HTC Unveils Its iPhone Rival

Slim, light and affordable with a similar interface but some noticeable downsides...

Whether manufacturers admit it or not, the Apple iPhone has certainly shaken things up and with the much hyped handset due to launch Stateside on 29 June competitors are desperate to retain some of the limelight. LG’s Prada is one such – fairly successful – example, now HTC has turned its hand…

Today the ubiquitous smartphone manufacturer launched the ‘Touch’, a device it claims will change the way we perceive mobile phones forever. After sitting through a plush launch event in Leicester Square do I agree with this? ”Ish”.

Let’s look first at the positives since there are many. The Touch is a beautifully sculpted handset, it measures an extremely pocket friendly 99.9 x 58 x 13.9mm, that’s not iPhone thin (11.6mm) but since it weighs just 112g (with battery) I doubt many will complain. Furthermore the Touch has a proportionately huge 2.8in QVGA LCD touch screen (though again advantage iPhone: 3.5in, 320 x 480) and it sports the same lovely Multi-touch interface (but HTC dubs it ‘TouchFLO’) enabling sliding finger gestures to navigate its features.

Perhaps best of all however is the availability of the Touch since HTC says it will ship in the UK today, the rest of Europe and Asia this month and the US later in Q2 with an aggressive price likely to be in the region of £50 on a mid-level network contract from either Orange or T-Mobile. This – perhaps more than anything – gives the Touch a huge advantage over the iPhone which still has yet to announce a European network agreement and even then will require a two year contract and hundreds of pounds towards the cost of the handset upfront.

So everything is perfect, right? Wrong. The Touch does have issues and a number of them are potential deal breakers. For a start the handset’s TouchFLO interface is only skin deep, in fact I’d go as far as to describe it as an overlay for the Windows Mobile 6 OS underneath and since there is no keyboard you’ll soon be tapping away at the ridiculously tiny virtual keyboard with the supplied stylus every time you want to send a text or email.

Next, the Touch has no 3G only EDGE. This won’t bother everyone – but since the Touch features full smartphone functionality it is a shame this can’t be maximised and could turn off the business user. As for the average consumer they’ll take issue since HTC hasn’t included a standard 3.5mm headphone jack therefore forcing use of the proprietary set in the box. If you’ve just splashed out on an expensive set of Shures this is hardly ideal. Finally memory: while the iPhone comes with either 4GB or 8GB onboard the Touch is once again stuck in traditional Windows Mobile territory offering just 64MB RAM/128MB ROM. A 1GB microSD card does come supplied but it certainly isn’t as elegant. Finally a 2MP camera is fine, but hardly ground breaking.

That said, talk time is excellent at up to five hours and 200 hours standby is more than enough for anyone. In addition, the usual HTC compulsories: Bluetooth and WiFi (b/g) are included.

In sum, seeing the Touch made me think back to a video I saw on YouTube of an iPhone interface that had been (brilliantly) stuck onto a Windows Mobile PocketPC. It looked fantastic but it was only skin deep. That’s how I feel about the Touch: it has a beautiful front end stuck over the top of Windows Mobile 6 and installed onto a handset with a highly appealing form factor.

It is affordable however and out now, and that counts for a lot…

Official Release

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