I'm not the "kiss and tell" kind of guy, but this time I must make an exception: I just spent the entire night with the brand new HTC HD2 (AKA: HTC Leo)! And YES - it was THAT GOOD!!!
Just when I started losing my hopes that a WinMo phone will ever fascinate me again, just when I was certain Windows Mobile is dying, came HD2, the highly customized device, the first one to combine WVGA and a capacitive screen, with the gigantic size and unbelievable speed and made it clear that I may have been wrong.
Unfortunately for both of us (the phone and myself), it was a short experience. I had to bring it back to one of my colleges (the lucky bastard!) but I had enough time to deeply investigate the phone in terms of performance, usability and software.
Here's my short review of the HTC Touch HD2:
Let's start with the boxing. I must admit that for such a high end device I would have expected a much fancier box.
Heck, HTC got even too lazy to write the exact size of the screen! Instead they wrote: "big" and "big"!
(Oh, OK... I get it... it's a joke... didn't know HTC had a sense of humor... ). But the hell with that, we all know it's crap and after 1-2 weeks no one cares about the box anymore...
Some would say this gigantic phone is just to big. But for me it's not. I'm used to holding huge things in my hands... (Who is doing the censorship around here???).
Anyway, I did find a few noticeable changes from the previous HD phone: first, the power button was moved to the bottom of the screen, which makes opening and closing the phone much easier. Good change. Good HTC. Woof woof!
Another change is that HTC made the phone extremely thin. It's almost impossibly thin. It's so thin it makes it feel a bit uncomfortable in the hand, you need to be very gentle with it. Although it's impressive, I would actually prefer a thicker HD...
The buttons in the bottom of the phone are great (heard that Apple? 'Send' and 'End' buttons, that's what I'm talking about!) but unfortunately their lights turn off too fast so you cannot find them that easily. (Should be possible to hack that one though).
The screen is enormous. The entire handset is practically a screen - look at the picture how close is the screen to the top border comparing to the iPhone and you will understand how big it is.
As Optimus Prime brought to my attention; the HD is almost as big as a rugged Symbol device!
(Thanks for the tip Optimus, you were great in season 2!)
OK, I already said it's big, but wait a minute, is that a capacitive screen running Windows Mobile 6.5?
Yep. It is, and it completely changes the joy of using the phone.
I think capacitive screens should become a standard from now on. It's a complete step change in the usability of practically everything you do with your gadget.
HTC made a perfect screen. WVGA resolution, capacitive, perfect, or as my wife said: "this is the best screen I've ever seen in any of your useless gadgets!". I agree.
(I must agree... if you are married, you know how those things work...)
HTC Touch HD 2:
The Internet experience was significantly improved including a neat multi-touch functionality that is working very nicely...
One more thing HTC did (and you may have read it already), was to completely customize the Windows Mobile user interface.
Not just the usual shell stuff - everything was customized to fit a finger usage (Capacitive screen, remember?). I could really feel some of those tweaks when using the phone:
When clicking the OK button for example, you can completely miss the button area and still make it work.
When scrolling using a finger - the scroll bar actually changes the size when you touch it with your finger - it's very useful for the controls that does not support the kinetic scrolling.
Other examples are the top notifications bar (a-la Android), and of course some customized screens that replace the old WinMo messages, mails, calendars and all are completely finger friendly.
The performance of HTC HD the second is fantastic.
Everything is running smoothly, no lags, even the TouchFlo 3D UI (now called Sense UI) is working fast.
Best proof: if you are an experienced WinMo user, you probably know that opening the 'Windows' folder (in files explorer) usually takes between 5 to 20 seconds, which is loooooong.
In the HD, it took me just 2 seconds to open that folder - only one proof to the noticeable speed of this handset.
Previously known as TouchFlo 3D, this replacement for the main screen is now much more than just a shell, It's a complete operating system! It's practically replacing most of the user interface of the device. After so many versions of this rich user interface it is now better than ever, intuitive and working smoothly.
