HTC's original Touch appeared in mid-2007, a time when touchscreen smartphones were a novelty — Apple's iPhone was about to launch, while Google's Android platform was 15 months away. HTC's TouchFLO user interface, introduced with the Windows Mobile 6-based Touch, has developed along with the Touch range, and has been influential on other handset makers.
HTC's compact and lightweight Touch2 runs Windows Mobile 6.5.
The HTC Touch2 runs the latest version of Microsoft's smartphone OS, Windows Mobile 6.5, and enters a very different competitive landscape. How does it shape up? Our review sample came courtesy of Clove Technology.
The HTC Touch2 is a compact handset measuring 104mm tall by 55mm wide by 12.9mm thick. It sits comfortably in the hand and at 110g doesn't weigh down the pocket unduly. The screen is relatively the small (2.8in.) and low resolution (240 by 320 pixels) for a touchscreen smartphone.
The Touch2 does not support multitouch and 'finger-pinch' zooming: instead, a zoom bar sits between the screen and the control buttons.
The general physical design is unassuming. Immediately beneath the screen is probably the Touch2's most innovative design element — the zoom bar. We've seen this before, and we rather like it. The Touch2 does not support multitouch, so this bar is its way of allowing you to zoom. To zoom in, you press and hold on the left side, then slide a finger to the right (and vice versa to zoom out).
The zoom bar works smoothly when viewing images and web sites, although it centres on the middle of the screen whereas pinch-to-zoom multitouch can be implemented on whatever area of the screen you like.
Beneath the zoom bar are Call and End buttons, and inside them a Home button plus a lozenge-shaped button containing the Back and Windows keys on the right and left ends respectively. The Windows key will appear on all Windows Mobile 6.5 devices (which Microsoft now calls 'Windows phones'): when pressed, it brings up the main applications menu.
The left-hand side houses the volume rocker and a slot for a microSD card. The slot has a hinged cover that you can't pull aside unless you first remove the backplate. On the bottom edge is a mini-USB connector for recharging and PC synchronisation. The top edge houses a 3.5mm headset connector.
The HTC Touch2 ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable, a one-piece stereo headset and a small printed quick-start guide. There is no software CD: you'll have to download synchronisation software from the web (a small piece of paper in the box tells you what you can synchronise and provides a URL).
The HTC Touch2 runs Windows Mobile 6.5 and is the first 'Windows phone' we've had in for a full review. HTC's own TouchFLO overlay is also present, and this too has had a revamp for the new device. TouchFLO, for example, now features coloured icons on the main screen along its horizontally scrolling application picker. It's a small change, but it does help the Touch2 seem more vibrant and user-friendly on first acquaintance.
Windows Mobile 6.5 includes the new My Phone free online backup service and Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The latter was not functioning when we tested the handset, but we're aware of concerns about the lack of applications available at launch. MyPhone could be useful, although services like automatic handset wiping will not be free and are not yet scheduled for UK availability.
The Touch2 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225 processor running at 528MHz. It has 512MB of ROM and 256MB of RAM. After a hard reset our review sample reported 260MB of free storage memory. As noted above, you can add more storage via the microSD card slot.
The Touch2 is a quad-band GSM device with GPRS, EDGE and HSPA support (uploads at up to 384Kbps and downloads at up to 7.2Mbps). There is a GPS receiver and Google Maps is pre-installed. You also get a free 15-day trial of the CoPilot navigation software, and this is also pre-installed. Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are both integrated.
There's no front-facing camera for two-way video calling, while the camera at the back shoots stills at 3.2 megapixels. HTC doesn't push the envelope with its camera technology, and this unit produces images that are average at best. We saw evidence of washed-out colours and poor handling of variable lighting conditions. Indoors the camera is particularly poor, and this is not aided by the absence of a flash.
Performance & battery life
A key problem with Windows Mobile 6.1 for touchscreen fans was the need to use a stylus for some operations. Sadly it remains in version 6.5. Microsoft has made its front end more finger friendly, but delve deeper and you'll soon have to resort to the stylus, which lives in a housing on the bottom edge of the casing. In fact, many screens don't seem to have changed much since Windows Mobile 5.
And even at the very front end it appears Microsoft has not been watching the competition very carefully. The Windows button takes you to a menu-based main screen that brings all the applications on the handset together, along with a settings shortcut. You get the same menu if you press the Start button on the upper right of the screen: the drop-down menu that used to appear when you pressed this button is gone.
That's a step in the right direction, but you need to scroll down quite a long way to see the last of the installed applications, and you can't rearrange them into your own preferred order. Other mobile operating systems allow you to spread applications over several horizontally scrolling main screens, and offer ways of personalising their groupings.
HTC has overcome this by putting an applications shortcut onto its overlay. You can populate this with whatever applications you choose in whatever order you like. It is an improvement, but having two main menus so readily accessible may confuse novice users.
Microsoft’s revamping of Internet Explorer in Windows Mobile 6.5 to support Flash has been mentioned elsewhere. On the Touch2, HTC has also included Opera, which is the default browser launched from its front end. Web browsing on this device is a tricky experience whatever browser you choose, as there's no accelerometer to allow you to easily switch the screen into landscape mode.
Battery life is 440 minutes of talk and 370 hours on standby, according to HTC. We found we got a couple of days out of each charge, but as ever with smartphones, a daily charge will be required if you are heavily into Wi-Fi, GPS, mobile data or music.
The HTC Touch2 has a relatively small screen and lacks an accelerometer. However, it's Windows Mobile 6.5 that really lets the side down. Microsoft needs to find a way of making its mobile OS more finger-friendly throughout if it's to satisfy the anti-stylus brigade. Microsoft is now targeting consumers and business users with its Windows phones, but it looks as though a major rethink is still required — bring on Windows Mobile 7!