Not that long ago, it was common for us to be lavishing the latest Windows Mobile (WM) smartphones with awards. However, that all changed three years ago, when the iPhone suddenly showed us what could be done with a touchscreen and how a phone didn't need a cumbersome physical keyboard anymore. Ever since then, WM smartphones have felt decidedly backward. It's thus astonishing, even for Microsoft, that it has taken three years for WM to get a significant update to address some of its fundamental user interface issues. Today we're looking at the HTC Touch2, which uses this brand new operating system.
From a hardware point of view, it's hard to describe the Touch2 as anything but underwhelming. Sure we welcome the more manageable size compared to many other touchscreen phones and the use of a matt finish on the back and sides is a welcome practical alternative to the predominance of scratch- and fingerprint-attracting glossy plastic. However, the buttons look a little messy, the speaker grill feels incongruous, and there's just nothing to get excited about design-wise. We do at least like the chrome trim around the edge.
Turning to more practical considerations, there's a headphone jack on the top so you can easily use your own headphones for listening to music. Sound quality from it is very good and we welcome the fact it pauses music when you unplug your headphones.
On the bottom is the ubiquitous mini-USB data and charging socket so you should seldom have trouble finding a spare cable for charging. Next to this is where the stylus is stored, while on the left we find a volume rocker and microSD slot, which rather annoyingly requires you to take the back off to access.
Once the back is off, the battery is revealed and it's an 1100mAh unit. HTC quotes impressive battery life figures of six hours talk time and 20 days standby but we found this translated to a good three days between charges, which is decent.
The camera is only 3.2-megapixels and lacks both autofocus and a flash so its uses are limited. However, it can take photos very quickly, managing a photo every two seconds. It can also record video so usurps the iPhone 3G in that regard.
The screen measures 2.8in diagonally, which is quite small by today's standards so, when combined with a resolution of just 240 x 320 pixels and less than impressive viewing angles, it leaves a lot to be desired as a multimedia player. It never feels particularly restrictive in everyday use as a phone, though, and it is at least quite sharp and colourful. Below the screen sits a horizontal touch-sensitive strip that you can swipe left and right to zoom in and out of web pages and pictures.