I’m a big fan of HTC devices. In fact I’d go as far as saying that HTC has done more to ensure the widespread acceptance of the smartphone than any other manufacturer. I accept that the Blackberry is ultimately responsible for the mobile email revolution, but for a long time RIM’s devices were one trick ponies, whereas HTC’s Windows Mobile devices tended to be all singing, all dancing, mobile powerhouses.
My current handset of choice is the Orange SPV E650, which is basically an Orange branded HTC S710. This is the perfect solution for me – not only does it look just like a normal mobile phone, with a normal keypad on the front, but it also has a slide-out full qwerty keyboard hidden away. The S710 represents a triumph for HTC, building on the success of the also excellent SPV M3100 (or HTC TyTN)before it.
I was actually starting to believe that HTC didn’t know how to get anything wrong with its products, managing to produce one great, feature rich, incredibly usable handset after another. But then I got my hands on the new HTC Touch and I realised that even HTC could get things wrong, very wrong in fact.
With the Touch, HTC is trying to address the consumer market rather than the power mobile user. This seems somewhat strange since HTC has been so phenomenally successful with the corporate/power user in the past, having carved out an enviable reputation for itself, both with end users and the network operators that clamour to re-brand each and every handset that HTC releases.
The strangest thing about the Touch is that HTC obviously thinks that overlaying a touch-friendly skin on a bog standard Windows Mobile installation will instantly make it irresistible to consumers. Unfortunately HTC is very wrong. The TouchFLO interface actually works very well, but what you can do with it is so limiting that it may as well not be there at all.
On the surface the TouchFLO interface is impressive. Turn the device on and you’re presented with the Home screen, then you simply slide your thumb from the bottom of the screen to the top to initiate your TouchFLO experience. Here you’re presented with one of three thumb friendly screens. One has a 3×3 grid for your most used contacts – here you can attach a photo to each of your contacts, so you simply tap the picture of who you want to call with your thumb – simple enough. The second screen is a 2×3 grid with shortcuts to Email, SMS/MMS, Internet Explorer, Tasks, Comm Manager and Calendar. The third screen is split into three portions for quick access to Music, Photos and Videos.
You can flip between these three screens by sliding your thumb from left to right, or right to left across the screen. The screen transition is pretty cool too, with each screen appearing to be on some kind of 3D carousel, so you’re treated to a rotation animation when changing screen. But the big problem is that once you dig deeper than these three thumb friendly screens, you’re just faced with a standard Windows Mobile interface, which is anything but thumb friendly.