Review: HTC Touch Diamond

We can't help thinking of the HTC Touch Diamond as the iPhone Mini, the pocketable model that Apple never got around to making. Of course, that comparison only goes skin-deep. The Diamond has a gorgeous, vibrantly colored touch screen, like the iPhone, but it's built on Windows Mobile Professional 6.1, featuring HTC's own TouchFlo interface. It's not nearly as powerful as the iPhone, but it does have a few tricks of its own and it satisfies the same need for a next generation phone that feels effortlessly elegant.

We like the Touch Diamond much more than the HTC Touch, the company's first touch phone, and the improvements are everywhere. To start with, the Diamond is smaller, measuring 4.0 x 2.0 x0.6 inches, and easy to carry. The front is glossy black while the rear is burgundy with a black stripe around the 3.2megapixel camera lens (extra style points for not simply going all black). It weighs 4.2 ounces.
Touch2.jpg

The front is dominated by a 2.8-inch, 480 by 640 pixel display, which shows off the attractive TouchFlo interface. Below the screen you'll find a circular navigation pad surrounded by four physical buttons (home, back, start call, and end call). The buttons are hidden behind a panel, so while they have some push like regular buttons, they maintain the elegant, smooth façade. Most other controls are on the touch screen itself. The Home screen, for example, offers two on-screen soft keys for calling up the phone and the programs menu.

The left side holds the volume controls and the right side the holds only the stylus. The top holds the power/wake button and the bottom contains the mini-USB port.
Touch1.jpg

The Diamond comes with an extra stylus, a belt clip case, wired headphones, and a headphone adapter. The phone doesn't have a standard audio jack, so the included headphones plug into the mini-USB port. The adapter provides both 2.5mm and 3.5mm ports, but it's so large that we doubt many people will use it.

Interface
HTC has also improved the interface since we looked at the HTC Touch, and the TouchFlo controls are now more than touch-sensitive window dressing. The Home screen features a large time display, as well as the date, call history, and calendar buttons. Icons below that let you tap open a program.

The TouchFlo interface is both the phone's greatest asset and biggest weakness. It's boldly colored and attractive, and it goes beyond just directing you to a program. However, it's also irritatingly sluggish and unresponsive. The constant need to tap, tap, tap over again to get a program to open bothered us greatly during testing.

The Diamond has several surprising features inside, including GPS navigation (the first use is free), streaming subscription TV and radio (which loaded quickly and played smoothly over Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network), the Opera browser, and an accelerometer (useful for viewing photos at the correct orientation or for playing the included game Teeter, which involves guiding a marble around hazards).

While we like the improvements HTC has delivered, we'd like to see a much more sensitive touch interface, and more finger-friendly controls so that the stylus is never needed. It's time to ditch the stylus, for good, HTC. We all know the finger is the future.

The HTC Touch Diamond is available from Sprint for $249 with a two year commitment.

TAGS:

Windows Mobile, Sprint, HTC, touch screen, HTC Touch series

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