HTC Touch Review: An iPhone It Is Not

A brief video overview of the HTC Touch
With Apple’s iPhone quickly approaching its release date, HTC and Microsoft knew they had to squeeze something out to compete. Granted, they’ve been working on this concept for years before they even knew about the iPhone — that’s how the industry works. That said, HTC’s Touch looks to offer big features in a small package that relies heavily on a touch-interface. It uses Windows Mobile 6 combined with an overlaying GUI called “TouchFLO” that provides a similar experience to that of the iPhone. But can it compete with the #1 product that isn’t even out yet?

No, but it’s still an interesting phone. See, the HTC Touch won’t even be out in the US until Q4 of this year and will most likely see its way to T-Mobile. Recently released in Europe, the Touch has nice features that are becoming more commonplace on HTC devices. Inside you’ll find a 200MHz TI CPU, 64MB of RAM with 128MB ROM, an included 1GB microSD card, 802.11b/g WiFi, and Bluetooth. On the outside, the Touch features an impressive 2.8-inch QVGA screen with a 320×240 pixel resolution and a 2-megapixel camera. The Touch runs Windows Mobile 6.0. Looking for 3G? Like the iPhone, the Touch has also gotten the 3G shaft.

The interface is much better than that of previous HTC and Windows Mobile models. Windows Mobile 6 makes Windows Mobile remotely usable, unlike past versions. Add on the Touch’s special overlay GUI and the phone becomes interesting enough that you’ll want to constantly play with it. You can use the included stylus or your fingers if you have some fingernails worth typing with. A home screen features quick shortcuts to things like a weather widget, your contacts, and text messages. Overall it’s pretty easy to use.

To control the Touch like the iPhone, there are certain ways for you to swipe your index finger across the screen. For instance, swiping your thumb upward from bottom to top will bring up the TouchFLO GUI, which you can then browse through by rotating it like a cube with your thumb. Useful? I suppose, but it’s more of a gimmick.

The TouchFLO interface

You can access your media via the aforementioned interface and playback music and video you’ve recorded with the flick of a finger. Included are USB headphones, a data cable, and a carrying case to make your experience a little more enjoyable. Nothing fancy, but it’s always nice to get included earbuds for rocking out. It’s a shame that the Touch’s “2-megapixel” camera acts more like a glorified 1-megapixel camera. Don’t even try using this thing in low light or darkness. No flash is included and the CMOS sensor is downright terrible. One of the more disappointing cameras I’ve seen on a phone lately.

I do enjoy texting and making phone calls on the Touch however. The interface is “surprisingly” easy to control and doing simple things like calling a buddy in my contacts list is very easy to pull off. Just tap a button here, a button there, and I’m ordering a pizza. Big props to Microsoft and HTC for collaborating on this one.

As far as the WiFi and EDGE go, they work fine. Internet Explorer on WM6 works fine. Pages work fine. It works, it’s decent. There really isn’t much more to say. If you’re looking for something more, use a laptop. The Touch actually did come in handy when a friend and I were stuck looking for a house and we had to pull up Mapquest on it. It took a little longer than expected to load, but we got the directions and made it to our destination on time. That’s one way this device can be handy.

But is the Touch an iPhone competitor? Absolutely not. The Touch isn’t even released in the US yet and doesn’t really feature all the same technology as the iPhone. For instance, on the iPhone, I can rotate the phone and the screen knows I’ve flipped the device. On the Touch, I have to go into a menu to manually rotate the screen. Plus, the Touch will most likely be available for T-Mobile, which gives non-AT&T customers an option if they don’t want to leave their provider.

Overall, the HTC Touch is one of the better Windows Mobile phones I’ve seen in awhile. The lack of a QWERTY keyboard can be overlooked after a few days of practicing using the on-screen keyboard. Plus the screen looks fantastic, the WiFi is fast, and the TouchFLO interface is pretty fun to use. On the other hand, no US release date, a terrible camera, and the fact that it’s still a Windows Mobile device make the Touch seem unappealing at times. I’d recommend getting it when it comes out here if you’re a T-Mobile customer and don’t want to switch or if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks the iPhone commends.

A valiant effort by HTC, but it still falls short of Apple’s upcoming phone.