HTC Touch CDMA Review

12
Introduction
This review is for the Sprint's Touch. If you are interested in the Verizon Wireless XV6900, also check this hands-on.


The HTC touch has made its way across the pond and landed on Sprint. This CDMA variant of the GSM P3450, the Sprint Touch has swapped out Wi-Fi for 3G cellular data, and doubled the memory to 256MB ROM and 128MB RAM. HTC’s unique TouchFLO interface was also revamped, making for a more fluid experience. The Sprint Touch (aka 6900) utilizes Windows Mobile 6 Professional for its operating system and currently utilizes EV-DO rev 0 data, though it will be upgradable to EV-DO rev A at a later date. It sports a 2.0 megapixel camera and support for microSDHC cards. SprintTV is available, a first for a Windows Mobile device, as well as the Sprint Music Store for over the air music downloads. Currently the Touch cannot take advantage of its internal GPS, but this feature will be available after the rev A upgrade. As the name implies, the device is run primarily by the touchscreen, there is no keypad and only a handful of physical buttons.


Included in the packaging you will find a generous amount of accessories:

  • HTC Touch handset
  • AC charger
  • USB data cable
  • 512MB microSD card
  • Stereo headphones with proprietary connector
  • Dual miniUSB adapter
  • miniUSB to 2.5mm headset adapter
  • Extra stylus
  • Leather pouch with magnetic clasp
  • Software CD (includes ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial)



PhoneArena's Video Review of HTC Touch CDMA:



The Touch is a surprisingly small device. The spec sheet does not do it justice, and you don’t appreciate just how small it is until you hold on. It has a great in-hand feel, and the build quality is top notch. The body is constructed of black soft touch rubber, which makes the phone easy to hold. There is a ring of chrome plastic that goes around the unit. There are only six physical buttons, three of which are integrated into this trim. On the top is a power/sleep button, on the left side is a volume slider and on the bottom right is a multi-function button. The multi-function button has a very understated Sprint logo, a very nice design touch and an indication that even the most intricate detail was considered. Also incorporated into the trim is the miniUSB charging port, lanyard strap and reset button, all found on the bottom of the device.


The other buttons sit on the front of the Touch, below the display. There is a 5 way directional pad, flanked by Send and End keys. The d-pad is a rounded chrome square, with a flat silver button in the middle. The Send and End keys are black like the body, but are slightly raised so as to be functional. They contain near hidden green and red LEDs which light up when in use. Above the display sits a small earpiece. It has a black mesh covering, which allows for various status LEDs to be hidden yet seen when in use.


As you might expect the display itself dominates the front of the phone. It is 2.8” and has a resolution of 240x320. Unfortunately it is only 65k colors instead of 262k, but this is a requirement a Windows Mobile so we really can’t fault HTC for that. The display is still crisp and sharp, especially when viewed head on. The vertical viewing angle is good, but at extreme angles it can be hard to view horizontally. It uses LED backlighting, which produces a more even light distribution while cutting down on power consumption. The display is bright enough to be viewed in most lighting conditions.

If you flip the Touch over you will find a 2.0 megapixel camera, again trimmed in chrome, which does not have a flash but does have a self-shot mirror. There is also a small speaker in the back, which is where all ringers, music and various system sounds emanate from. The stylus is tucked away at the top left corner. The entire back of the phone acts as the battery cover, and to remove it the user simply squeezes the device and slides the back off. The microSD slot is on the right side of the phone (when viewing head on) but the back door must be removed to access the slot. The slot is hidden by the chrome trim and it is nice that there is an actual door, as compared to the Mogul’s open design, but removing the back is a small nuisance.


All in all the Touch is a wonderfully designed device. Its styling is very understated, the build quality is top notch and it has an excellent feel to it. Chances are it won’t grab the attention of someone who is not looking, but once noticed the phone will invoke a wow across the board. Did we mention that it’s small?

