I have been an apologist for Windows Mobile for a long time, having used MS-powered handsets for the last three or four years. I liked the comprehensive synchronisation, and quite enjoyed having a geek's phone. My most recent WinMob handset was the T-Mobile MDA Vario II.
In the last couple of weeks, I was lucky enough to get my grubby paws on the HTC Touch Diamond, supposedly the WinMob alternative to the iPhone. I was also lucky enough to get a Nokia E71 to play with, marking my initiation into the world of Symbian.
(I should mention that comparing the E71 and the Diamond is not very straightforward – a comparison between the E71 and the similarly Qwerty-keyboard-wielding Touch Pro would probably be fairer, but I'll have a go anyway.)
Styling first. The E71 is a true executive phone, all stainless steel and tasteful heft. Someone remarked to me that it reminded them of an old-style cigarette case. It's damn slim, too, despite the keyboard – slimmer than the Diamond, actually. Stick it in your jeans pocket and you'll forget it's there. Stick the Diamond in your jeans pocket and you'll constantly remember it's there, because the corners are sharp.
The Diamond looks… interesting. Its rather idiosyncratic styling splits opinions, at least round my office. The phone also attracts fingerprints like you wouldn't believe. That said, I rather grew to like its looks, especially the excellent screen. The Nokia's screen is also good, but obviously a lot smaller and not touch-sensitive. Both phones have a 3 megapixel camera – neither's great, but the E71's is marginally better.
Setting up the E71 was a dream. Setting up the Diamond brought out levels of bilious anger that I didn't know I had within me. As I say, I'm well used to Windows Mobile, but HTC's TouchFLO 3D user interface is not terribly well bolted onto the main operating system. For example, when you're trying to set up an email account, the fat virtual keyboard blocks out fields you might want to see – like, y'know, "password". Because TouchFLO only really covers the top layer of interaction, there's also constantly a rather disorienting switching between its glossy 3D-ness and the plain-jane WinMob interface. Oh, and for some bizarre reason I could only successfully set up email accounts through the TouchFLO bit, and not by going into the WinMob bit – very annoying for an experienced WinMob user.
What also didn't help was that HTC sent the Diamond out with a ROM build that, for some reason, did not include presets for T-Mobile, my operator. I ended up using a third party's .cab file to fix that problem, but really shouldn't have had to mess around with that sort of thing.
The biggest problem with the Diamond, though, is that it's slooooow. There's so much funky functionality built into the thing, but it really is a dog. All the iPhone emulation that HTC's trying with this phone just ends up being annoying when a finger-swipe to change the homescreen results in a second-long lag before the new screen comes up. I'd rather the damn thing just worked fast (like the E71 does – very nippy handset, that) than looked flashy. The one-day-max battery life also does not impress (the E71 gives 2 days at least).
As you may be able to tell, I'm not a big fan of the Diamond, but believe me when I say this commentary would be a lot more vitriolic if I hadn't played the pinball-type game that came preinstalled. I'd been on the verge of throwing the phone off the balcony, but that game is amazing. It's amazing because of how brilliantly the 3D accelerometers in the handset work, and how realistic the haptic feedback is. Truly incredible – I ended up passing the phone around the office and getting "wow" as a response from pretty much everyone. It's just a pity that this functionality, particularly the haptics, doesn't get more widely used across the UI.
Anyway, games are nice but I need a phone, and the Diamond is back in its box. The E71 is sitting on my desk in front of me – I actually enjoy looking at it, which I can't say for my old Vario II – and I can't recommend it enough. As for the Diamond, it's a decent phone, but it needs a faster processor and a bigger battery. So, if you really do want to stick with WinMob, hang on for the Touch Pro – at least it has a keyboard and decent battery life.