HTC Fuze (AT&T) review:
Editors’ note: This review has been updated since originally published with some clarifications to the “Design” and “Features” sections.
Ever since Sprint got its HTC Touch Pro in early November, the rest of the cell phone community (non-Sprint users) has been getting a little antsy to find out when they might be able to get their hands on the Windows Mobile smartphone. Well, for AT&T subscribers, that day is today.
As early rumors suggested, AT&T’s version of the Touch Pro has been dubbed the HTC Fuze and offers many of the same great features as its CDMA cousin, including Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. It’s also tri-band HSDPA/UMTS and supports the carrier’s various multimedia and voice services, such as push to talk and AT&T Video. There are some design flaws and performance hiccups, but overall, it’s a smartphone that can competently handle the needs of a demanding business user and can also bring some fun diversions when needed. If you’re looking to upgrade your AT&T Tilt or need more functionality than the messaging-centric Samsung Epix and RIM BlackBerry Bold, the Fuze is a good fit. The HTC Fuze is available from AT&T now for $299.99 with a two-year contract and after a mail-in rebate.
As a rebranded version of the HTC Touch Pro, the design of the HTC Fuze for AT&T isn’t much different from the Sprint model, though there are some minor differences. First, the Fuze features an all-black casing, losing the silver trim that accented the Sprint Pro. The Fuze also forgoes the gray soft-touch back cover in favor of the geometric one found on the unlocked HTC Touch Diamond. While the prism look is definitely cool, the lacquered finish makes it a bit slick and holds a lot of smudges and fingerprints. Overall, it’s a very sleek-looking smartphone and while at 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and 5.8 ounces, the HTC Fuze makes for a bit of a tight fit in a pants pocket, it’s more compact than the AT&T Tilt.
The HTC Fuze is very much like the HTC Touch Pro for Sprint, but there are some slight design differences.
The Fuze features the same 2.8-inch touch screen as the HTC Touch Pro with a 262,000 color output and 640×480-pixel resolution. Images and text look sharper and more vibrant on the VGA display, compared with the Tilt’s screen. The Fuze also features the HTC TouchFLO 3D interface. There is a toolbar along the bottom of the screen that lets you scroll left to right and launch applications with one touch, and in several of the programs (e-mail, photos, and video) you can go through your files and messages by swiping your thumb/finger up or down the screen, all with a cool animated 3D effect. The default Home screen is similar to the Sprint version, though obviously with AT&T’s flavoring and services. You can, of course, personalize the Today screen with different themes and background images.
Another feature of the display is a built-in accelerometer. This technology automatically switches the screen view when you rotate the phone, so for example, when you turn the device from a vertical position to a horizontal position, the screen will go from portrait to landscape mode. It’s a nice timesaver since you don’t have to go through the menus to do so, but one of our complaints about the Sprint HTC Touch Pro is that there was a noticeable delay for the accelerometer to kick in, which got to be annoying. There’s a bit of lag with the HTC Fuze as well, but, thankfully, it’s not as bad as the Touch Pro.
To provide business users with the best tools and functionality, the HTC Fuze comes equipped with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for all your messaging needs. The layout and feel is slightly different from the one found on the Sprint Touch Pro. Though the size of the buttons is the same, they’re a little more slick and instead of a dedicated number row, the top row of keys on the Fuze are reserved for symbols while the number buttons share space with the letter keys on the right half and are highlighted in blue. There are also some shortcuts to popular applications like calendar, e-mail, and the Web, on the last row. Despite the varied layout, to which we were pretty indifferent to, we had no problems typing messages and were satisfied with the keyboard overall.
Instead of a dedicated row for numbers, the HTC Fuze’s keyboard reserves the top row of keys for symbols.
Other controls on the HTC Fuze include a standard navigation array below the screen, which includes Talk and End keys, a Home shortcut, a back button, and a directional keypad with a center select button. The latter is also touch sensitive and in some applications, like the Web browser, you can use your thumb or finger to make a clockwise or counterclockwise circle to zoom in/out of pages.
On back, you’ll find the 3.2-megapixel camera and flash. The Fuze also features a prism-shaped back cover like the unlocked HTC Touch Diamond.
There’s a volume rocker and a push-to-talk button on the left side and a power button on top. On the bottom of the smartphone, you’ll find a reset hole and a mini USB port which also acts as the power connector and headset jack. Once again, we’re disappointed by the lack of a standard headphone jack, but there is an audio adapter included in the box. Finally, the camera and flash are located on the back and behind the battery cover lies the microSD/SDHC expansion slot, which can accept up to 16GB cards (and theoretically up to 32GB cards).
The microSD/SDHC expansion slot is located behind the battery cover and accepts up to 16GB cards.
AT&T packages the HTC Fuze with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an audio adapter, an extra stylus, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.
