Yesterday, HTC unveiled the Touch, a Windows Mobile 6 smartphone designed around a new fingertip-oriented control system.
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I’ve had a few hours to test out this new device, and so far I’m very impressed.
I’m going to devote a large percentage of this first "impressions review" to this smartphone’s TouchFLO control system, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk a little about what the Touch looks and feels like.
This is one of the slickest looking smartphones I’ve seen in a while. It uses a standard tablet shape, but its rounded corners and minimalist design really make it stand out of the crowd.
Plus, the Touch is very small, especially when compared to the typical Pocket PC. It’s just 3.9 inches tall, 2.3 inches wide, and 0.55 inches thick (99.9 mm by 58 mm by 13.9 mm. It weighs 4.0 ounces (112 g) with battery.
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Everyone wants their phone to be small, but they also want it to have a large screen. The Touch finds an excellent middle ground.
And what’s even more surprising is how much HTC fit into this little package, like both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Aside from its sleek hardware, what sets the Touch apart from all other Windows Mobile smartphones is its TouchFLO control system, which lets you do many common tasks with just a fingertip.
The other Windows Mobile 6 devices offer one-handed control too, but they primarily do this through hardware buttons located below the screen.
The Touch, on the other hand, lets you launch applications, read emails, and access web sites by sliding your finger around on the screen.
I’ll try to describe this, but it’s something that’s easier to understand if you see it. That’s why I’ve put together a video of TouchFLO in action.
No matter what application you’re in on the Touch, running your finger on the screen up from the bottom opens up the Touch Cube. I’m not sure why it’s called a cube, as it has only three faces.
One of these is an application launcher. This lets you open your email, access the Web, or perform other tasks with a single touch.
The second face is sort of a photo dialer. If you have an image associated with one of your contacts, you can make it appear here, and just touching on it will open their entry, where you can call or email them.
The third face is a dedicated media launcher, for opening music, images, or videos.
As I said before, I’ve only had a few hours to test out TouchFLO, but like what I’ve seen so far. It’s intuitive, quick, and easy.
I know it sometimes looks a bit clumsy in the video, but that’s because I have the hold the Touch at an awkward angle so it shows up well for the camera. I never have to fumble with it when I’m holding this smartphone normally.
However, as much as I like TouchFLO, I’m also aware of it’s limitations. I’s mostly an application launcher. The applications themselves are the standard ones from Windows Mobile, and these are not fingertip friendly at all.
This means that you can, for example, use TouchFLO and the D-pad to easily open and read an email, but when it comes time to write a response back you’ll need to pull out the stylus.
The iPhone Factor
HTC has never come right out and admitted it, but it’s obvious that the Touch was created to compete with Apple’s upcoming iPhone. So how does it stack up?
Obviously I haven’t used an iPhone yet, but the Touch is shaping up to be decent competition, especially for appearance-conscious executives.
The iPhone offers some great multimedia capabilities, but it’s going to be weak when it comes to the sort of features business users need, like the ability to work with Microsoft Office files. This is an area where the Touch excels, thanks to Windows Mobile 6 Professional.
And in the hardware department, the Touch is smaller and looks at least as good as the iPhone.
The iPhone comes out ahead in built-in storage capacity, but the Touch has a microSD card slot, so you can easily add at least 2 GB of files.
A full review of the HTC Touch will be available when I’ve had more time with this newly released smartphone.
Unless you live in the U.K., you have some time to make up your mind. This model won’t debut in the rest of Europe or in Asia until later this month. A version for North America and Latin American will be released in the second half of 2007.