Review: HTC Touch

Touch screen smartphones are hot right now–thanks to a little phone from Apple–and we’ve had the pleasure of trying two versions of the HTC Touch: an unlocked version and a Sprint model with custom software.

Small, sexy, and boasting a novel touch interface, the Touch was heralded in breathless headlines as the “iPhone Killer” even before it reached our shores. But it really doesn’t live up to that hype.

Rather than showing up the iPhone, the Touch shows how much Apple got right. The iPhone was designed from the ground up to be a great touch-interface phone. The HTC Touch, on the other hand, is a Windows Mobile 6 smartphone with a clever touch interface grafted on top.

It’s works fine for certain applications, but dig down and you quickly find its limits. 

The HTC Touch measures 3.9 x 2.8 x 0.5 inches and weighs 4.0 ounces. It’s a candy bar-style phone that feels good in the hand, with it’s rounded edges, soft rubbery shell, and surprising thinness. It’s skinny enough to fit in a loose pair of pants-but be careful that you don’t damage the exposed screen.

For a phone that can do so much, the Touch has a pleasantly sparse exterior. The front is dominated by the 2.8-inch screen (240 x 320 resolution, 65,536 colors), with no buttons above it, and only two buttons (call start and end) and a clickable navigation pad below it.

The left side holds a volume slider switch, while the right side holds the camera button, the stylus, and a flap which hides the SIM card and microSD storage card. You need to remove the back cover to open the flap, which is awkward. The Touch comes with a 1GB microSD card, for storing contacts, photos, music, and files.

Its top holds just the power switch (give it a long tap to turn it off, or a short one to put it in standby mode), while the bottom holds the mini-USB connector. On the back you’ll find the lens for the included 2 megapixel camera, as well as a small self-portrait mirror. 

ConnectivityThe unlocked European version of the Touch, which can be bought through Amazon for about $500, is a tri-mode GSM/GPRS phone (900, 1800, 1900) which we tested with an AT&T SIM card. The Sprint version sells for $249 after two-year commitment and rebates, and is a dual-mode CDMA (850, 1900).

With either model, we found that calls were clear throughout our testing in the New York City area, and we never had a dropped call. The unlocked model doesn’t offer 3G, unfortunately, so users need to rely on EDGE data.

The Sprint model, on the other hand, has been upgraded to the company’s 3G EV-DO cellular-data network.

So why get the unlocked version, when it costs more and surfs slower? 

Well, the unlocked Touch includes Wi-Fi, which is a big plus if you have an open connection. The Sprint version lacks WiFi support.

Both version offer Bluetooth. Supported profiles include A2DP for Bluetooth stereo headsets, as well as hands-free kits, object exchange, and file sharing.

Speaking of connectivity, we liked the included Comm Manager program (available on both models), which makes it easy to manage connectivity settings. Use it to turn Wi-Fi (on the unlocked model) and Bluetooth on and off easily, as well as flight mode, push e-mail, a data connection, and phone service.

It’s a handy one-stop spot for managing your connectivity options.

Getting In Touch with TouchThe main selling point for the Touch, and the reason for all the iPhone comparisons, is its TouchFlo interface. TouchFlo lets you draw a finger up from the bottom of the screen—probably a thumb, since that’s the easiest if you’re holding it in one hand—to open the large-buttoned touch-friendly TouchFlo interface. Graphics show the TouchFlo interface sliding up as you slide your finger, which makes using it fun.

TouchFlo includes three separate screens, and you rotate between them by sliding a fingers across the screen to the left or right. For the rest of this review, click here.

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