Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hands-on with the HTC Touch — is it an iPhone killer?


By James Booth

Much like Germany's aerial assault on England in World War II, Apple's media campaign for the iPhone was a blitzkrieg. It was to be a revolution; the first mobile phone/handheld computer that operated solely by touch-interface. Not to be confused with the current and past crop of PDAs and smartphones that utilize touchscreens, the iPhone would operate on touch alone. No buttons, no stylus. Only it wasn't the first.

Weeks before the iPhone's release, HTC quietly launched their Touch mobile phone. Via the provider-branded devices released through service providers, and their own brand, HTC is the largest manufacturer of Windows Mobile PDAs and smartphones in the world. The Touch, shown in Figure A, is their most recent release, and a potential challenger to the iPhone.


The HTC Touch. Is it an iPhone challenger or iPhone pretender? (click for larger image)

The stats

The Touch features a 201 Mhz Texas Instruments processor running Windows Mobile 6, 128MB of flash ROM, 64MB of RAM, and a 2.8-inch, 65,000 color, 240x320 (QVGA) LCD screen.

It is a GSM/GPRS/EDGE tri-band cell phone, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. On the back is a 2.0MP digital camera, while a microSD expansion slot rides on the side. A stylus is included, but the intended method of control is the 5-way navigator and HTC's unique TouchFlo software. Powering it all is an 1100mAh lithium-ion battery with a purported talk time of five hours and 200 hours of standby.

The features

I won't delve too much into Windows Mobile 6 here, that's not really the focus of this article, but suffice it to say that it does carry some important improvements over its predecessor. Chief among them is its network setup capabilities. No longer must you manually configure your network setups for the Touch to connect to your cellular, wireless Internet, etc. It detects all available connections and automatically configures them for you. This is a major boon for those unfamiliar with network setup routines.

The Touch is one of the smallest, slimmest Windows Mobile devices on the market. Figure B shows the Touch in comparison with a Palm LifeDrive and an AT&T 8525 (HTC TyTN).


Here are slim, slimmer, slimmest. (click for larger image)

I didn't immediately notice the size difference between my 8525 and the Touch. Not until I had been handling the Touch for some time, and then picked up the 8525; it felt "fat" as compared to the Touch. I did, however, immediately notice its rubber-like, nonslip casing. More and more, this kind of device has a polished alloy casing, which makes them rather slippery. So I quite enjoyed the Touch's nonslip coating.