Review: Sprint Touch Pro and AT&T HTC Fuze Windows Mobile devices

Summary:Last week I was quite excited about the BlackBerry Bold and think it is fantastic piece of hardware and the best BlackBerry device currently available. However, I could not get my Outlook Web Access to work with my work Exchange server and the BlackBerry (security settings prevented the connection) and as much as I loved the Bold hardware I couldn't get past the limited functionality with Exchange. After our Saturday morning soccer game I swung by the AT&T store and swapped the Bold for the new HTC Fuze. I was also sent the Sprint Touch Pro last week so this article is a first impressions of both with a bit of a comparison. You can check out my image gallery and video below for images and experiences with the devices.

Last week I was quite excited about the BlackBerry Bold and think it is fantastic piece of hardware and the best BlackBerry device currently available. However, I could not get my Outlook Web Access to work with my work Exchange server and the BlackBerry (security settings prevented the connection) and as much as I loved the Bold hardware I couldn't get past the limited functionality with Exchange. After our Saturday morning soccer game I swung by the AT&T store and swapped the Bold for the new HTC Fuze. I was also sent the Sprint Touch Pro last week so this article is a first impressions of both with a bit of a comparison. You can check out my image gallery and video below for images and experiences with the devices.


 Image Gallery:A walk around the Sprint Touch Pro and HTC Fuze Windows Mobile devices.  
Image Gallery: Sprint Touch Pro and HTC Fuze retail box
 
Image Gallery: Sprint Touch Pro, HTC Fuze, and Touch Diamond
 

I spent quite a bit of time with the European version of the HTC Touch Diamond and then a couple weeks with the first U.S. version from Sprint. I found the devices to be pretty amazing, but still wanted to hold out for the HTC Touch Pro with the keyboard and support for US 3G bands. After figuring out the Bold wasn't going to work for me, I just had to give the HTC Fuze model a try since the specs showed it should have everything I need (and more) in a powerful mobile device.

While these two devices are both US carrier versions of the HTC Touch Pro, there are differences in the box contents, keyboard, and included software. Let's take a closer look at these two devices below.

In the box - Sprint Touch Pro: The Sprint retail box includes the HTC Touch Pro, 1340 mAh battery, wall charger (slim design with USB cable plug), USB cable, extra stylus, wired stereo headset, pouch belt carrying case, audio adapter cable, 1GB microSD card, screen protector, software installation CD, and lots of guides (Getting Started, Experience SprintSpeed, Set Up Your Email, and Basics). It was nice to see Sprint include a carrying case to protect the device and the 1GB microSD is a nice touch (even if it is a bit low in capacity). The Sprint wall charger is also more compact and easier to pack on the road.

In the box - AT&T HTC Fuze: AT&T packed less than Sprint in their package (but maybe more useful) with the HTC Fuze, 1340 mAh battery, audio adapter dongle, standard A/C charger, USB cable, spare stylus, screen protector, and Getting Started Guide/CD.

So the major differences are that Sprint includes a case, stereo headset and microSD card in addition to the same items AT&T includes. I am quite surprised that AT&T did not include a stereo wired headset and think that should be standard on a device with a proprietary connector. The audio adapter dongle that both carriers throw in the box is about 3 inches long and gives you a cable with the ability to still sync and charge your device while connecting a headset with one of the following connectors (HTC proprietary ExtUSB, 2.5mm, or 3.5mm).

Out of the box first impressions: The AT&T HTC Fuze looks very similar to the HTC Touch Diamond and has about the same height and width dimensions. However, it is about double the thickness of the Touch Diamond due to the keyboard and larger capacity battery. It feels quite dense with the small package and heft. It still has the glossy black back with diamond angles too.

The Sprint Touch Pro was very similar to the Sprint Touch Diamond in size (the Sprint Touch Diamond has the larger capacity battery) and has the same back design as the Touch Diamond with the soft touch casing. It feels quite dense as well and is slightly taller than the HTC Fuze.

