AT&T Fuze Review

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The AT&T Fuze is the latest business-oriented Windows Mobile smartphone to come from this carrier. It offers an impressive list of features, including a built-in keyboard, VGA touchscreen, 3G, and Wi-Fi.

This is AT&T’s version of the HTC Touch Pro, a device that’s available from a number of other carriers. It will eventually replace the AT&T Tilt, and offers a similar, but improved, design.


Inside This Review

Form Factor

The Fuze has almost every feature I can think of for a smartphone.

This starts with a VGA touchscreen that sits flush with the case.  Below this is a D-Pad surrounded by buttons for basic features, like making a phone call and returning to the home screen.

AT&T FuzeTurning the device on its side and pushing up on the screen reveals the Fuze’s QWERTY keyboard. This has 57 keys in a relatively small space. This makes typing somewhat cramped, but with more keys, many punctuation marks and symbols have a key dedicated to them.

I’m not pleased with AT&T’s re-arrangement of the number keys. I suppose some people want them to be organized like a phone’s numberpad, but it makes the overall layout odd.

As I mentioned before, the Fuze is going to replace the Tilt in AT&T’s product lineup. This doesn’t mean the new model has the swiveling screen that gave the Tilt it’s name, though. That’s been dropped.

The Fuze has a minimalist design when it comes to external buttons — there’s not even a camera button — but I’m irritated that, like the AT&T Tilt, this new model has a prominent Push-To-Talk button that can’t be re-programmed to do anything else.

The height and width of this model are actually quite svelte: 4.0 by 2.0 inches. But it’s 0.7 inches thick and 5.8 ounces. As phones go, that’s thick and heavy. Still, it’s marginally smaller than many other keyboard-based models.

User Interface

As I said before, the Fuze is a version of the HTC Touch Pro, and HTC created a user interface for this model that makes it easy for you to perform many tasks by touching your fingers to the screen, without having to pull out the stylus. This is called TouchFLO 3G, and I generally like it. However, AT&T has modified it until its more trouble than it’s worth.

I could live with AT&T pasting its corporate logo all over the user interface, but this carrier has also loaded TouchFLO 3D down with links to its bloatware — software you don’t need and can’t easily get rid of.

It’s bad enough that I suggest you turn TouchFLO 3D off, and use the standard Windows Mobile user interface. It’s there, hidden behind TouchFLO 3D, and a quick visit to Settings can bring it to the front.

This is really too bad, because the generic version of HTC’s alternate UI is nice, but what AT&T has done to it is a shame.

Wireless

The  Fuze is well supplied with wireless options. It is a quad-band GSM phone with quad-band UMTS/HSDPA. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, suffice to say that this model can be used for phone calls and 3G data access in virtually every country on Earth.

In addition, it has Wi-Fi, so you can transfer data at even higher rates than 3G when you’re in range of a hotspot. The Fuze also has Bluetooth with EDR so wireless headsets are no problem.

Unlike some carriers, AT&T allows you to easily use its smartphone as a wireless modem with your laptop, taking advantage of the 3G access.

AT&T Fuze

I have no complaints with the call quality, and Windows Mobile has one of the better systems for easily making calls, both to people in your contacts and just by entering numbers.

Miscellaneous

Software: Because the Fuze runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, it comes with a powerful suite of productivity applications. This lets you do just about everything you’d do with a laptop. Email, web browsing, watching video, editing Office documents… there’s not much a mobile worker needs that the Fuze can’t supply.

If you’re willing to spring for an extra cable, you can even hook this model up to a TV or projector for PowerPoint presentations or to play video.

In addition, this model comes with the latest version of Opera Mobile, and this is integrated into TouchFLO 3D. I suspect you’ll quickly come to like this, as Opera Mobile is a vastly superior browser to Internet Explorer Mobile.

Among the bundled software is another one of my favorites: Voice Command. This allows you to perform many common tasks, like launching frequently-used applications, by talking to your device. It can also talk to you, telling you the names of the people calling you, or reading you the events on your calendar.

Hardware: The Fuze has a microSD/SDHC card slot, giving it a potential storage capacity of at least 16 GB, as there are microSD cards of that capacity available now. That’s loads of room for MP3s, videos, you name it.

AT&T’s latest also has a GPS receiver with support for AT&T’s navigation service, which is nice but requires a small monthly subscription fee. Or if you’d prefer, you can load up the free Windows Mobile version of Google Maps.

Last but not least, the Fuze has a 3.2 MPx camera that takes good pictures. Like all HTC cameras, it’s a bit slow to respond though, which makes it hard to take pictures of moving objects. It includes a small “flash light” which can brighten up a dim scene a bit, but don’t expect this to perform miracles.

Performance

The AT&T Fuze has a 520 MHz XScale processor, which is near the high-end on what you can get on a smartphone these days.

If you decide to stick with TouchFLO 3D, you’ll find that it responds to your touch fairly quickly, but not instantaneously. If you’re someone who gets irritated by a half-second delay, this might become irritating. Also, keep in mind that the device’s speed is often affected by how many applications are running in the background. If you have 5 or 6 open at once, the whole device will slow down a mite.

The Fuze has so many features, it encourages you to use it all the time. But there’s a drawback: battery life. I would classify its 1340 mAh battery as “barely adequate”. It can easily get you through a day of phone calls, but you start adding heavy web surfing or constant music playing in there and you’re going to want to stay near an electrical socket.  

Video Overview

 


Conclusion

There are many who use their smartphone as an alternative to getting a laptop. The AT&T Fuze is a solid option for these people. This is something to keep in mind when considering it’s slightly portly form factor. It’s might big for a phone, but it’s much smaller than a laptop.

I just wish AT&T had used a lighter hand when it came to shoveling its branding onto the Fuze.

 


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