Not that the built-in keyboard is bad. As with the keyboard on the SPV E650, the keyboard on the P4550 is both well laid-out and pretty easy to type on for its size, though I have to say that I preferred the slightly more domed keys on the Toshiba G900. That said, I do like the fact that you can get to numbers and important symbols quickly with a flick of the Fn key, and the fact that the full stop has a key of its own is a welcome relief when entering website addresses.
There are other nice touches. First up is a pair of soft keys that sit just above the keyboard. These can be used to access Windows Mobile’s menus without having to reach up to poke the touch screen all the time. But I also liked the fact that the P4550’s clickable scroll wheel falls conveniently to hand whether you’re using the phone in portrait phone mode or landscape keyboard mode, allowing you to nip up and down lists and menus with ease.
As with the Touch, the P4550 applies HTC’s proprietary TouchFLO, thumb-driven interface to the standard Windows Mobile 6 installation. This is a slightly cut-down version and in this guise has even less of an iPhone-beating effect (?) on the Windows Mobile interface than on the Touch. But when it’s not the sole focus of affairs, it’s actually a nice-to-have extra.
Apart from adding an attractive control pad to the Windows Mobile Home screen with a big digital clock display, the weather forecast for your chosen location, plus shortcuts to favourite contacts and applications, TouchFLO also adds thumb-driven scrolling and panning to other applications so, for example, you can navigate through your contacts list without having to pull out the device’s stylus or jam a fingernail into the corner of the screen to grab one of Windows Mobile’s oh-so-irritating skinny scrollbars.
Elsewhere, the HTC P4550 remains powered a 400MHz processor, although this time from Qualcom rather than Samsung as seen in the original TyTN, but this does at least seem to keep things running at a reasonable lick. The phone cold-boots quickly, wakes up from standby instantly and applications generally launch without undue delay. There is sometimes a one or two second pause while flipping the screen into landscape mode when extending the keyboard, but it isn’t slow enough to be irritating.