This is the final article in my Clash of the Touch Titans articles after taking a look at the iPhone 3G 3.0 and the Palm Pre, HTC Magic, BlackBerry Storm, and Samsung OmniaHD. The iPhone, Pre, Magic, Storm, and OmniaHD all have capacitive touch screens while this last contender, the HTC Touch Diamond2, has a resistive touch display. As I wrote before, I laid out what we know of the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS operating system in my first article so I won't repost all of that content here. I will run through each section for the HTC Touch Diamond2 and then offer my personal thoughts on how it compares to the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS update on the last page of this feature. Next Monday I will post a wrap-up post that includes a spreadsheet comparing all five of these devices in simple to view format.
I began using Microsoft-powered mobile devices back in early 2001 with the Jornada 548 and have used many since then and have seen the operating system and hardware get better and better. HTC has emerged as the clear leader in touchscreen Windows Mobile devices. With Windows Mobile as the base OS, HTC innovates and adds functionality far beyond the default WM experience. I checked out the HTC Touch Diamond last year and am still amazed by all that HTC was able to pack into such a small package. I then had the chance to spend some time with the upcoming HTC Touch Diamond2 at CTIA a couple weeks ago. I plan to buy the HTC Touch Pro2 myself because I really do prefer to have a physical keyboard option and the keyboard on that device is absolutely fantastic.
The HTC Touch Diamond2 should be out on different carriers very soon and the folks over at 4WinMobile.com were lucky enough to get one in their hands and start posting their thoughts on using it on a daily basis.
Operating System - Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional: The Touch Diamond2 comes loaded with Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, which has been out now for just about a year. However, the Diamond2 is one device that has been confirmed by HTC to receive the WM 6.5 update when it is available later in 2009. I am not sure how this will work with carriers though since some are more hesitant than others to allow upgrades and hopefully HTC was able to make this a requirement for carrying the Diamond2.
To prepare for the WM 6.5 upgrade, HTC has changed the action that occurs when you press on the Start button. On current WM 6.1, and earlier, devices pressing the Start button brings up the Start menu in the upper left. On the Diamond2, pressing this button takes you to an application launcher page similar to the Programs tab seen on TouchFLO 3D devices today. This is designed to give the user a consistent experience when they upgrade to 6.5 because with 6.5 pressing the Start button takes the user to the "honeycomb" layout Home page. I was pleased to see HTC thinking about the end user in this case and think this was the right move.
If you are an Exchange user then you cannot find a better mobile Exchange experience then what is available on a Windows Mobile device. You can create meetings with attendees, search the server, smart filter email by typing characters, file emails in folders, and perform most any function you want on your device that you can with Outlook on your PC. As an Exchange user myself, I always have a Windows Mobile device on hand for unlimited access and functionality with my work account.
You have a plethora of input options with the Touch Diamond2, including some optimized keyboards provided by HTC themselves. One benefit of the resistive touchscreen displays is that you can use the default Windows Mobile Transcriber handwriting recognition program or go for the even more powerful Calligrapher handwriting recognition program. The handwriting recognition technology is an input method often overlooked on Windows Mobile, but it actually is amazingly powerful and functional.
Other input options include a large character keyboard provided by HTC, the small full QWERTY keyboard provided by Microsoft, compact QWERTY (similar to a SureType keyboard), phone keypad with T9 support, Block Recognizer (similar to the old Palm Grafitti input method), and Letter Recognizer. In addition, you can install any number of your favorite text input applications. I personally like both Fitaly and MessagEase. As you can see there is an input method available to fit anyone's particular needs and this is one aspect of how powerful the Windows Mobile OS can be for users.
Another great aspect of the Windows Mobile OS is that you get full control over where applications are installed so you can download and install all the apps you want to the external storage card or internal memory. This is a major limitation on BlackBerry and Google Android devices that keep you a bit limited on the number of applications you can install.
Multitasking is fully supported in Windows Mobile so you run multiple applications at once and as the integrated memory (RAM) is ample you shouldn't have to worry about having too many open at one time. The OS dynamically manages your applications and HTC gives you an integrated task manager so you can even manage running applications yourself if you desire. Flexibility and user control is provided throughout the operating system.
Cut, copy, and paste are fully supported in Windows Mobile Professional and always have been so there are no limitations there. Microsoft even provides you with a full Office suite as part of the operating system so you can work with documents sent as attachments or loaded on your device or memory card. The Windows Mobile operating system actually has several integrated applications and utilities that provide most users with everything they need so 3rd party apps are often not even loaded on WM devices. HTC provides some utilities as well to make the experience even better.
One of the newest HTC "special sauces" added to the Touch Diamond2 that make it very compelling for me is their People utility. With this utility, you can now think and work with all of your various conversations from a contact point of view rather than from a multiple application point of view. You can select a person and then through a simple tab interface view their contact info, call history, email/text message history, Facebook status updates for that person, and quick links to interact with that person via email, text, or IM. I personally think this utility alone may be worth the upgrade because you no longer have to go into your email and then conduct a search to find that person's email history, but can quickly access it with minimal effort on your part. HTC is making the device and OS work for you to provide you with an optimal experience and that is how these mobile devices should be working.
Another HTC feature is their TouchFLO 3D interface. The first Touch Diamond may have seemed a bit laggy at times, but after trying out the Diamond2 at CTIA I can say that the TouchFLO 3D interface is very zippy and you won't find any lag in this latest device. You can actually live within this interface without even having to dive into the inner workings of Windows Mobile and it looks like it will only be the power users diving into the details of the OS. I personally like having the flexibility to live in a simpler interface or diving into the details because I am a mobile geek and like to see what is under the hood.
