HTC Touch Diamond2 review:
HTC Touch Diamond2
Ever since the HTC Touch Diamond2 and HTC Touch Pro2 were announced at GSMA 2009, there’s been a ton of interest and plenty of questions about U.S. availability. While we still don’t have any official information on the latter just yet, HTC provided us with an unlocked model of the European Touch Diamond2 to check out, and it looks quite promising. As the successor to the HTC Touch Diamond, the Touch Diamond2 boasts a sharper, bigger touch screen and an improved TouchFlo interface that provides easier navigation. We were also impressed with the general responsiveness of the device, and the 5-megapixel camera is a nice boost. You can buy the Windows Mobile smartphone unlocked right now for about $600, but obviously it’s not optimized for North America so you’ll be missing out on some features, more specifically, support for U.S. 3G bands. We’d say hold out until a North American version is announced but in the meantime, here’s a preview of what the HTC Touch Diamond2 has to offer.
There are many adjectives that could be used to describe the HTC Touch Diamond2’s design. There’s the usual sleek and sexy but more than anything, we kept coming back to one word: sophisticated. The smartphone has more of a grown-up look with its brushed-metal face and a more streamlined look, making the otherwise attractive HTC Touch Diamond almost look like a child’s toy and the iPhone and Samsung Omnia look clunky.
The HTC Touch Diamond2 next to the Samsung Omnia.
While smaller than the two aforementioned touch-screen smartphones, the Touch Diamond2 is ever so slightly bigger and heavier than its predecessor, at 4.25 inches high by 2.09 inches wide by 0.54 inch thick and 4.15 ounces (compared with 4 inches by 2 inches by 0.6 inch and 4 ounces). However, it still has a slim-enough profile that you should be able to slip it into a pants pocket with no problem.
In addition, the smartphone has a solid construction and is comfortable to hold. The back is a bit slick since HTC decided to go with a simple flat plastic battery cover unlike the various versions of the Touch Diamond, which either had a geometric backing or soft-touch finish. While not a huge deal, we are slightly partial to the soft-touch finish since it gives the phone a non-slippery texture.
More than anything, it’s the Touch Diamond2’s WVGA display that’s the attention grabber. It’s bigger and sharper at 3.2 inches and 480×800 pixels. Images and text pop with color and clarity, and the touch screen is quite responsive. It also has a built-in accelerometer, which will automatically change the screen orientation from portrait to landscape when you rotate the phone. Note that this doesn’t work in all apps, but does for Web pages, e-mail, photos, and video. The accelerometer was fairly responsive; not instantaneous but no more than a second or two to switch.
The smartphone uses HTC’s TouchFlo 3D interface, which, on first glance, looks to be the same as the company’s previous Touch devices. However, once you dig deeper into the menus, you will notice some changes and added functionality. For one, you now get tabs for your calendar and stock quotes, and HTC has provided an extra level of customization by allowing you to rearrange and remove tabs on your Home screen via the Settings menu. Of course, you can always switch back to the traditional Windows theme if you’re not a fan of TouchFlo.
Another difference is that the Start menu now brings up a grid view instead of a list view of all your programs and settings, and again, you can customize this page with favorites to give you quick one-touch access to apps and tools. Other enhancements include the capability to map an address onto Google Maps from a contact’s page. The call screen also has a new onscreen answer/ignore slider button for incoming calls. Overall, HTC’s added some nice enhancements to the user interface to make it much easier to use.
As for input methods, the Touch Diamond2 offers an onscreen QWERTY keyboard, including a landscape keyboard. The keys provide haptic feedback when touched, so you’ll get some acknowledgment that the screen has registered the command. That said, we found the keyboard a bit inferior to the iPhone’s in that it’s slightly cramped so we made more mistakes or couldn’t type as fast. It gets easier with more practice, but we never felt 100 percent comfortable.
Below the display, you get a set of navigation controls as well as a new touch-sensitive zoom bar.
Below the display, there are four navigation controls: Talk and End/Home keys, Start menu shortcut, and a back button. It’s a little hard to see but there’s also a new touch-sensitive zoom bar just below the screen that lets you, not surprisingly, zoom in and out of Web pages, pictures, messages, and documents. It works well and is certainly a faster and easier way to zoom, rather than having to go through the menus or double-tap the screen.
The Touch Diamond2’s landscape QWERTY keyboard features tiny buttons, which led to some mistakes.
