Hands-on with the HTC HD2, most impressive Windows Mobile device to date

Hands-on with the HTC HD2, most impressive Windows Mobile device to date

Summary: We wrapped up the Mobius 2009 event last night and since we spent most of the time talking about topics under NDA there isn't much of anything I can share with your at this time. I recommend you check out Jason Dunn's post on his new Windows Phone Thoughts site for coverage of what could be shared. HTC was kind enough to give each attendee an HTC HD2 device to evaluate so I wanted to post some first thoughts after spending the full day with it as my main device. I posted a video on YouTube with a short walk around the device and will post a full review early next week after a few more days with it. There is a ton of excitement about this device and after showing it to an iPhone owner here at work he said, "So this is what the next generation iPhone may look like." HTC pushed Windows Mobile to the extreme with this device and it shows in an amazing product.

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We wrapped up the Mobius 2009 event last night and since we spent most of the time talking about topics under NDA there isn't much of anything I can share with your at this time. I recommend you check out Jason Dunn's post on his new Windows Phone Thoughts site for coverage of what could be shared. HTC was kind enough to give each attendee an HTC HD2 device to evaluate so I wanted to post some first thoughts after spending the full day with it as my main device. I posted a video on YouTube with a short walk around the device and will post a full review early next week after a few more days with it. There is a ton of excitement about this device and after showing it to an iPhone owner here at work he said, "So this is what the next generation iPhone may look like." HTC pushed Windows Mobile to the extreme with this device and it shows in an amazing product.

Hardware

Without even turning on the device you can tell there is something special about the HTC HD2. The device is a large black slab, but is thin at only about 3/8ths of an inch. It feels dense and a bit hefty, but like I have mentioned before I personally like devices that have good heft and density to them. The back metal battery cover is sleek and feels cool to the touch. It is surrounded by soft touch coated panels giving your a smooth touch. The edges of the protruded camera lens are a bit sharp so watch out for scratching wood tables if you try to slide it around. The 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB ports on the bottom melt into the device with excellent transitions. There is nothing along the right side or top as minimalization lends itself to elegance on the HD2. There are five bottom hardware buttons below the massive 4.3 inch 800x480 resolution capacitive display for send, end, home, Start, and back. The lovely display is capacitive and responsive, thanks in part to the 1GHz Snapdragon processor.

Software

The HTC HD2 runs Windows Mobile 6.5, but is optimized further by HTC to support the capacitive display. TouchFLO 3D is rebranded as Sense UI and it is beautiful on the HD2. I have Spb Mobile Shell loaded on my T-Mobile Touch Pro2 because I find it gives me quicker, more efficient access to the information and apps I need. I have no plans to load it up on the HD2 because I find the Sense UI to be quite good, plus I am not sure Mobile Shell is ready for such a device as this. HTC includes Facebook integration like on the TP2 and also adds their Peep Twitter client found on Google Android devices. The icons at the bottom of the Home screen tabs are now in full color and the transitions are flawless between tabs. Their media player looks like the iPod touch with cover flow when rotated into landscape and is nice to see on a Windows Mobile device.

One of the sexiest pieces of the software has to be the weather application and even if you don't care much about the weather it is fun to watch the animations and transitions. I have locations loaded for places I live and work in, along with common business travel destinations. There is currently snow in Juneau, Alaska and you will find the display with snowflakes and then ice buildup along the sides (see the attached screenshot). You may want to find a winter location in December to give your HD2 a Christmas look and feel :)

Opera Mobile 9.7 is the default browser and gives you a full Internet experience with support for pinch and zoom via multi-touch support (another HTC customization). Mult-touch is also supported in the photo browser. The WorldCard Mobile application is provided and I used it to capture and export several business cards in seconds, thanks in large part to the 5 megapixel camera. A few other applications loaded by default include a RSS reader, Bing, Google Maps, Facebook, YouTube, MyPhone, and a European version of CoPilot Live 8.

Pricing and availability

The HD2 is shipping in Europe (subsidization can be as low as free) and can be found through US importers for around $800. HTC announced that a major US wireless carrier will get the device in early 2010, but we have no information on who that may be. I am using the European one on T-Mobile now so I am getting EDGE data speeds, but I am also pairing it up to my new Verizon Wireless MiFi for 3G speeds when I surf on the device.

The HTC HD2 is a beautiful device for the high end mobile user who doesn't mind carrying a large device. I'll keep putting it through its paces and post a more in-depth review early next week. Feel free to post any questions about things you want me to try out and I'll try to include all you ask. I plan to test the following:

  • GPS navigation
  • Movie playing capability
  • Zune subscription music support
  • Text entry keyboard accuracy and speed
  • Image/video capture quality

Disclosure: I took two days off from my "day job" and was not compensated by Microsoft for this time. I also paid for my own hotel (there was no travel cost since I live in the Seattle area) to participate in the event. Microsoft did give each attendee a Zune HD while HTC gave us each an HTC HD2 and a T-shirt with no expectations or strings attached to these devices.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, HTC, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Software, Wi-Fi, Windows

