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Dec 12, 2009

Review: One Night Stand With HTC HD2

Touch_HD_2_MobileSpoon

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:

Box:

IMG_0458

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...

 

Form Factor:

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...

HTC HD2 MobileSpoon

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.

HTC HD 2 MobileSpoon

 

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!)

Screen:

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...)

Mobile_Spoon

 

HTC Touch HD 2:

The Internet experience was significantly improved including a neat multi-touch functionality that is working very nicely...

Custom UI:

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.
Great stuff!

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Speed:

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.

 

Sense UI:

HTC_Sense_UI_MobileSpoon

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.

HD_Sense_UI  Touch HD2

Multi-Touch:

Yes! Finally.
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.

 

Camera:

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?

MobileSpoon_HD2_Review 

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!

 

Keyboard:

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:

Little Innovation:

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?

Screen03 IMG_0464

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?

Sigh...

 

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.


Summary:

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.

As always, I will be happy to hear/read your thoughts and comments.

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33 comments:

Ian Woodward said...

No one needs a compass as such - but a pointer on google maps (now introduced) - Great! Only map orientation (to follow). This is an excellent phone and I LOVE IT!

Jayce Ooi said...

Agree. The best WinMo phone ever. Until HD3 come out to replace it of course. :P

Edwin Jungman said...

Nice review !!

About the compass..ISNT lame !! It comes in handy in geocashing/tagging. Finding your own car. lol

And the notifications window.. to similar to android. Please 
If you look close enuff in somesoftware, then you find things that resembles some other software.

Little innovation..?
This thing is Packed with new features !!
Pich up your phone while it rings silence the ringtone.
Put it upside down and it mutes
When you are calling the proximity sensor will shut down the screen
Voice clariy with the new soft update

and so on

Mobile Spoon said...

Thanks for the comments, I actually missed those - as those are the things you find out after the first night... :)

Still - great stuff, thanks.

Jackson said...

So does the HTC HD2 beat the iPhone 3gs...???

lalit said...

great read!!am one of the lucky owners!my crib is that i dont get delivery reports and navigating to the task manager sucks!

Me said...

Definately

rabbith said...

Nice review, just a bit to short (okay, you only got one night, heh). At least the compass is linked to google maps, so if you choose a destination a red dot will appear on the edge of the compass, showing you in which direction you need to go. Well, its a gimmick. Take it or leave it. On the other hand youre pretty right, HTC is copying like crazy since the iPhone came out, its quite obvious.

I got one myself and Sense is indeed really nice - but to be honest, WinMob looks just so outdated, espacially on this device, it makes me sad. Such a powerfull device and such an ugly OS. The Starmenu look okayish but if it comes to using several typical WinMob-Apps it looks like digital stoneage, pure black widgets on white background.

Multitouch is still restricted to a few applications, games and older apps don't notice it. Its absolutly time for WinMob 7 - but fear the next iPhone generation will just kick its ass. The iPhone is already around 3 years ahead, Apple made A LOT of experience in that time and as good as WM7 might be, MS has just no experience. Even after release of WM7 they need to collect the data.

Regarding the app store - all people I know who are using the iPhone for a while say that 95% are just crap. But those 5% are "the shit". 5% from hundreds of thousands of apps is still quite a lot. Its a looooong way for WinMob7 to get there.

Nevertheless I like the HD2, I love it. But it needs a freaking better OS. Balmer, ya hear me?

rabbith said...

Appendix:

Quote: "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."

Don't get what you mean ... really. Most apps are just in the start menu and there are just a few folders and thats it. No Sub-Folders. And I do like folders - the iPhone apps screen looks quite clutterd to me. Dozens of different apps on just one level.

And besides: your dog sucks. Look at its eyes - OMG, 270 degrees view ftw!1

;)

SDreamer said...

Looking at your sample pics, it seems like the HD2 that you tested had that pink hue problem. I beleive it was suppose to be fixed by a firmware update, so the picture might actually look better than the one you have with the update to fix it. But I must concur, that phone is one heck of a beast.

kp said...

Great phone can wait to have one, just hope microsoft come out of the shell and expend sometime fixing the OS.

tabcounter said...

Have you tried the xperia 10, that looks as good as the hd2?

Mobile Spoon said...

Not yet.
Maybe someone at Sony Ericsson reads it...
;)

PACHU said...

