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HTC Touch Dual review

HTC won't let the iPhone dominate the touchscreen zone

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Our Verdict

A terrific do-it-all PDA cunningly disguised as a must-have phone

For

  • 3G HSDPA compatibility

    Vastly improved touchscreen

    Slide out keypad

    Combination of touchscreen and keypad control

    Slim shape

Against

  • No Wi-Fi

    Camera could be better

    Heavier than the original HTC Touch

Beating the much-discussed iPhone to market by a couple of months, HTC's Touch offered a large touch-sensitive screen with phone, camera and all the flexibility of a Windows Mobile operating system.

Groovy little mover though it was, its screen just wasn't in the same league as Apple's groundbreaking handset, though it had plenty of other things going for it.

The new version however, shows that HTC has plenty of innovative muscle up its sizeable sleeve, especially when it comes to fancy tricks with a touch screen. The first change from the original Touch you notice is that it's slimmed down and got a bit longer.

This allows it to slip a tad easier into the pocket, but it's no lighter (8g heavier, actually), and is a bit thicker than its predecessor. The reason for the extra thickness soon becomes clear however - a sliding keypad.

There are two versions available, one a standard 16-key numeric pad, and another with a BlackBerry-style 20-key QWERTY keypad which includes two letters plus a number or symbol on each button which you can use in either abc or XT9 mode.

Whichever you choose, there's a soft version of each available on the touch controlled screen (patience please, we're getting to that). Sliding the keypad activates a new menu list, offering quick access to email, SMS, diary and contacts.

Pressing any of the numbers automatically puts you in phone mode. There's also a useful Start Menu button on the keypad, which gains access to all your Windows Mobile functions.

This can be navigated using the D-pad, without the need for the stylus that slides into the side of the handset's body. There's also a dedicated button for access to the messaging menu and for Internet Explorer, while another improvement on the old Touch is that the new version now packs a fast HSDPA 3G connection (if your network supports it), plus an additional camera on the front for video calling.

One consequence of the slimming process is that the Touch Dual has lost Wi-Fi. Not so good if you're used to accessing the internet from a hot spot or perhaps a WLAN at work.

Still, the HSDPA connection is pretty fast - noticeably quicker than the older phone, though of course not quite up there with broadband. The same 2-megapixel camera is on board - a shame that HTC didn't take the opportunity to up the spec on this, since it's now pretty much the least you can get away with on a quality phone.

It's decent enough for snaps, although there's no zoom if you're using full resolution. Which brings us neatly to HTC's own Camera Album feature, and those touchscreen tricks.

Like every gallery, it's designed to let you view your pics (press a thumbnail and it automatically enlarges to fill the screen), and like many, there's the option of viewing in landscape or portrait modes. But unlike others, HTC's TouchFLO technology allows you to change the orientation of pictures simply by touching the screen and spinning them around.

Then comes the really clever bit. Instead of the iPhone's pinch-to-zoom function, the TouchFLO allows you to zoom on a picture by drawing a tiny circle around the point you want to focus on (with the stylus or even your finger).

Drawing a circle in the opposite direction zooms out and a double tap brings you back to full screen - very cool. You can also set up an extremely smooth-flowing slideshow where the pics change automatically or you can turn to the next by brushing the screen with a fingertip.

The zoom function in particular is exceptional, but it only works with pics, not with web pages, though if Microsoft finalises its Deepfish browser next year, which includes an intuitive zoom function for web pages, perhaps that'll come in the next incarnation. Incidentally, the processor has doubled its power from 200MHz to 400MHz.

That doesn't mean the speed has doubled however, and it can still be occasionally sluggish when switching between applications. Windows Media Player is on board of course, and capable of playing all the major formats.

Sound isn't bad through the supplied headphones - and really not terrible through the onboard loudspeaker, but there's also an Audio Booster to pump up your tunes, and even offer a 3D effect, but only if your headphones are plugged in.

Other benefits include an improved contacts list, with an alphabet at the side so you can instantly click on the first letter of the name you need - very handy if you have a lot of names.

It's got the full Office Mobile suite, allowing you to read and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs, plus Adobe Reader LE for viewing PDFs. Plus there's Flash Lite player (for SWF and YouTube videos), Java, Bluetooth, and the MicroSD slot on the side supports the new SDHC format, so you can use high capacity memory cards - 6GB and counting.

HTC seems to be offering the only credible alternative to the iPhone in the touchscreen stakes at the moment. It has some clever tricks for manipulating pictures and the inclusion of 3G and Office Mobile makes it ideal for work and play.

The browsing experience is good so far, and if the Deepfish browser or something similar can be loaded onto a Touch next year, this will be a sure-fire contender.

Looks 8

Ease of use 9

Features 9

Call quality 8

Value 9

Overall 87%

> Initially available on Orange, other networks TBC