I’ve had a love-hate relationship with PDA phones. Ever since my first O2 mini, which crashed frequently, to the HP iPaq which I later lost, and finally to my Dopod 818 Pro which compared suitably to its predecessor.
Since the revered iPhone isn’t coming to Asia anytime soon, I had to get something else to tide me by. However, most other PDA phones were pretty standard. Either they were full-screen alone, or came with a slide-out keyboard which added bulk, or had lots of buttons all over the front. I wanted something that could blow my mind.
Then I heard of the HTC Touch. Its photos looked pretty good, but the video demo sold me. It also runs Windows Mobile 6.0 which is one version ahead of my Dopod, which has otherwise been pretty reliable, if unglamorous and bulky.
If hearing about the Touch and reading up on it was like imagining being with a beautiful woman (for you guy-geeks out there), holding the Touch was like finally meeting her the first time. I didn’t know it was available in Singapore yet, so when I chanced upon it, in its little glass cage, I got a salesperson to take it out for my inspection. I held it and instantly felt very good. It looked smart in its sleek, black casing with a strip of silver running down its sides. And it was much slimmer and lighter than its rivals, to boot.
After several more minutes of holding it, reading the pamphlet on it, and listening to the salesman tell me how good it was, I decided to buy it. Hearing how it was selling like hotcakes and there were only 2 units left in the store that day, I wasn’t sure if it would wait for me if I walked away and came back later.
Opening the box was like getting a new iPod. HTC packaged it stylishly, in a high quality black box with a weighted lid. When opened, all you see is the phone and its earphones, artistically placed on either side. When you remove the phone, as would probably be your first reaction, you’d see the tiny 1GB microSD card behind it. And I thought miniSD was small enough!
The earphones are thicker than the iPod’s and I am not used to them. I feel like they were designed for someone else with bigger ears. There is a volume control attached on the headset wire. However, note that you cannot use your old Dopod/O2 headsets with the HTC Touch, as it relies solely on the small USB port at its base, which is also used for syncing and charging.
I was worried I’d scratch the screen. However, when I took out the CD-ROMs and user documentation at the bottom of the box, I was pleasantly surprised to find a protective clear screen, which I pasted on. At worst the screen gets greasy, but at least I know it won’t get scratched. A pouch is also included. It is well-padded but doesn’t have a flap to prevent the phone from dropping out – though that’s unlikely as it should be tightly wedged in. It doesn’t have a belt hook, so guys may have to look elsewhere for one.
I haven’t really had to use the 1cm-thick user manual yet. Things have been fairly self-explanatory. I followed the quick start guide to learn how to insert the battery, SIM and microSD cards. I also used the guide to learn how to scroll through documents properly.
The HTC website doesn’t tell clearly indicate what software comes with it. As I mentioned earlier, it does have Windows 6.0 including Word, Excel and Powerpoint. In addition it has a feed reader, which means I no longer needed to install my third-party Newsbreak RSS reader.
The default home screen is attractive enough. There’s a huge clock interface and instant weather updates if you’re connected to the Internet. You can customise everything on this screen, including background images.
The HTC Touch also has detailed voice recognition training, similar to what you’d get with certain versions of Microsoft Office on your PC. You read out different lists of numbers so the system adapts to your voice. Also, it can read out text, which may be useful if you feel like resting your eyes.
Its unique selling point is, of course, its TouchFLO technology. It’s easy to learn how to control it. You can spin your interface left, right, up or down. You can scroll through lists of documents and tasks by flicking them. You’ll hear a clicking sound, similar to the Wheel of Fortune as it spins. Similar to the iPhone, the scrolling speed isn’t constant but behaves like a real wheel, slowing down at the end.
However, one thing the iPhone has that the HTC Touch does not, is motion sensing. If you flipped the iPhone on its side, the screen would rotate itself. The Touch relies on you to configure it to portrait or landscape mode, good ol’ Windows Mobile style. It’s not a very important feature but just adds to the style factor.
I wanted to emulate the iPhone as much as possible, so I installed Google Maps which runs on Java. It has been working great. Remember that Calamari iPhone ad? Well, I went to Austin, Texas and found pizza places! Google Maps was also display maps of my contacts. It also worked on the Australian map. However, it didn’t work for the Singapore map, as it doesn’t seem to be tagged yet with any data.
To sync with my Outlook software, I had to upgrade to the free ActiveSync 4.5 as the earlier version didn’t recognise my Windows Mobile 6.0 software. Initially I had a few syncing problems and error messages, but it then worked on its own, so I’ve left it at that.
I installed my Bible software without any problems. The only peeve so far is that the memory for some programs doesn’t seem to get cleared when I quit them. This resulted in me being unable to switch to Camera mode. I was told to quit some programs, but when I tried to, was told there were no programs to quit in the first place. Still, there was not enough memory left! I had to reboot the phone so the Camera could be used. Having said that, I like the feature on the top right corner of the phone, telling you which programs are currently open and which ones you can close. I guess they just need more fine-tuning to make sure the memory’s freed up!
It’s been an exciting experience using this phone so far. Call quality is good; ringtones are loud and clear, and the tunes are less annoying than previous Windows versions.
And … it is so much slimmer than my Dopod.
[Update: There’s a Digital Life review on it. I don’t subscribe to 3G, so it doesn’t matter to me that the Touch only has GPRS. Maybe the reviewer’s a guy with big fingers, because I was able to type on the screen keyboard without too much difficulty. But I agree it’s focus is on style and it is not a workhorse. It’s like expecting a subnotebook to run as powerfully as a desktop computer. Or expecting a skinny supermodel to be an astute businessperson (oh wait, we do have Kate Moss!).
I find it funny that the reviewer gets a headache using the tiny keyboard. The screen is the same size as other PDA phones, including my old Dopod 818 Pro. It sounds like he/she isn’t used to using PDA phones in the first place. If you’re already using a Windows-based PDA phone, you should be quite familiar with entering data on the Touch.]