The HTC Touch Pro was added to Sprint’s online store recently, so it’s probably a good time to publish this Touch Pro review. I have played with the phone for about a week and it’s time to tell you what worked and what didn’t. From there I hope that you can figure out if it’s for you. At the very least, you’ll know what to watch out for. If you have additional questions, please drop a comment. I’ll try to reply while I still carry this phone around.
This mobile phone is positioned as a business device, thanks to its Outlook Exchange access and Powerpoint video-out capabilities (requires a separate cable) and that’s good news because at Ubergizmo we’re on an Exchange server. The first good news is: the initial sync to my mailbox was really fast – the fastest of all the Windows Mobile phones that I have tried. I suspect that this is due to Sprint’s EVDO network more than to the phone itself, but hey, it’s a package, right?
The Sprint HTC Touch Pro has a nice design. Its glossy surface will immediately catch eyes around, but fortunately this is not a readability issue. When you hold it in your hands, it feels a little heavy but its volume is comparable to a Nokia N73 or N96. The stylus is hidden at the lower-right of the phone. It seems to have a nice magnetic retention mechanism that works very well. The EXTUSB at the bottom is the only accessible port (the MicroSD card is near the battery). EXTUSB is compatible with the standard mini-USB port for connecting to a PC, or charging the battery.
For heavy texters, having a physical keyboard is a must. However, not all keyboards are not created equal. In order to fit the sliding design, HTC had to make the keys really flat (we noticed that during an initial hands-on). This makes the keyboard harder to use than, let’s say, a Blackberry 8800 or 83xx. It is still way better than the integrated virtual keyboard, but I’m under the impression that we’re getting only slightly better typing speeds than an iPhone virtual keyboard.
Speaking about keyboards, the one in the HTC Touch pro is so much better than older ones in Windows Mobile 6.0. As it is the case with other virtual keyboards, the smaller the screen is, and the more typos you will make – and this screen isn’t very big (2.8″).
All in all, you won’t break any typing records while typing on the HTC Touch Pro, at least not without traning. I’m not sure how much better you can get, but I suspect that the physical limits mentioned above are hard to overcome, even with practice.
The display is certainly the strong point of this phone. The 640×480 resolution on a 2.8″ display is incredibly crisp and I was able to remove the font smoothing without seeing any artifacts. If you like reading text using small fonts, it’s just fantastic (great for long emails!). It has a high contrast and overall is a real asset.
Using a touch interface on a small display is tricky. HTC knows that the default Windows Mobile wasn’t built for being used with fingers, so they went on and built a touch-friendly interface called TouchFLO. The result looks good: Big icons and clean design. However, this is no iPhone: slide and scroll with the finger doesn’t work very well in some situations because you might press the “menu” button or hit a link in a page or email. There are also user-interface inconsistencies: sometimes, scrolling has a momentum (email, web), sometimes it doesn’t. Even if HTC made things a lot better, they cover only the first user interface layer. As soon as you’re in Outlook or the settings, the old good stylus-happy Windows Mobile is back.
That explains why using the stylus makes things so much better. All the touch features work normally because the stylus can accurately move around without touching anything that you did not intend to. Typing on the new virtual keyboard is accurate enough to not have to correct your text every other word. If you plan to use this phone heavily, you mgiht have to use the stylus more than you think.
The HTC Touch Pro comes with Opera for Mobile instead of Pocket Internet Explorer. Web browsing is marginally better thanks to the high-resolution display, but be assured that this is not a desktop experience – far from it. Sprint’s EVDO network is fast enough to make sites load relatively fast, but don’t expect to be able to pinch and zoom to read small text. The best way to go is to use sites designed for mobile, like Google, Yahoo, Etrade or Facebook.
The phone has the chops to browse “real” sites, but there’s a bit of a software issue here. I wish that Skyfire worked on VGA resolution, but it doesn’t. Also, the browser doesn’t seem to support flash video. It didn’t work with cnn.com videos for example.
I’ve been trying this phone with an Exchange server, but I suspect that POP and IMAP work just as well. Overall, the email experience is excellent and the sync with the server is impeccable. Now, the ability to reply to emails depends on how good you are with the keyboard: virtual or physical keyboards with or without stylus. I would rather avoid typing long replies with this phone, regardless of which input I’m using.
I was impressed by the quality that we got out of the YouTube application. On the high resolution, 2.8″ display, the videos look extremely good. Higher resolution videos look increadibly good and are relatively smooth (this looks like 15fps). The external speakers is not as good as the earbuds to watch video, but it works.
Unlike YouTube, the TV service doesn’t enjoy the same image quality and the refresh rate is much lower and the image quality was way down. I’m not sure what the exact explanation is, but in general, I found digital terrestrial broadcast to work much better than streaming live to on a data network. With current celuller network capacity, there’s little value in having TV shows over a data network.
The HTC Touch Pro has a 3.2 Megapixel camera. It is a good number, but Megapixels are not really a measure of image quality and you should not expect too much of this phone. The photos are OK on a sunny day, but they tend to be a blurry indoors. It’s not unexpected, but this is far from what you can get on a Nokia equipped with a Carl Zeiss phone like the N73.
The battery life is actually pretty good. This phone did last almost two days before requiring a charge. I set it up to receive push-email and I read/reply fairly often. Plus, WIFI was on although I did not browse a whole lot. That basically means that you can forget to charge it once in the evening and get away with it.
The HTC Touch is impressive on the hardware side. It has pretty much everything that you can cram into a phone (GPS, WIFI, 3G, High-res touch display, Keyboard), but yet, it is not a perfect phone. Why? Simply because Windows Mobile is not really good at finger-based UI. Fortunately, HTC’s TouchFlo interface saves the day as it is the first line of defense, providing a touch-friendly user interface for the day to day stuff.
As a business phone, it does a very good job at syncing with Ex
change and the display is simply leaps and bounds better than a Blackjack II, for example. Being able to read in high-res makes a huge difference in the user experience. By the way, the fast cellular network from Sprint helps a lot too: sending and receiving files happens in a snap.
If you type a lot, you might want to look at a Blackberry or a Treo 800w. If not, The Touch Pro is probably the most powerful Windows Mobile phone on the market but its keyboard is far from being the best.
$299.99 with a 2 yr contract at Sprint
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