Specifications: The Sprint Touch Diamond and HTC Fuze are high end Windows Mobile devices packed with some outstanding specifications. I'll note below where the specs differ between the two devices. The specifications include:

  • UMTS/HSDPA: 2100/1900/850 MHz and GSM: 1900/1800/900/850 MHz (HTC Fuze)
  • CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz. EVDO Rev. A with support for 1xRTT (Sprint Touch Pro)
  • Windows Mobile Professional 6.1
  • Qualcomm 528 MHz processor
  • 288MB RAM and 512MB flash ROM (only about 270MB available)

  • Slide-out QWERTY keyboard
  • Integrated GPS/A-GPS receiver
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
  • 2.8 inch VGA (480x640 pixels) display
  • microSD card slot for storage (SDHC support)
  • 3.2 megapixel camera with flash light
  • 1340 mAh battery

    Dimensions (HTC Fuze):

  • Weight: 5.82 ounces
  • Length: 4.02 inches
  • Width: 2.05 inches
  • Thickness: 0.70 inches

    Dimensions (Sprint Touch Pro):

  • Weight: 5.3 ounces
  • Length: 4.2 inches
  • Width: 2.05 inches
  • Thickness: 0.70 inches

Compared to the HTC Touch Diamond, there is a microSD card slot instead of an integrated flash drive, there is now a flash light, and there is no longer an integrated FM radio.

A walk around the hardware: Both devices have an absolutely beautiful high resolution VGA on the front that make any standard QVGA Windows Mobile device pale in comparison. Once you have a device with this display I don't think you can go back to QVGA. Both devices also have the headset speaker up above the display with an indicator light in the opening. Below the display you will find the send and end buttons, home button and back button surrounding the directional pad. Like the Touch Diamond there is a solid panel that presses down in each of the four corners to activate the button. You can also scroll your finger around the directional pad to zoom in and out in selected applications (like Messaging).

The Sprint model has silver coloring around the device while the AT&T model is black colored.

The microphone opening, ExtUSB port, and opening/top of the stylus are found on the bottom of both devices. The volume controls are on the upper left side. The HTC Fuze from AT&T also has a PTT button below the volume controls. You are not able to remap this button and it is way too easy to accidentally press. I will definitely be seeking a hack to fix this problem. The stylus extends up the right side just a bit at the bottom. The power button is found on the top of both devices.

The back of both devices are different. The HTC Fuze is very similar to the Touch Diamond with the high glossy black plastic angled look while the Sprint Touch Pro has a matte silver finish with the soft touch covering. It is smooth and curved too with a black center strip that houses the camera and flash light. I like the HTC Fuze design, but would like to see it in matte black soft touch material. There may be third party backs out there to swap with too.

One of the primary reasons, in addition to the US 3G support, that I wanted to wait to purchase the HTC Fuze or Sprint Touch Pro is the integrated slide-out QWERTY keyboard. While these are both HTC Touch Pro variants, the keyboards actually have some major differences that may have each device appealing to different users. The Sprint Touch Pro keyboard has a very dark background (more of a very dark gray than a pure black) with white main keys and green alternate characters. Each keyboard has 5 rows and the top row of the Touch Pro contains numbers, a dash, and equals sign. Along the left side you will find a tab, caps, shift, and ctrl button with a FN button to the right of the bottom ctrl button. The right side of both keyboards are the same with backspace/delete, enter, directions arrows and right shift button.

The HTC Fuze keyboard places the numbers as alternate characters (entered by pressing Fn first) in a phone keypad format. The top row is used for the Start menu button and lots of punctuation (@, _, !, ;, :, and more). Along the left side down from the top you can find the caps, Fn, shift, and OK buttons. Like I said the right sides are the same. The bottom row has shortcuts to many applications. Unfortunately, several of these are used to launch the AT&T crapware applications and are not able to be customized so they are useless to me. Again, I'll look to XDA-Developers to help me out here.

I tend to enter punctuation more than numbers and I do like having OK and Start menu buttons on the keyboard since it should allow you to keep your fingers on the keyboard rather than popping up to touch the display too much. Then again, without a ctrl key you will need to pop up to perform text editing functions like cut, copy, and paste. I still think I like the AT&T variant better and if I can customize some buttons it will become much better.

