to the T-Mobile
Wing), Windows Live Messenger is still completely
unusable. I know that at least 5 of my contacts were
online when I took this screen capture, and this
does not show any of them. Nor does it show the
correct number of offline contacts. If you do much
instant messaging, I'd recommend installing a
separate application since Windows Live Messenger is
obviously not up to the task.

 

     In the Message list the left soft
key button has been changed from the "New" command
to the "Delete" command and the New command has been
buried under the right soft key's Menu. What's worse
is when you're in the SMS account, you have to go to
another sub menu under the New menu in order to
choose SMS or MMS. This is HUGELY annoying and very
difficult to use. Another new annoyance in the Messaging application
is the inability to display a custom number of days
worth of messages. Now you can only choose from the
preset pop-up menu numbers. And the Messaging
application STILL DOES NOT SHOW REPLY OR FORWARD
ICONS, nor does it communicate the reply status of
messages to IMAP or Exchange servers.

 

     The MMS integration is even
tighter now with Windows Mobile 6. Now MMS messages
are part of the text messaging account in the
Messaging application. This is not a good thing
since it makes creating new messages more difficult
and accessing MMS options is buried within the new
MMS message menu.

 

Media Player 10.3 has a new skin
design, but nothing else has improved.

I take that back. Now you can
search for specific songs or artists in the Library
view just by typing the name.

HTC includes a separate "Streaming
Media" application for watching streaming video or
music from the internet. I don't know why it's here
since the included Windows Media Player also does
the same thing.

The HTC Touch does NOT include
Microsoft Voice Command 1.6. Instead, it uses HTC's
Voice Speed Dial program for which you have to
record voice tags in order to call contacts.

 

There's also a "Voice
Recorder"
application from HTC. I don't know why we need this
since the regular Windows Mobile "Notes" application
already does this.

 

     ActiveSync lets you configure an Exchange Server with which to
sync . You can also sync via Bluetooth from
here. The Touch accepted my custom security
certificate and synced up with my Exchange 2003 SP2
server without any problems at all. Windows Mobile 6
supports some nice new features if you've also got
an Exchange 2007 Server.


Of course you can open Microsoft Office documents on
here.


Opening PDFs is no problem either.

 

The Touch supports Java applications, of course. 

     One of the best new features in the Touch is the
Network Wizard control panel. This will
automatically create all the proper settings for
your network!  So that means if you want to use
it on Cingular, all you have to do is choose it from
the pop-up menu here and it will enter the proper
GPRS/EDGE settings, MMS settings, etc.  Very
nice!

 

The TouchFLO settings lets you turn on/off a sound
effect that plays while finger scrolling/panning. This
is actually pretty nice since it gives you a better
indication of what you're doing.

 

The 2 megapixel built-in camera has a slightly
different interface than previous HTC Camera
applications. The camera interface is full of cryptic icons,
but you should recognize most of them from using
other cameras. It also tends to be quite slow, but
this is to be expected.



Photo quality is average for HTC phones these days.
Click the above thumbnail for a sample.





BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from

Spb Software House
has not been updated for use
with Windows Mobile 5.0 or 6, which include many changes
for increased performance and battery life (as well
as a different way of working with storage memory),
we can only compare Windows Mobile 5.0/6 devices to
other Windows Mobile 5.0/6 devices. As you can see
from the graphs below, the HTC Touch does
better than similarly featured Windows
Mobile 5 devices and in real life it is quite perky.

 

 

 

BATTERY
    The 1,100 mAh battery on maximum backlight during
normal usage
lasted for about 8hr 15min. It seems using a
lot of the animate stuff will bring that down
however.  

HELP SUPPORT

   

The Touch comes with a full color manual discussing
basic operation in Windows Mobile as well as the
hardware and the TouchFLO scrolling interface.
Beyond that, you can become a member of the

HTC e-Club
to access special tips and support
downloads for your device.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
The biggest problem with the HTC Touch is trying to
type with one big thumb. It doesn't come with a
large enough software based keyboard so you'll have
to either take out the stylus or install some other
type of soft-keyboard that will be easier to use.
What pains me about this is that HTC
used to include the T9 PhonePad
on some of their
older devices. The PhonePad text input method is
basically a simulation of a T9 numeric keypad where
each number represents 3 letters and the software
automatically suggests words that include the
possible combination of letters. It worked great and
would have been perfect on a finger-interface style
device such as the HTC Touch.

    The second
biggest problem is using it outdoors or while
multi-tasking. In sunlight, the screen get's
extremely washed out even at it's brightest setting.
Hence, you'll have to either find a shadow somewhere
or rely on voice commands to make a phone call. Then
there's the problem where if you're driving or out
being mobile, you really need to look at the screen
in order to interact with it. Other devices have
dedicated hardware buttons that you can assign to
functions thus making it easy to do things just by
feeling for the buttons. For example, if you're out
jogging and listening to music on an HTC Star Trek,
you can easily feel for the "next track" button.
 