ModelDimension (Inches)Dimension (mm)Weight (oz)Weight (Gramms)
HTC Touch CDMA
3.97" x 2.34" x 0.54"101 x 59.6 x 13.93.95112
Palm Centro4.22" x 2.11" x 0.73"107 x 53.5 x 18.54.20119
HTC Mogul4.33" x 2.32" x 0.72"110 x 59 x 18.55.82165
BlackBerry Pearl 81304.20" x 1.95" x 0.55"107 x 50 x 143.4096.5




Interface:

The Touch runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional, which means it can do just about anything. Out of the box the phone has a great Today screen. The main plug-in (HTC Home) has four tabs: Home, Weather, Launcher and Sound. The Home tab features a large digital clock, and a graphical representation for emails, text messages and missed phone calls. The Weather tab is a two-stage tab that gives you current conditions, and if you touch it you will be shown the four day forecast. The Launcher allows for nine user-assignable shortcuts, and the sound tab lets the user quickly change the ringer profile between Normal, Silent, Vibrate and Automatic. Simply put, this home plug-in is wonderful.


Also on the Today you will find HTC Home Sprint plug-in, which is a simple launcher bar for the phone, Sprint Music Store, picture album, Live Search and Sprint TV. These shortcuts cannot be changed. Lastly is the calendar, which shows upcoming events and appointments.

The beauty of Windows Mobile is that you can do what you want with it, so if you find the HTC Sprint Home plug-in redundant (which we did) you can simply go into Settings->Today and change what plug-ins are displayed. In our case we decided to place a link to the picture album and Sprint TV on the HTC Home launcher and the Live Search plug-in to the Today screen. Some of the other available plug-ins are Date, Voicemail, Tasks, Messaging and several others. Furthermore, there are countless third party plug-ins available that offer just about anything you can imagine. As you can see, it is very easy to make the device your own.

HTC has added a unique twist on Windows Mobile with their TouchFLO interface. The user simply slides their finger upwards, starting at the Sprint logo and the three sided Touch Cube is launched. Two sides act as launchers, one with three icons (Sprint Music, Sprint TV, and On demand) and the other with six (Software Store, IM, Internet Explorer, SMS, Comm Manager and Mailbox.) These are preset by Sprint and HTC, and cannot be reassigned. The third side offers 12 visual speed dials that can be customized with pictures. The bottom of the screen has a shortcut to the phone, recent calls, contacts and speed dial removal. While TouchFLO does not have the “wow” factor on the not-rival iPhone, it is a cool and functional feature that makes the device easier to use.

Phonebook:

Being a PDA device the Touch has a robust phonebook. The user can store as many contacts as the memory can hold, and given the small amount of data needed for a contact the storage is basically unlimited. Each contact can hold 11 numbers, which includes items such as Work and Home Fax. There is a multitude of extra information that can be stored, such as Company, Department, Job Title, Customer ID, Spouse, Children and many others. There is a space for 3 email addresses and IM names, and the user can be assigned a unique ringtone and picture for caller ID. There is a tab where notes can be stored, as well as a spot for birthday and anniversary information. Suffice it to say that anything you need to store about a contact can be stored with Windows Mobile. Contacts are searchable and it will partial match items, meaning searching “oma” will return “Thomas,” and users can search both first and last names. Of course, all this information can be synced with your home PC via the included ActiveSync software.



Organizer:

Just as with the phonebook, the Touch has a full-featured personal organizer. This includes a calendar, task list, notes and alarm. The calendar, notes and tasks will all sync with Outlook, and a trial copy of Outlook 2007 is included with the Touch. The calendar offers just about any feature you would need, including recurring appointments, reminders, attendees, location, notes and the option to sort the appointment by user-definable categories. Notes and Tasks are simple programs that do exactly what they say.


The user can set up to three alarms. Each alarm can be set as one time or to recur in any pattern, for example the user can set an alarm for 7AM that goes off Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, or simply an alarm for 5PM every Friday. Alarms can be named, and are turned on and off by simply checking the box next to each alarm.

Voice dialing out of the box is a disappointment. It uses Cyberon Voice Speed dial which uses recorded voice tags instead of true voice recognition software. The user does have the ability to set voice tags for advanced items such as applications, but when you have several hundred contacts in your phone book recording voice tags for everyone is impractical to say the least. To add true voice recognition we purchased Microsoft Voice Command 1.6, and the $40 price tag is worth every penny. Again, the flexibility of Windows Mobile allows us to customize the device to our liking.