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50 comments
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  • I like what HTC is doing

    You've got the Hero and the HD2. I'd like to see what the difference is in performance between the two, but the Hero has a slower processor. Personally, I like the Windows Mobile platform, and it is the best option for Windows-based IT environments. With Sense on either the HD2 or Hero, the consumer only has to choose the phone features that they prefer, and possibly the platform, if they want to extend the capabilities (HTC's capabilities are far more full-featured than others so it's not a must-have for every buyer). Did the HD2 include the RSS Hub application? That's something I use on my Touch Diamond [1] EVERY DAY! I find that even with reduced-sized screens, RSS is just the reading format of choice. Viewing desktop-sized websites on a mobile is just stupid, IMO. It's ridiculous to have to zoom and pan like crazy only to be able to read anything on the screen. Bloody UX disaster. Even Apple has admitted to this by releasing "optimized for iPhone" specs for website developers.

    BTW: Sense is technically "TouchFlo 3D v3". There's a new version 2.5 that XDA-devs is carrying that's supposed to be for smaller-screen WM6.5.1 phones. Sense is designed as the UI for larger touchscreen-only phones with fast processors, and offers more customizability than TF3D. It's like TF3D+Widgets - kind of a hybrid between the original, and Samsungs TouchWiz.
    Joe_Raby
    • I agree with you on liking what HTC is doing

      At one time, and only for a couple of months, I had an HTC Mogul on Sprint. The device was well made physically, but it was short on memory for WinMo 6.1, and had some other issues that I just felt were a fail for a phone of this price and caliber. I've had a few different phones since, including a BB Curve, and a month trial of the Palm Pre, and I've finally settled on the HTC Touch Pro2. Wow. What a difference a couple of years can make. The quality of both the hardware and software of the TP2 is so far beyond the previous Mogul that I am astounded. I even just recently tried carrying my wife's HTC Hero, and while the Android is neat in many ways, my TP2 just does everything I need it to, and it does it well. HTC is changing the smartphone market for the better, and they should have something to meet most everyone's need now.
      Aragorn_z
  • engineers

    so here we go again. devices made by engineers for ... well
    would be engineers. only a company ran by engineers would
    think that a bigger screen is a better screen. this thing is a
    brick. outside a very small niche no one is going to carry that
    around as a phone. i bet the next iphone will be smaller
    instead of bigger. but that's why people buy iphones and not
    this one or the toshiba brick that was introduced two/three
    months ago. what was that name again?
    bannedfromzdnetagain
    • " i bet the next iphone will be smaller "

      The next iPhone will be the i[Tablet].
      Joe_Raby
      • iBook

        if they will ever release it i bet they will call it iBook.

        but anyway, it would be a new category not a substitute for the iphone.
        maybe a substitute for a netbook. the iphone belongs in your pocket.
        the smaller (around the 3,5" screen) the better. going bigger as a
        smartphone doesn't make any ergonomic sense.
        bannedfromzdnetagain
        • If rumours are true....(and a correction to your post)

          it's going to be an over-sized (and more over-priced) iPhone. The rumours say it'll run iPhone OS like the iPod touch. That smells like a giant iPod touch/iPhone to me.

          Of course, that's IF the rumours are true. So far, Apple hasn't even signed off on the idea yet, and Jobs has been saying all along that nobody likes tablet computing, including Apple.

          BTW: iBook has already been used by Apple:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibook

          I don't think (I would hope not, for their sake) that they're going back there anytime soon.
          Joe_Raby
          • iBook

            probably being an oversized ipod touch with some additional
            functionality (especially as an eReader) iBook will be the perfect name.
            that's one of the reasons they renamed their smallest laptop into
            macbook. to free that name. it will fit perfectly into the iPod, iPhone,
            iMac moniker system.
            bannedfromzdnetagain
    • The iPhone is a brick

      My HTC Touch Diamond is 2/3 the size of the iPhone
      with twice the resolution. Put my phone next to
      the iPhone and the iPhone looks like a brick.

      Cue the double standards...
      NonZealot
      • optimum

        well, this is an art and for a windows it guy hard to understand, i know.
        you have to find the right balance between a big enough screen size (for
        surfing the web for instance) and a small enough form factor to fit in
        your pocket. the 2.8" screen on your touch diamond is too small to have
        an at least decent web experience. a 4,3" phone is too big to fit in your
        pocket. it is called ergonomics. look it up.
        bannedfromzdnetagain
        • LOL @4.3" phone too big but not 3.5"!!!!

          The iPhone is too big to fit in your pocket. The
          2.8" screen with a 640*480 resolution is the
          optimum size and resolution for surfing the web.
          It's called ergonomics. Look it up.
          NonZealot
          • From out of your nether regions

            I was unable to find a single study proving the ergonomic superiority of a
            2.8" screen at 640x480. It must be a newly published study not yet
            available on pubMed.

            (Nice job making things up out of whole cloth, as per your usual.)
            SpiritusInMachina
          • Another clueless Apple apologist

            If you couldn't see that I was making fun of
            ellroy's completely unsubstantiated statement that
            anything bigger than a 3.5" screen is too big and
            that anything smaller isn't ergonomic than I'm
            afraid I have to conclude that you are even dumber
            than you sound. Have a great weekend!
            NonZealot
          • At what point did I apologize for Apple?