The HTC Fuze for AT&T is built for the power business user and ships with Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition. It offers the standard core applications like the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and comes with several personal information management tools, such as Adobe Reader, Sprite Backup, Remote Desktop, a Zip manager, a voice recorder, a task list, and more. The Fuze supports a number of e-mail solutions, including Microsoft Exchange Server, AT&T Xpress Mail, and BlackBerry Connect. You can also access POP3 and IMAP accounts, and there are three instant messaging clients preloaded on the device: AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger.
The Fuze’s phone features include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, and voice commands and dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts). Each contact can hold multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, for a single entry as well as home and work addresses, an e-mail address, an 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 one of 59 polyphonic ringtones. The Fuze also supports AT&T’s push-to-talk service and Video Share service. PTT lets you instantly see the availability of your contacts before calling them and make individual or group PTT calls, while Video Share lets you to make video calls. Plans for Video Share start at $4.99 per month while PTT plans start at $9.99 per month.
The HTC Fuze is also a tri-band UMTS/HSDPA smartphone. It’s important to remember that there are multiple factors that affect 3G speeds, such as where you live and how many people are on the network on one time, but you can expect speeds around 1.4Mbps (with the potential to hit up to 2Mbps). Since the Fuze is a tri-band (850/1900/2100), you’ll be able to access 3G networks while abroad as well.
The HTC Fuze also has integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) so you have another option for getting online. Our review unit had no problem finding and connecting to our wireless network, and like the Sprint HTC Touch Pro, the Fuze, the Touch Pro also ships with the Opera Mobile HTML Web browser (version 9.5) in addition to Internet Explorer Mobile, so you have a choice in mobile browsers.
The smartphone has Bluetooth 2.0 that supports mono- and stereo-Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, and dial-up networking. There is no need for accessory Bluetooth GPS receivers since the Fuze already has GPS/A-GPS. This means the smartphone will use both satellites and cellular triangulation to get a fix on your position. Plus, there’s a utility called QuickGPS installed on the device to speed up the time it takes to find your position by downloading the latest satellite information via an Internet connection. For real-time turn-by-turn text- and voice-guided directions, traffic updates, local search, and more, the Fuze is compatible with AT&T Navigator, which is free for the first 30 days but then costs $9.99 per month for unlimited access or $2.99 per day.
When you’re ready to call it day or take a break, you can use Windows Media Player 10 Mobile to enjoy AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, WMV, and more. If you’re looking to discover new music or check out fresh, streaming media, there are shortcuts to AT&T Music and AT&T Video on the HTC Fuze. These add-on services enable you to access content, such as Napster to Go, streaming XM satellite radio, music videos, MusicID for identifying song titles and artist, and video programming from CNN, ESPN, and NBC, among other channels.
Picture quality was decent, but we missed having a dedicated capture key.
And last but not least, we come to the Fuze’s 3.2-megapixel camera. It’s the same as the one found on the HTC Touch Diamond and the Touch Pro, which means you get a flash, auto-focus, and video recording capabilities. In addition, you get a good helping of editing options, which you can read more about in our full review of the HTC Touch Diamond. Picture quality was OK. We would have liked more warmth in the colors, but decent compared with other camera phones we’ve tested. Plus, all the objects in the image were clearly identifiable. Once again, like the HTC Touch Pro, there’s no dedicated camera capture key. While we always thought it was convenient, we didn’t realize how useful it was until it was gone. Without it, we found that you had to have a real steady hand to get a clear shot. Video quality wasn’t the greatest. There was quite a bit of blurriness and even with the flash light on, it was difficult to see objects in clips recorded in darker environments.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900/2100) HTC Fuze in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was quite good. The audio sounded rich and clear on our end with barely any background noise. We had no problems hearing our friends or using an airline’s voice automated response system, nor did we have any dropped calls during our review. Friends reported similarly good results, though we got a couple of remarks about a slight echo. Speakerphone quality wasn’t as pristine, since the audio could sound a bit blown out, especially at higher volumes. We successfully paired the Fuze with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Active Bluetooth Headphones.
Armed with a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor and 512MB ROM and 288MB RAM, the HTC Fuze was a generally snappy device. As we already mentioned in the design section, we didn’t experience quite the delay in screen rotation or even other simple tasks. There was some of that typical sluggishness that plagues Windows Mobile smartphones, but it wasn’t anything debilitating and we didn’t suffer any system crashes or significant errors during our testing period.
The Web browsing experience was decent, whether it was via 3G connection or Wi-Fi. However, we tried to watch some streaming videos via AT&T Video but after selecting a video, it took a while to launch and eventually the connection timed out. We were finally able to get some videos to load, which took about 10 to 15 seconds. The streaming video quality wasn’t the greatest, as the picture looked very pixilated. However, we watched a couple of WMV clips from our personal library, which looked much clearer and had synchronized sound and picture.
The HTC Fuze has a 1,340mAh lithium ion battery, which has a rated talk time battery life of 7.4 hours (6.6 hours on 3G) and up to 15 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 7 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation charts, the Fuze has a digital SAR rating of 1.13 watts per kilogram.