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HTC unveils the Touch Diamond

The latest product in the Touch range is notable for being the first HTC Windows Mobile phone to come with Opera as its browser, due to timing issues with Internet Explorer 6
By David Meyer, Contributor on
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1 of 4 David Meyer/ZDNET

HTC launched the latest in its line of Touch smartphones on Tuesday. At a London event, the Taiwanese manufacturer introduced the Touch Diamond, an angular addition to the iPhone-baiting range.

The Touch Diamond has Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as GPS and 7.2Mbps HSDPA. According to HTC Europe vice president Florian Seiche, its 4GB internal memory makes it a mass storage device too.

Seiche told ZDNet.co.uk on Tuesday that the Touch Diamond's main audience would be the "high-end consumer market" — hence the inclusion of an optimised YouTube application — but he added that "there is obviously a certain crossover [into the business market] due to the rich functionality which supports all of the key business applications".

The Touch Diamond will be the first HTC handset to be launched with all five major UK operators — Orange, T-Mobile, O2, Vodafone and 3. Production units are due to hit the shelves in June.

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Since the original HTC Touch launched last year, the company has put its own TouchFlo skins over Microsoft's native Windows Mobile interface. In this case, with Windows Mobile having been upgraded to version 6.1, HTC has introduced what it calls TouchFlo 3D — a presentation layer incorporating ideas familiar from Apple's iPhone — that sits on top of Windows Mobile 6.1's already fairly graphically oriented interface. The Touch Diamond also has an iPhone-beating VGA screen.

HTC has downgraded the battery from the 1,100mAh battery on the original Touch to a 900mAh battery. HTC chief executive Peter Chou said the slim form-factor of the Touch Diamond necessitated the worsened battery life, but claimed that "overall power management has been improved" in the new device. He also said HTC was "working on a second battery for those who want to get big".

Florian Seiche claimed the battery that comes with the Touch Diamond will give enterprise customers "a good day's usage", with up to four hours' talktime per day.

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The Touch Diamond comes with the Opera mobile browser installed as default instead of the mobile version of Internet Explorer, marking a sea change for HTC Windows Mobile devices.

This is because, although Windows Mobile 6.1 has been launched, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 is not due to appear until later this year.

Speaking at the Touch Diamond launch, Microsoft's new senior vice president for mobile communications, Andy Lees, said the Diamond was "a great step forward [for Microsoft and] that includes mobile internet". When pressed on that fact that the Diamond uses Opera, Lees promised Internet Explorer Mobile 6 would have "by far and away the richest rendering of any browser out there".

Lees did not, however, have any details on whether Microsoft would be pushing the browser out to existing Touch Diamond owners, because that will depend on negotiations with the operators.

HTC chief executive Chou used the event to emphasise that "if it wasn't for Microsoft, there probably wouldn't be an HTC", and said the manufacturer looked forward to working with Microsoft for the next decade or two.

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The Touch Diamond includes an enhanced weather-forecast application — the original of which HTC says was a big hit on the original Touch handset. The device also has an iPhone-like photo viewing application, to complement its 3.2 megapixel camera.

Further customisation will be done by HTC's operator partners. Orange, for example, has made the Touch Diamond one of its elite Signature range, loading it with various Orange-specific photo, music, downloads and TV applications.

The HTC Touch Diamond does not yet come with pricing details — those will appear in the next few weeks as operator negotiations are finalised — but it will be made available first in the UK, Europe and Asia from June. The rest of the world will be able to buy the handset later in the year.

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