It has been so prolific in the past year or so that you could be forgiven for thinking – or perhaps expecting – that HTC might eventually lose its way. A bit like a novelist churning out novel after novel, it can’t be easy to keep the quality as high as it has been of late, with the release of top notch smartphones such as the TyTN II and the Touch Dual to name just a couple.
But continue to churn out quality products it does, and the Cruise – in the guise of the O2 XDA Orbit 2 on review here – is no different. At first glance this is nothing special. The face-on shots on the O2 website depict what looks like a bog-standard Windows Mobile PDA phone. There’s a large 2.8in screen above which sits a small lens for making video calls, below which is a familiar-looking cluster of control buttons. You can see the usual pick-up and hang-up buttons, plus a couple of shortcut keys for activating the start menu and OK commands and these flank what looks like a standard five-way navigation key.
But this is no ordinary Windows Mobile PDA phone and you only begin to appreciate how different it is until you meet it in the flesh. I’ll begin with the screen, which unlike the majority of touch screens I’ve seen in the past year, isn’t set back from the fascia surrounding it. In fact, the surface of the screen is one with rest of the phone’s front: its glossy surface extends right to the edges and down to the button cluster. It’s not glass hard like the HTC Touch’s screen or that of the iPhone, though, and has a slightly more plastic feel.
The effect is that the Orbit is a great-looking and feeling phone – and this is helped by the fact that the rest of the phone is equally well-designed. The button cluster is finished in a very nice matt-silver plastic and has a slightly concave, sculpted shape. The edge is wrapped in shiny chrome and the rest of the Orbit’s chassis is made from light but sturdy-feeling plastic finished with a tactile, grippy rubber coating. And it turns out that the five-way navigation cluster is out of the ordinary too. It’s a dual-purpose control: not only can you click in each direction to navigate up, down, left and right, the outer ring also rotates, allowing you to scroll through lists at a pinch.