However, there are in-use issues here, and surprisingly the keyboard isn’t at fault. The first is that in d-pad mode the track button feels sluggish and unresponsive. It’s a long way from matching the BlackBerry 8800 series’ trackball and quickly becomes frustrating in use. The second is that when in the more usable mouse mode, there’s no way of switching quickly into d-pad mode, so you effectively have no up, down, left, right control. Now, that may not sound like too much of an issue but as soon as you try to use the phone it becomes clear that a simple mouse pointer isn’t enough.
Entering text is particularly infuriating as you can’t move the cursor back a few characters without dragging the mouse cursor over and clicking in precisely the right spot. Other operations are rendered difficult too: you can’t drag scroll bars up and down, for instance, and you can’t simply hold up and down to scroll through long lists of email and contacts quickly. I always find it easiest to browse Google Maps using a d-pad, but you can’t do this easily. Worse, the customised Orange front end, which replaces the boring Windows Mobile version with snazzier menus that pop up from the left, doesn’t work very well with the control system either. You have to click an icon, then move the pointer right and down to select an item (email inbox, SMS and so on), which is a real fiddle.
This issue is partially mitigated, if not entirely so, by the i780’s second improvement over the i600: and that’s the fact that as well as full QWERTY keyboard and mouse pointer, the 320 x 320 screen is touch-sensitive. In the style of the iPhone and numerous other touchscreen handsets since, it’s a hard surface touchscreen and again it works well, though of course dragging your finger around to move left and right only works if the application you’re working in supports it – there’s no HTC Touchflo here.
There’s a telescopic stylus for Windows Mobile’s more fiddly bits in the top left corner, and you even get an enhanced on-screen keyboard, which is much easier to use than the tiny, fiddly Windows Mobile one. Another benefit to having the touchscreen, though, is that the i780 can make use of Windows Mobile 6 Professional, which looks nicer than the non-touchscreen variant, and includes the version of the Office Mobile suite that allows you to create documents as well as simply editing them.