Messaging:

The Touch supports email and SMS messaging, but does not support MMS. Thus far Sprint has not released a Windows-based phone that supports their Picture Mail service, so while this was a disappointment it did not come as a surprise. All of your mailboxes are displayed on the main messaging screen, including text.

Email setup is quick and easy, the Touch supports POP3, IMAP, SMTP, Lotus Domino as well as Microsoft Direct Push when connected with an Exchange Server. When setting up a new email account the device will attempt to automatically obtain the email account settings based on the entered email, and if they cannot be obtained the user will be taken through step-by-step to input the proper servers and choose options. The device supports push email for Exchange servers, or the user can set up one personal account with Sprint Mobile Email which serves as push. Otherwise, the user can select a pull interval from every 5 minutes to once a day.

Without a physical keypad there are several on-screen options for text input. HTC has included both 12 and 20 key options; the former is used as a standard 12 key dialpad on a phone would be, whereas the 20 key is similar to the SureType keypad found on the BlackBerry Pearl. Also available is a Block Recognizer and Transcriber, both of which are forms of handwriting recognition, and a standard layout keyboard. Typing with either the 12 or 20 key touch keypads is easy enough without a stylus, and both utilize XT9 predictive text or can be used in multi-tap mode.

The lack of a physical keypad will be the biggest sticking point for many buyers, but after a few days with the device we had no issues at all. While it would have been nice to have haptic feedback confirm key presses, unless we were really flying the keypad had no problems keeping up with us. There are several great third party keypads that will make you even more efficient. We recommend SPB Full Screen Keyboard for users looking for a full keypad, or TouchPal for users wanting an advanced SureType keypad.

Connectivity and Data:

The HTC Touch has the Qualcomm MSM7500 chipset, meaning it is capable of EV-DO rev A data. At launch, however, it only supports rev 0. When the device is upgraded to rev A it will be capable of upload speeds approaching 500kB/s, and more importantly to the consumer it will support GPS services. Real world download speeds with both rev 0 and rev A are around 1MB/s.

ActiveSync 4.5 ships with the Touch and is responsible for data synchronization with the PC. The device synced contacts, appointments, notes and tasks flawlessly with Outlook. Officially there is no support for a Mac, but as always there are third party applications that allow for this.

The GSM variant features Wi-Fi, but that has been removed (via hardware, not software) in the CDMA-one in favor of a 3G cellular radio. In general we feel this is a good move, as EVDO offers greater coverage than Wi-Fi, though in a perfect world both radios would have been present.

Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate is on board, and the HSP, HFP 1.5, DUN, FTP, OPP, A2DP, AVRC, PAN, HID and BPP 1.2 profiles are supported. Also supported is FTP file transfer. We had no problems pairing the Touch with other devices to both send and receive files. Unlike the Mogul before it, we have experienced no issues with the Touch and Bluetooth headsets. We quickly paired the BlueAnt z9 with the touch and audio quality was good. We used the Motorola S9 to test the stereo Bluetooth and again came away satisfied, although advanced users may want to do some Googling for A2DP performance tweeks.

The included browser for the Touch is Pocket Internet Explorer. It is a full HTML browser and overall performance was good. However, even though the screen is large by phone standards, it is still tiny compared to a computer monitor so you will still find rendering issues here and there. Due to the Java VM we were able to load Opera Mini 4 and found the browsing experience to be much more pleasant, although we did have some midlet error issues when using the onscreen keypad. The error can be ignored and the program does not crash, so it serves as only a minor annoyance rather than a deal breaker.




Camera:

The Touch features a 2.0 megapixel camera and camcorder. The camera has several shooing modes, including fun frames and 3, 5 and 30 multi-shot modes. There is also a setting to take a picture specifically designed to set as a contact ID. The user can adjust the resolution, white balance and brightness, and at lower resolutions digital zoom is available. Effects such as Sepia and Negative can be applied, and there are adjustments for metering mode and flicker adjustment. The camcorder features mostly the same options, although as you would expect the self-timer is only available in camera mode.

Camera performance was ok, but not great. Colors were rich, but the pictures were decidedly soft bordering on the edge of blurry at times. Indoor pictures were yellowed. Camcorder resolution is a paltry 176x144, and we see no reason why it should not be 320x240 or even 640x480. Load times were quick, and a from the Today screen a picture can be captured in about 4 seconds. However, after an image was captured it takes another 4-5 seconds to save and be ready for another picture, assuming the user sets the review time to none in the settings menu.



