HTC Product Launch - October 1

Touch Dual and S730
We did not miss the opportunity to take part in the HTC’s press event which took place on October 1st in London. As expected the world largest Windows Mobile phones manufacturer announced several new devices, part of its Q4 portfolio. To be honest, we were actually expecting a few more devices, such as the Phoebus and Polaris, but obviously their official launch is pushed for a later date.

The star of the show was the slider version of the launched in June Touch - the HTC Touch Dual. Originally the name was expected to be Touch Slide, but obviously, HTC did not want the customers to perceive the new device just as a slider version, but a phone with dual text-entry methods. After the extremely successful market performance of the original Touch which already hit 800,000 shipped devices so far, HTC definitely saw the opportunity to add one more device to the successful line.

From the outside, the Dual is almost identical to the original Touch. The weight is slightly increased to 4.2 oz (120g) from 4.0 (112g) in addition to increased height. Our expectations were to see definitely ticker device because of the sliding keypad but in actuality the difference is almost undetectable.

A definite minus which of course HTC did not mention is the decreased screen size from 2.8” to 2.6”. Another visible difference is the added secondary camera for video conversation, which of course is due to the fact of the added 3G support. Our expectation of quad-band GSM did not happen and the Dual is still tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900 Mhz) with single band 3G. So for all of us in the US will be able to use the phone only on 1900 Mhz band with no 3G.

The main difference in the design of course is the sliding down keypad or keyboard. The “or” is because depending on the region you live in or the local carrier preferences, the Dual will come with either standard 12 keypad or 20 keyboard. Our personal preference is definitely the second one and this is not solely because of the increased number of keys which leads to easier typing, but because of its actual design. The 12 pad variant looks extremely cheap with its clear plastic keys which are large enough but very flat for our taste. Around them are positioned four shortcuts (Windows, Messaging, IE and Clear) which the 20 key variant lacks. The actual sliding mechanism on both keyboards is perfect as with all latest HTC devices.

Moving to the software and features, one of the main differences is the added 3G support on the Dual and the truncated Wi-Fi connectivity. The controversy here is that the official HTC site and specifications list the device WITH Wi-Fi. We called Jason Gordon from HTC and Richard Nelson from HTC’s PR agency and they both confirmed the lack of Wi-Fi in the Dual.

The only area where we can say the Dual builds on the Touch is the actual TouchFlo technology. For all of you who are not familiar with it, it is just a fancy word for the interface which HTC developed to make their devices more one-hand-friendly-operated and of course not to miss the current trend of “touch” navigation (iPhone, Prada etc).

HTC Touch Dual Demo:

Talking about the iPhone, the Dual now features very similar touch image manipulations such are gallery scrolling (same as on iPhone), zooming in and out which are activated by drawing a circle on the screen and depending on the direction, it either zooms in or zooms out. The other cosmetic changes concern the HTC Home screen which is slightly different; the added tabs in the Stop All application with one showing the amount of available memory and when clicks links to the Memory application.
The other “major” improvement is the two virtual keyboard designs developed by HTC for the Dual which can be downloaded and installed on the first Touch.

Similar to all other major manufacturers which often release their devices in different colors, the Touch will be available in Arctic Silver for the holiday season and if you pray enough, HTC said will release one more color very soon.

The Dual will be launched by Orange in the UK and will cost nothing with a 35 pound plan. There is no exclusivity and other carriers will also offer it. The expected launch of all devices announced during the event is after October.

HTC S730 is the successor of the S710 Vox which we reviewed back in June. The new model keeps the idea of its predecessor and so is very similar in functionality and design, but logically moves to the next level improving the features with 3G support and tweaking the home screen interface.

In June again, HTC launched the Touch, which become widely popular because of its TouchFLO-personalized interface, which updated some parts of the Windows Mobile 6 OS to be sleeker and more convenient to use. S730 is the first WM6 Standard phone to feature similar graphic interface personalization, coming with “Live HTC Home” screen which resembles the home screen of the Touch (Dual) and the TyTN II. A variant of this interface is expected to be also available in the still-unannounced T-Mobile Shadow, which is based on the HTC Phoebus.

