HTC Touch2 review
We review the HTC Touch2 - the first HTC smartphone to run Windows Mobile 6.5
Verdict: HTC's first smartphone with Windows Mobile 6.5 is decently specced and nicely priced, but has a few irritating drawbacks.
Price: Free with contract or £270 SIM-free
Pros: Windows Mobile 6.5 OS, TouchFLO 3D UI, Wi-Fi, GPS, HSDPA 3G, 3.5mm audio jack plug
Cons: No onscreen QWERTY keyboard, no accelerometer
Design: Boardroom chic, but slim and very pocketable
Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.5
More Info: HTC website
HTC's original Touch came out less than three years ago, but things have come a long way since then. HTC, in particular, has been churning out quality Windows Mobile handsets (and no, that's not necessarily a contradiction in terms) with alarming frequency in the interim for all tastes and price points. The Touch2 is the first with the very latest Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system (or Windows Phone, as it's apparently to be known) and its associated goodies, as well as packing in HSDPA 3G, WiFi, GPS, a 3.2-megapixel camera and embedded social networking apps.
The HTC Touch2 is a slim, compact handset at 104mm x 55mm x 13mm and 110g. Beneath the 2.8in touch screen is the touch sensitive zoom bar for the browser then a row of five buttons – call start and stop, home, back and the Windows menu. On the sides are a volume rocker and microSD card slot covered by a plastic gromit plus a good-quality metal stylus, with a 3.5mm headphone jack on top and mini USB socket on the bottom. Yes, it looks like a business phone, but a pretty slick one.
The 2.8in touchscreen offers 320x240 pixels and is modestly sized but then this is a business device first and foremost, and not really optimised for media playback. The screen is resistive rather than capacitive, which in HTC land isn't as bad as it could be – it's still a sensitive screen that does a pretty good job of distinguishing between brushes and pushes, and the choice to go with resistive means that you can use a stylus if necessary, and on a screen of this size, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Interface and operating system
The HTC Touch2 runs the latest Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional operating system with an updated version of HTC's popular TouchFLO 3D user interface riding on top with its sideways scrolling app bar and attractive animated touches such as the windscreen wiper which appears on the weather app in inclement weather.
There's an iPhone-style onscreen slide to unlock the screen and the Windows menu features an extensive range of app widgets – you'll need to scroll through about five pages to view them all. You can juggle them around to bring your favourites to the top, but you can't easily arrange them wherever you like, Android-style.
Windows Mobile 6.5 sees the inevitable (though it feels like we've been waiting ages) launch of Windows Marketplace, with the potential of thousands of third party free and paid-for apps available for download. There's only a few dozen on there now, but more are being added all the time.
It's good to see Microsoft making use of cloud technology with its new MyPhone service allows you to back up your stuff without the need to connect to a PC, as well as find your phone by GPS (as well as lock or erase it) if it goes missing. It also lets you add pics to social networks such as Windows Live Messenger, Facebook and MySpace, but it would have been easier to do this direct from the picture gallery or camera rather than having to go through MyPhone.
The default browser is Opera, though you can also use Windows Explorer if you prefer and it's pretty good. Zooming is easy thanks to the zoom bar under the screen but there's no accelerometer on board, so the browser won't automatically flip to landscape mode when you turn it on its side, and there's no option to switch manually.
As is all too often the case with HTC handsets, the camera is a bit of a let-down after all the clever stuff elsewhere. It's a basic 3.2-megapixel number with fixed focus and no flash. There's no macro setting or timer either though there is a manual panorama option, that will stitch together three pics. Maximum picture resolution is 2048 x 1536 but pictures often tend to look flat with washed-out colours and there's been no attempt to integrate social networking into the pic process, where you might have had an easy option to add pics to blog, Facebook or Twitter. It's a long way from a great camera, but in its favour, it launches in under three seconds, so it'll come in handy for quick snaps.
Windows Media Player is the default video and audio player and it doesn't appear to have benefited from the 6.5 refit, playing WMV, ASF, MP4, 3GP, 3G2, M4V, AVI and offering a full screen option that switches the resolution to landscape. It will also handle AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, QCP, MP3, WMA, WAV, MIDI and M4A audio files and while HTC's bundled headphones aren't bad, it's easy to upgrade them to a quality pair of your choice via the 3.5mm jack plug or a wireless pair using stereo Bluetooth.
There's 512MB of memory on board so you'll need to get yourself a microSD card as there's none supplied, though it can handle up to 32GB's worth.
The FM radio comes with 20 station presets, stereo or mono playback and auto search – all you need in other words.
Google Maps is on board and we had no trouble finding a GPS signal. There's also CoPilot sat nav software on board, which comes with a 14-day trial.
Battery life on the HTC Touch2 was pretty much as expected, giving us a little over a day and a half with moderate to heavy use, including keeping Wi-Fi on for virtually all that time. Unlike other WinMo devices however, we couldn't find any options for extending battery life by reducing the screen brightness, for instance.
The HTC Touch2 is a beautifully compact smartphone, and the new Windows Mobile and TouchFLO 3D look great, though in truth they offer only minor improvements rather than any great leap forward. The browser is good and new tricks like Windows MyPhone and Marketplace certainly show promise, but it has just too many irritating shortcomings for us to get too excited about it. The lack of a virtual QWERTY keyboard or accelerometer we found particularly galling, and it's a shame the touted social network features haven't been more seamlessly embedded, though the lowish price helps to ease the pain a little.