            I was perfectly capable of seeing your ATTEMPT at humour. It was
            however, built upon ridiculous assumptions and outright falsifications on
            your part, as is most of your foolishness. And, as previously stated,
            100% predictable, and therefore not even remotely amusing.

            Besides which, you are a troll.

            And please point out where I even mentioned Apple, the iPhone, or in
            any way "apologized" for them.
            SpiritusInMachina
        • phone in pocket

          Is not everyone's standard for useability.
          midcapwarrior@...
        • You're quite wrong.

          I've got a HD2 and that 4.3" screen is perfectly fine for putting in the pocket.

          FWIW, the phone itself is only a few millimetres larger than the iPhone.
          GTRoberts100
      • No Droid for you

        So if the iPhone is a "brick" what do you call the Droid?

        So you won't get another WinMo device because you know the platform has no future, and you won't get a Droid because it's too big. I'm guessing an HTC Hero or Eris, except you think their screen resolutions are horrible. Are they even available in Canada now that your contract has expired?
        rynning
        • Cue the double standards...

          Wow, you sure missed the whole point of my
          post. I would have thought the "cue the double
          standards..." at the end would have been enough
          of a clue. Oh well.

          I was making fun of the OP's idiotic statements
          that size only counts when the iPhone is the
          smaller device. Anything bigger than the iPhone
          is, according to Apple cultists, "a brick",
          just because it is bigger. Applying the exact
          same standards, I called the iPhone a brick
          because it is bigger than my phone. He then
          apologized for Apple by applying a
          [b]different[/b] standard whenever any phone is
          smaller than the iPhone. Hence the "cue the
          double standards...".

          The iPhone [b]is[/b] a brick compared to my
          phone, as is the HTC HD2. So what. Size is only
          one of many factors. Not only that, what is
          "too big" is different to different people.
          What I'm trying to highlight is the stupidity
          of the Apple community by applying 1 standard
          when a phone is bigger than iPhone (its a
          brick!!!) and a different standard when a phone
          is smaller than iPhone (it isn't ergonomic).

          I actually really, really, really want to get a
          Droid (going to be called the Milestone here
          and in Europe) but I'm afraid that I would
          really miss some of the Exchange functionality
          that I currently make great use of on my WM
          phone. Right now I'm coming to the realization
          that my current phone is the best phone for me
          and that I'll simply have to wait just a bit
          longer for something to come out that will
          actually be better for me than what I have.
          NonZealot
    • You speak of personal preference

      By choice I carry the HTC Touch Pro2 on Sprint. It has a gorgeous 3.6" 800x480 resolution screen on it. I don't want the screen to be smaller. Not only is my day to day work nicer with the larger screen, but so is watching videos if I so choose, or reading an ebook, or web browsing. It is worth the little extra weight of the phone for the screen and keyboard size that I am getting. Smaller doesn't necessarily equate to better to every user. Fortunately we have choices to fit most every need out here. No one person should be able to dictate or place "labels" onto designers just because that particular device doesn't fit their criteria.
      Aragorn_z
    • You're all wrong!

      A screen size that you can surf on without having to zoom and pan around like an idiot to find something is the only natural way to use a computer. That said, either phones have to be massive, or the internet has to change to accomodate them.

      "Mobile" sites, RSS, and even these so-called "Optimized for iPhone" sites are the only way for a user to get the most satisfying experience from these phones.

      I have a Touch Diamond [1]. The screen is too small to surf on Opera Mobile without having to resort to ridiculous UX conventions of zooming in, reflowing text, and panning around a site. I often resort to mobile mode in Opera Mobile, just so that I can get alternate mobile pages. I also heavily rely on RSS, which has almost no formatting, and therefore can be adjusted to any font size without breaking anything. An iPhone is no better. Neither is any of the current phones on the market. Websites are mostly designed for AT LEAST an 800x600 resolution screen (there are more and more that require a width of no less than 1024 now), and if you could buy a screen in a 4" or less form factor at an 800x600 resolution, everything would be too small to read.

      There is NOTHING remotely "ergonomic" about today's smartphones, and that's mostly because of the design of the internet. If everything on the web was mobile, and designed for a 240-480 pixel (portrait mode) screen or less, then you'd have an argument. Using two hands to find a part of a page on a handheld device with such a small screen is anything but ergonomic, sorry.
      Joe_Raby
  • A few extra questions:

    Is it WM6.5.0 or 6.5.1?

    Is that the same smudge-proof screen that the Hero has?

    If it's going to be HSPA, will the North American device be world-ready ie. will it support quad-band HSPA?

    At the Mobius event, did Microsoft mention ANYTHING about what they're going to do about updating future versions of Windows Mobile??? They have a Windows Update feature, and yet I've never heard of anyone getting ANY updates through it, and they certainly don't offer OS upgrades through it. Will WM7 change that?
    Joe_Raby