The S730 is a 3G-capable phone, but not really the way we would have liked it to be. It supports the fast HSDPA 3.6Mbit/s standard but as the Touch Dual only for the 2100 MHz band, which is used in Europe and Asia. We would have preferred it to work in tri-band (850/1900/2100MHz) UMTS/HSDPA networks in order to be usable in the States. This is not impossible, as we’ve already seen with the first and second TyTN.

The HTC P6500 is a new WM6 Professional full-featured PDA phone targeted not to end users, but to enterprise customers. It is designed as mobile phone-computer for example for shipping companies or store-suppliers. It is big in order to pack a 3.5” QVGA display, but still is light-weight to be easy to carry. It has 3-megapixel camera but this one is supposed to be used for 2D bar-code or business card scanner. Like other similar devices, the P6500 has sensor for fingerprint, which can be used to lock the device for security purposes. We’ve seen such solution in the Toshiba Portege smartphones. To suit the needs of the enterprise customers, the phone has two full-sized SD ports with support for I/O and external devices can be attached, like dedicated barcode scanner, CC-reader or NFC-receiver for example.

P6500 supports global roaming thanks to quad-band GSM and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA 3.6 and as the TyTN II runs on 400Mhz processor and features WiFi and GPS.

Even though HTC Shiftcannot be called a mobile phone as it lacks regular GSM voice-calling capabilities, it is interesting enough to be covered in our article. The device is HTC’s first attempt in the UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) market or very small, very light, full featured computers.

The specifications and features of the Shift were known for a while and we’ll not cover them in-depth. To bring up to date those of you who are not familiar with them, the Shift’s weight is 28 oz (800g), which is slightly more than the popular Samsung A110. The features include 7” display, 60GB hard drive, 1GB RAM, Windows Vista, GPS, Wi-Fi, quad-band GSM/EDGE with tri-band 3G HSDPA. Again, even though the Shift has GSM support, it is used only for text messaging and data!

Hands-on with the HTC Shift:

Having the specs out of the way, we’ll give you our impressions of how the device behaved in the very short time we could spend with it.
Depending on your personal choice, in Vista mode the display can be switched in either 800x480 pixels resolution or 1024x600 (native). The usual image quality degradation connected with running a LCD display not in its native resolution (800x480) was minimal and we could hardly notice it. Like on most UMPCs, the screen is touch sensitive and can be used for navigation. The second method is a small square area on the right side of the monitor which plays the role of a TouchPad, while its buttons are positioned on the opposite side (sorry no scroll-wheel).

Below them is a key which activates one of the most interesting features of the Shift. When pressed, it switched the device from Vista mode, to SnapVue mode, or if you ask us, crippled Windows Mobile. Most of your will ask while should one want anything like it, when the latest full features OS is available just a click away? The answer is simple – battery life times. Running Vista all the time will provide regular for such devices usage time (HTC did not disclose exact figures, but they should be about 2 hours). On the other hand, running the black SnapVue interface (black to save power) will definitely prolong that. The only figure we got from HTC was up to two days stand-by time in this mode which we hope will translate to more than 10 hours of active work.

The actual SnapVue interface resembles HTC Home, with similar large clock, link to live weather reports, Calendar, Contacts, Emails, SMS and Settings. Clicking on any of those will bring you to the very familiar Windows Mobile world. So in a nutshell, all you can do in this mode is lookup your contracts, write text message or email, or check your calendar (sorry no way to install 3rd party applications). Thinking about it, those are the most used applications, at least in our lives, so the SnapVue is definitely something we would use a lot.

On a question if the user will be able to install XP on the Shift, HTC CEO Peter Chou said that they are thinking about XP and Vista versions, which we think will definitely not happen. The expected price will be about EU1199 or about $1,700.

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