I AM PLANNING TO BUY HTC HD2, I GONE THROUGH DIS PAGE, THANKS FOR U INFORMATION, AND I HAVE 1 DOUBT, HD2 BETTER THAN IPHONE 3GS IN ALL THAE WAY

afshin said...

u shouldnt accept more from an iphone fan. when it comes to stealing others inovation we shouldnt forget that the iphone itself was a copy of another phone which was made by a canadian manufacturer,did u forget that? also apple's stolen nokia patents!(dont tell me u dont know about that)
and when someone talks about weak points of iphone what will happen? apple or its fan boys take down their website(do u remember they took down mobile-review.com for several days after their first reveiw of iphone?)

Anonymous said...

Sirs, I was windows user since Win 2.0 and WinCE 1.0 (PDAs). I'm pretty tired of fight with rotten vista with ugly office 07 and my last HTC touch pro with dommy CE 6.1. It made me sick. Year ago I've bought a mac for my daugther because at least two times a year she has brought me sick body with damned vista for reanimation that has stole a lot of my time. And I became free and happy. In the last year i've tested w7. My conclusion is W7 that is  the same rotten dish from Balmer's team like vista. He is not a good cook.
I feared another systems because I need in specific software such as CAD and ...
In august I've bought MAC pro and now I'm happiest mac user also and really glad with my  choice. Iphone??? YES IT'S Much better then Qtec, Gloofich, Eten, Acer, Experia and HTC and ..... 800x480 with 3,7 or 4,3 inch screen is readable???? Useful??? Sirs it's foolish game. HD video, 5+1 pocket sound, 10 pmx Ccamera with auto focus and plastic lense.
Sirs you are not so stupid to use such options seriously.  But ok Jedem das Seine.

My opinion is the first and main problem of all devices is windows and doesn't matter relise 2.0, 3,0,5.0 and so on. When they will anonce CE7 you will have a server in you pocket because it will be necessary. I would like remind you Psion. It was the best PDA. In case of win, nothing changed in our life since win 95 (if you don't play games) with CPU  66 MHz and 16 mb ram. Today we use for same exel or word or CAD (autodesk fooling us also) 3 GHz with 4 Gb ram and it's not enough. Why??? because .....
But if you want to play, you should buy Sony PS or Wii or other cra..

Rohit From punjab said...

m Vry Much confused Which cell i Must Buy Iphone 3gs r HTC Hd2 plz suggest W8ng Fr Ur rEPLY mAH EMAIL ADDRESS IS rohit_pahwa87@yahoo.co.in

Ian Ice said...

The only reason I'm holding back on the HD2 is the OS... any way that I can install Android to the HD2?

Ian Ice said...

I'm using Omnia and more than half the time i'm using the phone without the touch screen simply because the touch screen cannot be aligned. The phone is also slow. I didnt hear any problem about Iphone with this kind of problem so far. Will the HTC HD2 encounter similar problems? Is the problem lies with the OS or manufacturer? 

Johny said...

hey rohit from Punjab... so Which Phone did u buy? if not.. which phone are u planning to buy?

Johny said...

do reply at jybones&@yahoo.com

Darenn said...

I agree the touch screen can be over sensitive, but the windows OS is almost invisible. A great review, very un-biased. I'm blown away by some of the "neat touches". HTC - screen sensitivy?

VirtualFighter said...

I'm gathering feedback about this phone from some time. It seems a very good phone indeed, but... nobody wants to point out that HD2 and Iphone have almost the same performance and yet... one has a 1 GHz processor and the other a 600 MHz. I'd say Iphone is still a winner.

angie said...

i was undecided weather to get this phone or not, but after this review and several others i have decided! im gonna go for it!

logan said...

love my new touch screen hd2. great for games and facebook. my wife and kids love theirs. not sure if it's better than my old iphone but that's ok. Youtube and videos are great and crisp too. it's good for my business and what I do. great unlocked phone. got my family's phones at gsmallover.com and we love them. 2 thumbs way up

sam said...

got this phone from gsmauthority.com recently and i really like it so far.  htc has done a great job.  i used to buy unlocked blackberry phones all the time, but i got really sick of them.  the hd2 is a great phone when it comes to unlocked phones.  the touch screen is huge. i like the overall look and feel of the phone as well as the way it's set up.  i love my homescreens, and the apps the phone has. 

Cat Craven said...

The HD2 is so hard to get hold of in the UK nowadays. It’s a shame because it’s possibly the best of the Windows 6.5 phones. It’s the one I always found the most practical anyway. I know you can buy refurb units from MobiCity and one or two other places around here, but getting your hands on new HD2s in bulk at a reasonable price is so difficult.

I was just wondering if people could tell me what sort of quality you can expect from a refurbished model? I’m not expecting them to be sparkling but would appreciate something functional and decent in appearance…

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