   
The touch screen takes a certain amount of pressure
to activate commands that involve sliding your
finger across the screen. It takes some getting used
to and I suppose a lighter touch would make
accidental command activation more likely. Or, maybe
the screen protector is what's making me require
more pressure, but I think the screen protector is
absolutely necessary since it will get quite covered
with the oils secreted from your fingers. Maybe the
Touch should have come with a screen cleaning cloth.
Often it gets so smudged that the screen becomes
blurry and difficult to read.

    Then
there's all the problems with Windows Mobile 6 Professional. Windows Live Messenger occasionally loses its connection, some messages
don't get sent, and it doesn't always load all of my
contacts. You can't have a Windows
Live Mail account that's different than the
Messenger account you want to log in as.
There are still plenty of classic problems with the
Messaging application and Windows Media Player as
well. Email reply status is still not communicated
to IMAP or Exchange servers, draft messages still
don't sync with anything, and there's no push IMAP
support.
 Windows Media Player still has
the embarrassing inability to navigate the Library
view with the D-pad. The "New" message button has been buried, making
text messaging extremely difficult. Appointments in
the calendar are more

difficult to edit
. The list goes on.

PURCHASING

    The HTC Touch is currently available at a
variety of online retailers for around $600 unlocked
and without a contract. It's also available from
Smart Mobile Gadgets
for $525.99. Smart Mobile
Gadgets will match or beat any other online price
you can find, and they have fantastic customer service.

PROS


  • Smallest WM6 Pro device available


  • Combines
    one-finger UI with powerful Windows Mobile 6
    features


  • Touch screen differentiates between finger
    and stylus


  • Slim and attractive design with Soft touch
    body


  • 3D
    Animated application launcher and speed
    dialing


  • TouchFLO Software adds finger gesture
    control


  • TouchFLO push scrolling in all apps


  • Comes with
    screen protector and 1GB card


  • Smallest WM6 Pro device available


  • Combines
    one-finger UI with powerful Windows Mobile 6
    features


  • Touch screen differentiates between finger
    and stylus


  • Slim and attractive design with Soft touch
    body


  • 3D
    Animated application launcher and speed
    dialing


  • TouchFLO Software adds finger gesture
    control


  • TouchFLO push scrolling in all apps


  • Comes with
    screen protector and 1GB card


  • Smallest WM6 Pro device available


  • Combines
    one-finger UI with powerful Windows Mobile 6
    features


  • Touch screen differentiates between finger
    and stylus


  • Slim and attractive design with Soft touch
    body


  • 3D
    Animated application launcher and speed
    dialing


  • TouchFLO Software adds finger gesture
    control


  • TouchFLO push scrolling in all apps


  • Comes with
    screen protector and 1GB card

CONS


  • Does not
    come with decent one-finger text input method


  • Buggy
    Windows Live applications


  • Can't see screen outdoors


  • Finger smudges


  • Eyes required to interact
    with device


  • No 3G UMTS/HSDPA
    internet


  • No built in GPS

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

    At first I expected the Touch to be a
pretty low-end device. It has about the same
specifications as the old HTC Prophet with an
unimpressive 201Mhz OMAP processor. Adding the ability to press such small
buttons with your finger is a great improvement over
standard touch screens. Furthermore the animated
launcher interface and the iPhone-like push
scrolling features add some exciting flash to the
Windows Mobile operating system. Everyone I’ve shown this device to has been extremely impressed.
Some thought it was the iPhone while others thought
it was better than the iPhone.

   
 What HTC has done is combine a bit of flashy
animated fluff with the power of a Windows Mobile
device and added one-finger usage usability.
Generally, one-finger user interfaces implement
large buttons that take up significant portions of
the screen meaning you'll have less commands
available per screen. The Touch keeps the efficiency
of smaller buttons in the normal Windows Mobile
interface, while adding the ability to activate
those buttons with a larger finger thus creating a
"best of both worlds" mobile device. Not only that,
but the Touch recognizes the difference between a
finger with a large surface area and a pointy
stylus. If you drag a scrollable screen with you
finger, the screen scrolls. If you drag with a
stylus, the content of the screen becomes selected.
That means you're not giving up features for the
sake of simplicity! 

     On the other
hand, having a touch-screen-only interface means
you'll have to use your eyes to look at what buttons
you want to press. You won't be able to just feel
for the buttons or develop motor memory. I tried to
use this while driving, and it was extremely
dangerous without having hardware buttons. What's
worse is that the screen is barely visible when
you're outside in the day time.

      If you're
looking for a phone that's retains the power of
Windows Mobile (sync with Exchange, push email,
install 3rd party applications, etc.), adds some
impressive 3D animation, doesn't weigh down your
pocket, and really doesn't need a stylus, the HTC
Touch is what you'll want. If you're a power user
who needs GPS, HSDPA high speed internet, and a
hardware keyboard, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Overall, I was much more impressed with the HTC
Touch than I thought I would be. I can see it being
very popular in the markets where it will be
released.




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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!