HTC are billing the Touch 2 as a compact alternative to more pricey smartphones. But can it really compete with the mighty iPhone, or even their own excellent Hero handset?
The HTC Touch 2 boots up the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS. Anyone who remembers the previous offerings of Windows Mobile may rightly wince at this news, with the OS being notoriously flaky to navigate. However, breath easy; HTC have re-skinned the OS with their own TouchFlo interface.
The TouchFlo interface does a great job of getting you around the various functions of the phone. A scrolling shortcut bar at the bottom of the home screen allows for quick navigation to common tools such as messaging, contacts, internet browsers and other programs. Once selected from this scroll bar, options for these functions then fill only the top half of the screen, allowing you to quickly move to another application again via the scroll bar.
The start menu is also pretty nifty, with a scrolling grid of applications easily accessed. The phone can handle multi-tasking pretty well, with its 528MHz processor juggling music, multi-tabbed web browsing and photo viewing with admirable ease. Having a Windows style Task Manager made switching between applications easy too, and I found its drop down menu clear and easily navigable.
The HTC Touch 2 ships with a host of apps including YouTube, Facebook and Google Maps straight out of the box, and they all function pretty much as you would imagine. Though Windows Mobile Marketplace is still in its infancy, it’s nice to know the HTC Touch 2 will be able to hold its own once more apps are available. Interestingly, HTC have chosen Opera rather than Internet Explorer as the default web browser. Both have their pros and cons. Opera sometimes garbled up images on the phone, so I tended to use Internet Explorer, but it’s a matter of taste in the end.
What is not a matter of taste however is my low opinion of the HTC Touch 2’s rather poor touch screen. Credit given where credit is due, visually it’s excellent. The 2.8-inch TFT-LCD is clear and bright, and again, matched with the TouchFlo interface, is really slick to look at. It’s such a shame then that the touch-screen itself is so unresponsive. The HTC Touch 2 favours a resistive rather than capacitive screen, which means it requires a fair bit of pressure to get a response back from the phone. When accessing large icons this is fine, but when you get to fiddly functions in the UI, such as scroll bars on browsers or text input, the HTC Touch 2 is an absolute mare to use. Far too often did my fingers accidentally open up the wrong applications or call the wrong contact. And I have dainty piano-playing fingers, might I add. Add to this the bizarre omission of an accelerometer, making landscape use a chore, and the screen just doesn’t live up to expectations.
The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack is great news for anyone planning on using the phone to regularly play music and video. Both the audio library and photo/video albums are very easy to use, making the HTC Touch 2 a worthy pocket-sized media player. However, the phone ships with only a meagre 512MB of internal memory, so a MicroSD upgrade will be necessary to get the most out of the phone’s media abilities.
You wont be needing a memory upgrade for storing photos however, as you are unlikely to want to use the built in 3.2 mega pixel camera. It is pretty shoddy. Though the phone’s touch sensitive zoom bar is a strong point for the camera (and also particularly useful when web browsing), the camera’s inability to focus adequately or adjust sufficiently to differing lighting ranges makes it hard to recommend.
The HTC Touch 2 is a pretty sturdy phone for its tiny size (104 X 55 X 12.9 mm), and pretty sleekly designed too. It’s curved edges and pinched lower lip make it quite comfortable to hold, and at 110 grams it’s as light as a feather too. The inset buttons are nicely sized, and the resistive screen looks as though it could take a decent bashing before going all the colours of the rainbow.
There is a lot to like about the HTC Touch 2. It has an incredibly clear screen, handles multi-tasking very well, looks smooth in your hand, and has an excellent interface in the shape of the TouchFlo. However, a touch screen phone lives or dies by the usability of its touch screen, and here the HTC Touch 2 becomes difficult to recommend. Not a bad phone by any means, but it certainly falls short of greatness.
Here’s Anna’s (from Shiny Shiny) video review