On the left side, there’s a volume rocker, while the speaker and stylus holder are on the right. The power button is located on top. The bottom of the unit features a Mini-USB port that also serves as the power connector and headset jack. Yes, that means no standard headphone jack so you’ll have to get an adapter if you want to use your personal ‘phones or earbuds. Come on HTC, cut us a break. On the back, you’ll find the smartphone’s camera, and there is a microSD expansion slot behind the battery cover on the left side.
Our review unit came packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an extra stylus, a wired headset, and a soft protective case. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Since we reviewed the European version of the HTC Touch Diamond2, there are some features that are missing from the smartphone, namely U.S. 3G support. Our review unit supports Europe and Asia’s 900/2100MHz HSDPA bands (AT&T’s 3G network works on the 850/1900MHz and T-Mobile’s on 1700/2100MHz), so if you were to get the unlocked smartphone and use it with a T-Mobile or AT&T SIM, you’d only get EDGE data speeds but there is built-in Wi-Fi. HTC also added something called Push Internet Technology to help speed up downloads and rendering of Web pages on your smartphone, though we didn’t necessarily notice a huge difference or any benefit to it. (See Performance section for more.)
The phone also offers quad-band world roaming as well as a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, three-way calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory, and each entry can store multiple numbers, home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse’s name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or a custom ringtone. Bluetooth 2.0 is also onboard for use with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, object push, file transfer, personal area networking, and dial-up networking.
The Touch Diamond2 has an integrated GPS antenna and similar to the previous Diamond models, it includes the QuickGPS utility, which downloads the latest satellite information over the Internet to help speed up the time it takes to find your position. Google Maps also comes preinstalled on the device so you can see your location on a map, as well get text-based turn-by-turn directions, traffic data, and conduct business searches.
For now, the HTC Touch Diamond2 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition, but HTC said at GSMA 2009 that it will offer a Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade when the new mobile operating system is available. In the meantime, you still get the standard Microsoft Office Mobile Suite for editing native Word and Excel documents, and viewing PowerPoint presentations. In addition, it offers Microsoft’s Direct Push Technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server and support for POP3 and IMAP accounts.
In addition, the smartphone features Windows Live integration, the Opera Web browser, a dedicated YouTube app, a couple of games, and other PIM tools, including Adobe Reader LE, a Zip manager, a voice recorder, a calculator, a notepad, and a task manager. You can, of course, download additional apps to the smartphone; for some suggestions on titles, check out Download.com.
HTC upgraded the Touch Diamond2’s camera from 3.2 megapixels to 5 megapixels.
Finally, while the music and video capabilities pretty much remain the same as its predecessor, the Touch Diamond2 does get an upgrade in the camera department from 3.2 megapixels to 5 megapixels. As before, you get a wide range of camera settings and tools, including white balance and brightness controls, ISO settings, flicker adjustment, and various resolution and image-quality options. There’s also a camcorder mode.
Picture quality was quite impressive.
We were quite impressed with its picture quality despite some initial worries. The trepidation was because there’s no dedicated camera key so you have to press the onscreen capture button, which we’ve found can cause some movement when trying to take the shot. Also, there’s a bit of a lag from the time we pressed the button to the time the image was actually captured, so we thought for sure we’d end up with blurry shots. Not so much. Photos came out sharp and with decent coloring, much to our delight. Video quality was OK but a bit dark and grainy.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) HTC Touch Diamond2 in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was mediocre. We noticed a background hiss on our end and voices sounded tinny and far away at times, though we could still carry on conversations and use an airline’s voice-automated system. Meanwhile, our friends reported some crackling on their side. Speakerphone quality wasn’t much better. With the right-side speaker, the call sounded lopsided and there was some hollowness to the audio. We successfully paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Active Bluetooth Headphones.
One of the biggest differences we noticed about the Touch Diamond2 was in general performance. Armed with a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200A processor and 512MB ROM/288MB RAM, the smartphone was quite responsive and felt downright snappy for a Windows Mobile phone. There was a bit of a delay with the camcorder and watching video clips, but unlike some other Windows Mobile devices we’ve tested, it never tripped up over simple tasks like menu navigation. Web browsing over AT&T’s EDGE network was, not surprisingly, a little pokey. On the other hand, the phone’s GPS receiver found our location almost immediately.
The Touch Diamond2 features an 1100mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5.6 hours and up to 15 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the smartphone was able to give us 7 hours and 50 minutes of continuous talk time on a single charge.