The picture album takes advantage of the touch screen, though not to the point that the iPhone does. Users can zoom in and out, rotate and go to the next and previous pictures all with finger gestures. The gestures, especially zooming, worked better with a stylus than a finger. Tapping on a picture while reviewing it brings up a context menu that allows the user to email the picture, set it to a contact, begin a slide show, delete the picture, get picture info or return to the album.

Multimedia:

MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, WAV audio formats are all supported, and Windows Media Player 10 is the default player. The Sprint Music Store can be used to download files over the air, as well as for playing MP3 and AAC/AAC+ files. It is a shame that HTC and Sprint did not include the HTC Audio manager found on the P3450.

Video playback is also handled by Windows Media Player. It can be viewed in either normal mode or full screen, which rotates the device 90o. It supports several codecs, but if WMP won’t play the file you need there are several other video players available, such as TCMCP, which will play more file types.

Software:

The Touch features 128MB of RAM and 256MB of ROM, making for a decidedly smoother experience than previous models such as the Mogul and P3450. It supports microSD expansion up to 4GB (though we speculate that any microSDHC class 4 card will work, including the newly released 8GB ones) and comes bundled with a 512MB card.

There are countless programs available for the Windows Mobile platform, but there are some of note which ship with this device. Office Mobile gives the user the ability to view and edit Word and Excel docs, and also allows for Power Point viewing. Adobe Viewer compliments Office Mobile by allowing for PDF viewing. Windows Live Search is a great program that offers local search, movie times, maps and directions. In addition to ones we have mentioned earlier, in our opinion other essential add-ons are Google Maps, Resco File Explorer, One Touch Organizer and a registry editor for advanced users. Personally we prefer the freeware PHM but Resco also makes an excellent editor.



A Java Virtual Machine is included with the touch, meaning Java midlets can be loaded and used on the device. Though we’ve seen it with Windows Mobile phones before, we were very happy to see this inclusion on the Touch. Importantly, this means Opera Mini 4 can be used for web browsing.

We tried to load the Skype mobile application the Touch without success. The CAB file would say it installed successfully, but when we tried to use the program it gave us a missing file error. Reinstalls and soft restarts did not resolve the issue, and we experienced this on two separate units.



Performance:

We used Spb Benchmark to compare the HTC Touch CDMA system performance with the bigger Mogul and the original GSM variant.

The service indicator would often jump from one bar to full, but we never had any issues placing or holding a call. Callers said that we sounded natural, and on our end they sounded good as well. Unlike the Mogul there were no issues pairing with and using a Bluetooth headset.

Really our only complaint about the Touch is its battery life, an issue that has plagued smartphones from day one. It is rated at 3.5 hours of continuous talk time, and we were able to achieve that, but that number is a bit misleading in everyday life. We set our unit up with one push email account (via Sprint Mobile Email) and one pull email account. Initially it was set to pull every 5 minutes, and with moderate voice and data usage the battery would only last around 8 hours. We scaled the pull back to 15 minutes and noticed a marked improvement, though we were still just getting through the day. Heavy users will most definitely want to invest in an extra and/or extended battery.

Conclusion:

Sprint’s HTC Touch is great, there are no two ways around it. The form-factor is amazing, it fits in the hand perfectly and is small enough to fit in a pocket comfortably. The increased memory meant it handled everything we threw at it and kept on chugging. The device strikes the perfect balance between size and usability. The lack of a physical keypad was a non-issue, and there are a myriad of accessories and adapters included with the phone. The flexibility of Windows Mobile means that the user can truly personalize their phone, whether it be as simple as a new look or as advanced as a complete overhaul of the device. We liked this device so much that this reviewer purchased one for himself, and I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement.



Pros

  • Great size, without sacrificing usability
  • Extremely flexible operating system allows for infinite user customization
  • Plenty of memory ensures smooth operation
  • Touch screen is based on pressure, not heat, meaning the user can wear gloves or use a stylus
  • Excellent in hand feel and top notch build quality

Cons

  • Battery life could use some improvement
  • Camera is sub-par

PhoneArena Rating:

9.5

User Rating:

8.2
44 Reviews

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless