First Looks: HTC Touch (2.5G)

Be Touched

Be Touched

Recently, with the induction of Dopod International into its ranks, HTC promises a great year ahead for all PDA-phones enthusiasts. To give us a little appetizer (or, probably the main course), HTC has unveiled the all new HTC Touch, the first new innovative smartphone from HTC following the acquisition of Dopod International.

Touching the Touch

The HTC Touch sports a very portable weight of 112g, which is highly desirable where smartphones are concerned. With a slim, streamlined design that's coupled with a black coat to its exterior, it also has much to offer for the fashionable. Living up to its 'Touch' moniker, the face of the HTC Touch has minimal buttons; your standard Call/Accept, Cancel/Disconnect and a 5-point navigation pad the only inputs that provide tactile feedback. Looking to the left, we have the volume button and at the right is a camera button for the onboard 2.0-megapixel camera. Located on the top would be the power button, with the stylus ready for action at the side.

Yet, nothing is perfect. Contrary to tradition, the HTC Touch accepts SIM card through a slit beside the camera button and not within the battery cavity. Regrettably, the entire design, though a good move to be different, is somewhat contradictory to convenience, as one would have to slide down the battery cover before SIM card can be properly inserted. Turns out, delicate fingers are also an unspoken requirement prior to any meaningful usage of the phone. A fitting example would be its microSD card expandability, where users will find the process of inserting the small card very challenging.

Go with the TouchFLO

All that however, pales when one finally gets to the HTC Touch’s revolutionary interface, the TouchFLO technology. Patented by HTC, the new interface promises a new wave of excitement in the way users interact with PDA phones, which is what HTC hopes to be leading in time to come.

Of course, some would cry foul over its similarity to the iPhone, but this should not bother true lovers of the HTC Touch and Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.0 operating system.

Dubbed as the Touch Cube - due to its cubic-like interface - TouchFLOTM allows users to switch applications using their thumb in a smooth, flowing swipe that's similar to the natural motion of how people interact with objects in real life. A quick upward slide activates the 'Touch Cube' interface, thereby eliminating the need to use the "Start" button to access programs within Windows Mobile 6.0.

For those of you who are concerned about overall responsiveness, we are pleased to report that there's no apparent speed compromise despite the visual overhead of the 'Touch Cube' interface. Furthermore, the HTC Touch scores a high point for accuracy by being able to differentiate between movement and selection touches on the touchscreen. To sum it up, HTC really wants you to let your thumbs do the walking.

Beyond Sight, Sound and Touch

While the TouchFLO experience was impressive, the same cannot be said of the onboard 2.0-megapixel camera, which we found to be average at best. What's positive though, was the battery life of the HTC Touch. Even with heavy abuse of messaging and voice telephony, we managed to extract three days of happy usage and mind you, all these were done with occasional video playback and Bluetooth on.

The Verdict

At a retail price of USD$507 (S$848), the HTC Touch is a definite crowd pleaser - discounted further when bundled with a telco contract. The crux of the HTC Touch, the TouchFLO interface, had proven to be highly usable and showed strong conviction that it could help HTC stand in a class of its own.