There are no soft keys on either keyboard and there really isn't room for them given the 5 row designs. There are indicator lights for caps and Fn so you will always know if you pressed it as you enter text.

The keys have good sizing, are a bit domed to allow for easier pressing, and have decent travel and feedback when pressed down. The backlights are good on both keyboards and for such a compact design I don't think you could ask for too much more. The display slides up easier on the HTC Fuze and locks into place with a stronger mechanism. The Sprint Touch Pro has a bit of a grating sound and the slider mechanism doesn't feel as solid.

Pricing and availability: The AT&T HTC Fuze is available now for US$299.99 after signing up for a 2-year contract and US$50 mail-in rebate. The full retail price if you don't want to extend your contract is US$499.99. The Sprint Touch Pro is also available for US$299.99 after 2-year contract and US$100 mail-in rebate. The full non-contract price is US$579.99, which is still cheaper than an imported HTC Touch Pro.

Experiences and some more first thoughts: I've been using the Sprint Touch Pro for about a week and the HTC Fuze for just a couple of days. I get a rather weak Sprint signal where I work and live so the device is always looking for a better signal and battery life is very short (just like I experienced with the Sprint Touch Diamond). The HTC Fuze has lasted me almost a full day with push email and quite a bit of use so I think it will be better than my T-Mobile G1, but not as good as the BlackBerry Bold or Palm Treo Pro.

TouchFLO 3D has been quite responsive on both devices and I like the interface. I don't like the lame gray background that AT&T uses on the Fuze and you cannot change it. Again, this looks like another hack I have to perform. Sprint uses a nice black background with their neon-look Sprint outline color theme. I have been able to watch video, listen to music, surf the web (Opera Mobile is very good), email, and more successfully and speedily on the devices.

I actually could not connect to the internet using either Internet Explorer Mobile or Opera Mobile on the HTC Fuze out of the box and I had to go and use the Proxy Manager to disable the proxy and allow me to connect. A user should not have to do this out of the box. The Sprint Touch Pro worked just fine out of the box and connected in no time at all.

Sprint includes some shortcuts to their optional services and a few other trial applications. However, AT&T includes a TON of crapware that is completely unnecessary and undesirable. They have junk on there like trial games and apps (10 in the Games & Apps folder alone), links to AT&T services and stores, and more. They then do not include basic essentials like Windows Live Messenger on the device. Instead they include their IM client, which requires a text messaging plan rather than using your unlimited data. I think customers will get quite frustrated with all of this non-removable junk on their phones and the phone is not the place to load up with this type of useless data that just slows down the device and makes for a worse experience. I am seriously thinking of returning the device, but since I am a mobile geek I will most likely hack away at the Fuze to make it a functional and useful device for me. This can't be expected of "normal" users though and it is a bit sad to see how a carrier can cripple a good device. I really think Microsoft and/or HTC need to set stronger boundaries or guidelines on minimum requirements. How can a device like this be released without the Windows Mobile default clients like Live Messenger or Live Search?

AT&T also has a custom tab on the TouchFLO 3D Today screen. Each of these services requires an additional subscription fee and I already pay way too much for basic services and won't be paying more for these functions. Users should have the ability to hide this panel, but again this is not provided on the Fuze.

There are a few useful utilities and applications included on the Fuze (YouTube player, Sprite Backup, and AT&T Navigator), but Sprint has much more useful apps like a RSS reader, MP3 ringtone maker, and Astraware Solitaire.

The HTC Touch Pro is a powerful Windows Mobile device from HTC and these two US variants bring the device to US carriers with high speed data access. Overall, I think the Sprint Touch Pro is probably the better device (less crapware, more comfortable back, maybe better keyboard). With some hacks the HTC Fuze should be a much better device and if I decide to keep the device I will definitely be performing some of these to make the device more functional.

Other reviews you should check out: There are plenty of others who have had a chance to use these new HTC Touch Pro variants and here are a few reviews you may want to check out as you consider this device:

Topics: Software, AT&T, BlackBerry, Collaboration, Hardware, HTC, Microsoft, Mobility, Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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