Hardware - HTC Touch Diamond2:
The HTC Touch Diamond2 is a compact touchscreen focused device coming in at 4.25 x 2.09 x 0.54 inches and 4.15 ounces. The display is an industry leading 3.2 inch TFT-LCD with 480x800 WVGA resolution. The display on the original Diamond was already a fantastic display and now with an even larger, higher resolution model I am completely blown away.
HTC also has enlarged the touch areas on their devices so even though the display is resistive you get an experience very similar to a capacitive display with much more functionality for handwriting and other input methods.
Other specifications include a 528MHz processor, 512MB ROM, 288MB RAM, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support, integrated GPS receiver, 802.11 b/g WiFi, 5 megapixel camera, 1100 mAh battery, and microSD card slot.
I am a bit disappointed to see HTC still has no standard 3.5mm headset jack and was expecting one after seeing them use it on the HTC Touch HD. The HTC extUSB port is used for syncing, charging, and headset connections. They do support A2DP so you can use Bluetooth, but I still prefer to have a 3.5mm headset jack on my devices so I can use my nice headphones to enjoy music.
I look forward to trying out the new 5 megapixel camera and understand HTC has done a lot of work with the software and optics to make a camera experience that is much better than we have seen in the past. The 3.2 megapixel camera on my HTC Fuze is actually quite good so I know HTC is getting this capability down. The camera has autofocus support and captures both still and video as well.
The Touch Diamond2 is not as wide as the iPhone and feels more like a phone in your hand. There are a few hardware buttons at the bottom of the front and as I have mentioned before I like to have these buttons for quick access to functions that are used all the time. HTC also has a touch sensitive zoom bar just below the display and above the hardware buttons for quick zoom functionality in selected applications.
An accelerometer is also present in the device for support of rotation between landscape and portrait orientations.
The Touch Diamond2 is just now getting into a few hands for review so I cannot comment on the stability of the particular device. However, the HTC Windows Mobile devices I have used over the last couple of years have been rock solid for me and have performed very well. My HTC Fuze has never reset on me and I imagine that HTC will continue to produce solid devices.
Carrier - Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and AT&T: At this time, we do not know who will get the Touch Diamond2 first here in the US. However, if you look at the current HTC Touch Pro device as an example it is available on three of the four major wireless carriers with T-Mobile being the only one without this device. The ability for these Windows Mobile devices to be carried on all the wireless carriers at the same time is a huge benefit to HTC and Windows Mobile since people can get a solid device without having to switch carriers.
The devices that appear on US carriers generally have good reception and call quality as well.
You can always buy these HTC devices in a SIM unlocked configuration since most of these devices appear in Europe before they appear here in the US. The devices will be unsubsidized and not support the 3G wireless data networks here so it is generally beneficial to wait for US availability.
3rd Party Applications: Windows Mobile has always been quite open to 3rd party applications and there are thousands of developers and applications currently available for you to install and use. I usually buy most of my applications directly from the developer's website, but there are some other stores like Handango too. Windows Mobile Marketplace is coming sometime in 2009 so you will get an integrated application store to purchase applications from on your device. I am not sure how this will work with the existing application environment as there are still lots of unknowns surrounding the Windows Mobile Marketplace.
You can find an application for just about anything you want to do on a Windows Mobile device and most are pretty high quality as well. The iPhone App Store was a major eye opener for me when it comes to pricing though since I have been used to easily paying $20 a pop for a good WM application. People's expectations for purchasing applications has drastically been changed by the App Store and it will be interesting to see if we see this type of pricing structure in the Windows Mobile community moving forward.
As I mentioned in the hardware section, you can run multiple 3rd party applications at the same time on Windows Mobile and that is a benefit to people like me who jump around between apps all the time as a part of my regular routine.
My Personal Choice and Final Thoughts: I just recently picked up an iPhone 3G again and while it is definitely a slick device with a fun and intuitive user interface, I find myself rarely using it because I find that Windows Mobile and S60 devices let me do more with fewer, if any, limitations on functionality. I think the iPhone is a perfectly capable device for many people, especially for those who are used to having a feature phone. However, the lack of access to a file structure (limits receiving, modifying, and resending attachments), lack of multitasking, limited Bluetooth profile support, limited camera functionality, and limited Exchange capability push me towards something like a Windows Mobile device. The iPhone 3.0 OS update will improve on the capabilities of the iPhone, but there will still be many areas where I think Windows Mobile excels for power users like myself.
HTC has improved the UI on their devices way beyond the default Windows Mobile experience so that an experience similar to the iPhone is provided. We may slam Windows Mobile for moving slowly, but HTC continues to push the envelope and innovate on a solid base.
The Diamond2 is an impressive piece of hardware and I love that HTC continues to innovate in the software space with their People utility and other user experience improvements. If you want to stick with your existing carrier and have the need for a full mobile Exchange experience, the Diamond2 is a tough device to beat.
As I always state, buying a mobile device is a personal choice and is highly dependent on your specific needs so each of these that we looked at will be a favorite for some and not others. I am not unequivocally stating this one or that one is the best for everyone because NO device fits that description. As I stated at the beginning of this article, I will post a wrap-up article next Monday that includes a spreadsheet showing you each device in a side-by-side comparison. I will also add comments about my personal overall favorite.