When it first fires up, you’re confronted with a nifty clock display with numerals in the style of a flip-number calendar, and a summary of recent missed calls and approaching appointments below it. Along the bottom, in a strip, are shortcut icons to access other enhanced pages. The only remaining remnants of the Windows Mobile Today screen run along the top and bottom edges, with the familiar start menu and status icons at the top and context-sensitive soft keys at the bottom. Naturally, everything here can be navigated with a flick of the finger on the Diamond’s hard surface screen.
It’s not just the Today screen that’s had the Touchflo treatment, however. There’s slick new styling elsewhere too. On the contacts screen, pictures or silhouettes of people you call regularly are presented in a Rolodex-type graphic – again navigable with a sweep of your pinky. Text messages fly in and out of the screen as you scroll through them, and the first few lines of the latest email appears as a letter poking out of an opened envelope. Fans of the HTC weather display won’t be disappointed either – it’s here again in all its glory, this time equipped with fancy transition animations.
The input methods are as good as ever, too, with a choice between traditional T9 entry, a compact 20-key QWERTY layout like the physical one available on the Touch Dual (or Touch Plus on T-Mobile), plus a full-sized one-letter per key QWERTY keyboard for when predictive text isn’t appropriate. All the keypads are sensibly designed and remarkably easy to use, and as a result I found entering text on the Diamond easy and stress-free, especially when using the 20-key QWERTY pad in predictive text mode.
It’s a similar story for pictures and videos, which also see a big finger-friendly boost over the dour Windows Mobile effort. Even the music application is a world away from Windows Media Player’s horrible interface, with album art on a rolodex-style front-end and an iPod Touch-style navigation of your music library underlying it. The settings also get the glossy, iPhone-esque treatment: ringtones and sounds, and communications settings, for instance, are available without having to delve into Windows Mobile’s confusing menus.
It’s the best all-round effort at hiding Microsoft’s interface away that I’ve yet seen, and its best feature is yet to come. Included with the Touch Diamond is a tweaked version of Opera Mobile that, incredibly, rivals the iPhone’s Mobile Safari browser for usability. You can’t use a pinch of the fingers to zoom in and out, sure, but it operates in a largely similar way to Safari, presenting a zoomed out view of a page initially and then allowing you to quickly zoom in and out (here with a double tap) then pan and push the page around with your finger. In fact I found the page rendering engine to be slightly more reliable than the iPhone’s on some tricky websites. I visited a number of sites that didn’t quite appear perfectly on the iPhone and the page was spot on with the Diamond.
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