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There are few devices that impress me enough to consider buying one for myself, but when I first looked at the HTC's follow up to its original keyboard sliding smart phone - the TyTN II - in the late summer I was well and truly bowled over. Here was a phone that did absolutely everything you could ever want of a smart phone, included a usable keyboard, and still remained pocketable in a way few other phones can manage.
To abuse a popular saying the TyTN II is a phone that allows you to have your cake and eat it and I was certainly sad to see that review sample go back from whence it came. In the intervening months I tried a BlackBerry 8800 for a while after finally moving on from my K800i, and have reviewed a number of other smart phones, but having come back to the HTC TyTN II courtesy of its launch on Orange's network, I have a hankering for it all over again.
Normally when a network launches a phone this good, it likes to stamp its own brand all over it. In the case of T-Mobile the TyTN II was put through the rebranding mangle, coming out at the other end transformed into the MDA Vario III, complete with silver-grey front and rear panels, pink Web 'n' Walk shortcut button on the front and T-Mobile branding on the front fascia.
Orange would usually do the same. It did with the original TyTN, renaming it the SPV M3100, but this time around it has chosen to take more of a back seat, leaving the name and HTC branding intact. In fact the only nod towards the fact that this is an Orange phone on the exterior of the device is the small, square Orange logo on the rear, and that's no bad thing.
For my money, the Orange version of the TyTN II looks slightly the smarter device. Instead of the Vario's Mercedes silver grey, the edges of the device are clad in polished, ebony-black plastic, while the rear panel is covered in a tactile black rubber coating. The portion surrounding the screen is brushed aluminium effect, and the buttons below the screen look swisher than the Vario III's too. An outer ring of chromed pick-up, hang-up, Windows Start and OK buttons are wrapped around a smaller silver-grey panel with the two soft keys, plus shortcuts to Internet Explorer and the Messaging application, and the d-pad for navigation nestles at the centre of it all.