HTC attempts something very bold with its Touch Windows Mobile Pocket PC. Sitting on top of the Windows Mobile 6 operating system is a touch-screen interface designed to give this particular PDA a lift above every other Windows Mobile device out there. Any comparison with the iPhone’s touch-based interface are purely speculative, but with that device’s launch looming and the Touch having just appeared in the US as well as the UK, comparisons will inevitably be made.
We’ll come back to the touch interface in a moment, but first we have to comment on the other – and probably, for longer term usage, the better – innovation of the Touch. It is an extremely small, extremely minimalist Pocket PC.
The Touch weighs 112g, which is about the same as many Windows Mobile Smartphones. It is thin, thin, thin at just 13.9mm. And overall it measures 58mm wide and just 99.9mm tall. In the hand it feels like a slightly fat ultra-thin mobile phone, if you see what we mean. Yet its front is occupied by a screen measuring a healthy 2.8 inches from corner to corner.
In fact the front is almost all screen. There are tiny Call and End buttons and a navigation key, where more usually you’d find these plus a barrage of shortcuts at least offering access to the calendar, contacts and soft-menus of Windows Mobile.
The black, slightly rubberised casing just adds to the sleek looks and overall appeal of the Touch as well as making it comfortable to hold. Around the edges of the Touch, a band of silver houses a volume rocker and main on/off switch, mini USB port for PC connectivity and headphones connection, and a long hinged cover under which are slots for a microSD card and your SIM.
So, what about that interface? Well, at first glance it looks very good indeed. In place of the usual Windows Mobile Today screen is one that gives you a large clock display and big icons that are easily tappable with the finger, linking to features ranging from getting weather information that’s downloaded over the air and includes a five-day forecast, to the conventional Today screen and a ‘launcher’ for various applications and settings.
More innovative is what HTC calls the TouchFLO interface. You swipe a finger upwards from the bottom of the screen to the top and it turns up a new screen. Then swipe left-to-right or right-to-left to get a second screen and a third. The transition between screens is cute – you get the feeling a cube is rotating inside the HTC Touch in a sort of Tardis-like fashion.
One of these screens offers picture contacts, one is a three-way split between music, photos and videos (though be aware that the headset connector is a mini USB type not a standard 3.5mm type), and the third divides the screen into six large squares offering tappable shortcuts to features like Tasks, Calendar, e-mail and Internet Explorer.
Choose one of these and you are dropped into Windows Mobile 6. You will almost certainly need to call on the stylus at this point to tap at on-screen options, though there are some neat touches like swiping the screen for an automatic scroll though your contacts. None of the TouchFLO interface elements works when the HTC Touch’s screen is in landscape orientation, though.
While it is pretty clever and has a certain ‘wow’ factor, the interface isn’t really a giant leap forward. Add into the mix the fact that this is a tri-band handset rather than quad, and that it has 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM and the full picture becomes clear.
The HTC Touch is a very neatly designed device with a software front-end layered on top of Windows Mobile 6 rather than fully integrated into it, and it has far from leading-edge general specifications, although it does also sport a 2-megapixel camera and Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth.
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