In the past I used to criticize TouchFlo for being too heavy and inconsistent. In all of my older HTC devices the first thing I used to do was to remove TouchFlo and install SPB Mobile Shell instead, but after examining it again, I'm not sure it is needed. The Sense UI is so rich and working so smoothly now that for me it's a keeper.
There are many small improvements and some newer tabs like the footprints and twitter. Still missing: Tasks.
For me, a one year old iPhone user, it's not a big deal, as I'm already used to it. But I think that the many Windows Mobile fans out there will really like this. No more double clicking, stupid zoom bars, rounded finger gestures, this is the real thing and It's working very well. Pictures, web pages, cool. In few places it's not as smooth as the iPhone but it comes very very close.
I tried many phone cameras with good specs and usually they all disappoint me. Funnily, I often prefer the poor iPhone camera for the speed and automatic mode change, but this time I really think the camera is good. Tried taking some pictures and it simply looks better than other devices.
Here's an example of my model dog in 2 pictures. Which one do you think is better?
BTW, the differences are significant when you compare the pictures inside the phones themselves, this is where the WVGA screen of the HD really managed to impress me!
Even though I still think the iPhone keyboard is much better than this one, it's clearly much better than previous versions of HTC's virtual keyboards. It's responding well and very accurate.
Still, I would suggest that HTC invest some more in their virtual keyboard, it's one of the most important things in such kind of screen only phones.
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OK, so what about the bad things?
With so many positive things, you must be wondering where are my usual negative complains? Well, I actually found some, here they are:
Apart from the Sense UI which was innovative 2 years ago with the first TouchFlo version, there are too many iPhone imitations. Some of them are just too obvious and boring. I wish HTC made a bigger effort to invent some new concepts instead of copying them...
- Time picker (with rounded wheels) - stolen from the iPhone UI
- Password characters (letter-changes-to-star) - not original
- Notifications window - too similar to the Android idea
- Calculator - exactly like the iPhone one
It's true that everyone are stealing good ideas, but for me it felt like HTC are taking the easy way around.
I mean, come on, a compass? COMPASS??? How lame is that?
I decided to go outside and learn the secret of the compass!
I took a walk around the neighborhood to see how useful a digital compass can be in a city.
The conclusion I came to is sensational: No one needs a compass.
Think about it. How many times in your life you wished you had a compass in your pocket?
Windows Mobile 6.5:
There are a lot of beta builds of Windows Mobile 6.5.1 or whatever it will be. They all show a very nice layout with the OK button finally in the bottom of the screen and a lot of other improvements.
All of those are not part of the original 6.5 version, which makes working with the original WinMo forms frustrating as usual.
It's funny but most of the problems of the HD lies within the OS it is running;
The lock screen is annoying because the sliding area is too high so you need to really stretch your finger to unlock it (poor ergonomics by Microsoft I must say).
The start menu has a lot of problems, the biggest one is that when you open an app and close it - you lose the location in the hierarchy of the menus, and you need to do all the path again. Annoying.
Another weakness, again, because of the OS, is that most of the settings windows (the one that were not customized by HTC) are problematic to work with without a stylus.
Clicking a combo box and trying to select an item can really become a challenge (Other than that - most of the other apps and tools work surprisingly good with the capacitive screen).
Last thing about WinMo 6.5 - Internet Explorer.
I tried working with it - it still sucks (who said that!?). Sorry. Comparing to that - Opera works very nice, and it now has a built-in support for multi-touch - zoom in/out was never that easy.
I started the evening very skeptical (After all, I'm not a 'one night stand' kind of guy, and I've seen some letdowns before with other Windows Mobile phones, why should this one be different?), but as the night went on - I really started to like this gadget.
The first Touch HD was announced as the manliest gadget of 2008, the second version is much much better, in all aspects.
I started skeptical but finished Mesmerized.
If Microsoft wants to keep some of their WinMo fans on board - they must make sure there are more of those high-end phones.
For now, my conclusion is that HTC HD2 is definitely the best Windows Mobile device I've ever seen.
And by far.
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