08
Nov
07

Review: A tale of 2 HTC smart phones

 

Peter Svensson gives us his impressions on two of the newest phones out of the HTC stable. He writes that if you reach too far, you can lose your balance and fall on your face. That’s what happened with the design process for the “Touch by HTC,” one of the smart phones fighting for our attention this holiday season in a field that has been both energized and shaken up by Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

 

The $249 Touch, carried by Sprint Nextel Corp., overreaches badly in trying to be a touch-screen phone — controlled by the user’s fingers on the screen — just like the iPhone. The resulting mess is the worst phone I’ve tried in the last few years.

Oddly enough, T-Mobile USA just introduced another phone made by High Tech Computer Corp., the Taiwanese company that makes the Touch, and it’s a diametrically different approach. The $149 Shadow is conservative and restrained. It’s a good phone, if not a home run.

The difference in results is even stranger when you consider that both phones run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile software, though somewhat different versions.

The version in the Touch is designed to be used with a stylus. HTC has tried to make it finger-friendly, but it just doesn’t work. Scroll bars and menu items are too narrow to hit with a finger. You’re supposed to be able to scroll with a flick of the finger across the screen instead of the scroll bar, but it doesn’t work in all windows. The finger-typing keyboard that pops up obscures the fields you’re trying to type in.

Luckily, the Touch has a stylus, though it’s a stubby little thing. Once I stopped trying to use the touch features and went with the stylus, my experience improved. For a moment, I considered retracting my “worst phone” judgment.

The Touch crams a lot of features in a light and small package. The 2.8-inch screen isn’t as big as the iPhone’s but it’s big enough to enjoy movies. It isn’t cluttered with buttons, yet it does e-mail and Web browsing on a fast data network. It synchronizes calendar and contact data with Microsoft Outlook. You can watch Sprint’s mobile TV on it.

But even with a stylus, the Touch is full of problems. When I turned the screen on, I often found it cluttered with inscrutable Windows error messages that I sometimes had to perform a reset to get rid of. The Windows Media music player would skip while playing MP3s, making it useless. For every digit of a phone number you tap, there’s delay before it appears on the screen. Cellular reception and call audio quality were not as good as a Palm Treo on the same network. The “worst phone” tag sticks.

HTC’s chief executive, Peter Chou, denied that the Touch was an iPhone wannabe, pointing out that it’s been in development for years. But I still detect some iPhone envy behind the phone’s launch — it’s hard to see that Sprint would have agreed to market the phone if it weren’t for the iPhone’s success. AT&T Inc. is the exclusive carrier for Apple’s phone, and all the other major carriers appear to be scrambling to provide something that’s as cool.

The Shadow may be T-Mobile’s answer, but it doesn’t have a touch screen at all — it’s a “slider.” Pushing up the screen reveals 20 keys, with two letters to a key rather than the three on a regular phone. That speeds up typing a bit, but can be difficult to get used to.

Like the Touch, the Shadow is light, handsome and has a relatively large, 2.6-inch screen. Its main control is a wheel that rotates to scroll and can be clicked four ways too. The interface is relatively simple and uncluttered. It’s more responsive than the Touch but can be sluggish now and then.

T-Mobile lacks a fast data network, but the Shadow makes up for it in part by having built-in Wi-Fi. That means you can surf the Web without springing for a $20-a-month data plan, at least if you’re in a hotspot.

Two things turn me off: It can’t be set to lock the keys just by sliding in the keypad. The exposed keys and the scroll wheel will still be active. You can lock the keys by pushing one of them, but if you’ve ended a call by sliding in the keypad, as is natural, you don’t get that option.

Secondly, it has no standard headphone jack. The only audio output is through the mini-USB connector. The included headphones plug in there, but they’re no better than any other cheap earbuds. If you want to use better headphones you’ll have to get a separate adapter. Wireless stereo Bluetooth headphones are also an option, but I find it a hassle to deal with their cryptic indicators and controls. (The Touch also lacks a headphone jack. The package includes a clumsy adapter for regular headphones with the slim stereo connector.)

If you can overlook those things, the Shadow is a decent smart phone of the “lite” variety. It doesn’t have a full keyboard or a touch screen, nor is there a wide range of third-party software available for it. The $99 Palm Centro is a more capable phone, and the $399 iPhone beats them both for ease of use and media-playing functions.

About the Touch … well, let’s just say it makes the iPhone look even better. With its first phone, Apple got it right, while the combined efforts of two veterans in the business, HTC and Microsoft, couldn’t make a decent touch-screen phone.

Via Yahoo


0 Responses to “Review: A tale of 2 HTC smart phones”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: