One of the cooler parts of my job is being able to take a look at different hardware and software that our partners provide us with and then share my impressions with you. Recently, Bell provided me with an HTC Touch Windows Mobile 6 device to try out and use as my every day mobile phone. I was very happy to receive the device as other members of the team purchased the HTC Touch, raved about it, and I really wanted to see what al the fuss was about.
Now, I need to preface my review of this device with what my typical usage pattern for a mobile device is, which includes
- voice calls
- email reading and limited amount of replying/sending
- some browsing
Within the context of those tasks, the HTC Touch is an awesome device. The most amazing thing, for me, was the fact that the device is small and light and really just about the perfect size to hold in your hand when making a phone call. It is only about 1/2" (slightly over 1cm) thick and weighs less than 4oz (112 grams). Just plain perfect for talking without feeling too big or small. You can get the full specifications on the device at the HTC web site.
The neatest thing about the HTC Touch is the way that you work with it when reading email or doing anything on the touchscreen. As the name implies, the main interface is touch. You use your thumb (my preferred digit) or a stylus (supplied) to interact with the screen and select what you want to do. Taking your thumb from the Bell logo straight upwards brings you to the second menu screen, which has a quick pick of contacts you frequently interface with and you can call or email them from there, or modify the list. Scrolling your thumb right along the screen presents the second menu with quick links to music (more on this later), photos, and videos. Doing the same action with the thumb again takes you to a third menu with quick links to email, SMS messaging, Internet Explorer, Tasks, Comm Manager (for turning the antenna off when in an airplane), and Calendar. Moving your thumb down across the screen takes you to the home screen pictured above. While it is not the same as an iPhone, the impression I was left with was very iPhone-like, and quite cool. The interface is called TouchFLO and you can get a demo of it at this link on the HTC site.
Using the Touch as my primary device made me aware of only one thing that I had become used to with other devices - the keyboard. Maybe it's because my fingers are a tad large and typing with the touch keypad on the screen is a bit cumbersome, but I found myself loving reading my mail on the device but I would not always reply to messages if the response required more than a few words or a very short sentence. The supplied Touch Keyboard was OK and pretty smart at figuring out what I meant, but it was not the full thumb keyboard I was used to. Perhaps having some time to think about response to an email before sending it out is a good thing, but that was about the only thing that I found a tad cumbersome.
What I especially liked about the HTC Touch supplied to me by Bell was all the additional things that Bell put around the device. Key to these is the Bell Full Track Music Service allowing you to download from a library of over 1.5 million songs to the HTC Touch and listen to them either across the speaker on the Touch or through the supplied headset. I also found it really useful is that you can download a preview of the song, listen to it and then decide if you want to download the whole thing. By themselves, though, songs are a tad pricey at $3 per track but for $15 a month you can get unlimited music and unlimited browsing, which includes the ability to do Exchange ActiveSync push email - a must in my mind. You can also move up to the Fun Bundles such as the Fun Bundle $25 with Music which adds Call Display, Message Centre, and unlimited text, picture and video messages to the unlimited music and browser. This is the right direction for carriers to go - bringing the prices way down and what you get for the price way up.
In terms of pricing for the device itself, Bell is on par and maybe slightly better than the other carriers with it comes to the HTC Touch, but unlike other carriers Bell supplies a 512MB microSD memory card with the HTC Touch so that you can take advantage of the Full Track Music store, which requires an external storage card for the music you download. I think the unlimited browsing and the music service really are a cut above though. Now, if HTC just added a keyboard to help my fat fingers, I'd be head over heels in love with the device instead of just in love with it. I'm not sure I want to give it back.