home

The home screen on the HTC Touch2 itself is particularly good.

A big, attractive clock stars, with upcoming calendar events below it. Along the bottom is a horizontal strip of icons – drag your finger along the line and frequently used applications slide smoothly by. It means getting straight to your SMS or email inbox is a snap, and there's a direct link to Google Maps.

The menu system works extremely well, not least because it flatters the iPhone OS by borrowing a few of its more intuitive features. Go beyond the end of a menu or list, for instance, and the menu continues dragging with your finger but bounces back when you let it go.

menu

However, look at the bottom-right edge of the Touch2 and the stylus is a nasty reminder that beneath the glamorous touchscreen lurks Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional.

While HTC has ensured that TouchFLO largely obscures Windows Mobile's shortcomings – which still exist, even in this latest version of the platform – every now and then you get a stark reminder they're still there.

Go to MMS options, for instance, and the menu system goes from animated and large enough to use with a fingertip, to a tiny interface that you can only use accurately with the stylus.

contacts

You'll see the same, small interface every now and again – such as if you need to enter your Exchange account password. It's a reminder that while HTC has done a superb job with TouchFLO, dressing every element of Windows Mobile with it would be an enormous job.

Although this is an easy problem for geeks to sympathise with, consumers will be left cold.

The problem is actually apparent on virtually every screen – the top of the screen has a Windows button on it and tiny icons that represent currently running programs. The icons are all functional, but accurately selecting one is tricky.

There are other problems as well. The Touch2 doesn't have an accelerometer, and so doesn't know when it's being held sideways. Not only does this mean that some content – such as video – forces you to rotate the phone whether you find it comfortable to do so or not, it also means there's no landscape QWERTY keyboard.

The only way to enter text is with a numeric-style keypad. You get the option of using either ABC-style entry (pressing 2 three times to get the letter C, for instance) or T9 predictive text.

In our experience, neither was overly-reliable. In normal mode, the caret would sometimes jump to the next letter before we were finished spelling a word, making bashing out a text message frustrating. Longer messages such as emails were even worse.

Screen problems

The problem is the screen. We've become spoiled by phones such as the HTC Hero and iPhone, which have 3.2-inch and 3.5-inch screens respectively. The Touch2's screen is a 2.8-inch, 320x420 touchscreen, which doesn't sound like a big difference but its impact is significant.

screen

This is particularly true when typing. The numeric keys on the keypad are close together, and there's no clever, iPhone-style dictionary on board that helps spell words.

On the iPhone, if you make a mistake halfway through a word you simply carry on and trust the dictionary will step in at the end to correct you. On the Touch2 you need to prod the small, thin backspace button to correct your mistake. Typing is more fiddly than it needs to be.

Low resolution aside, the screen is decent. It's not outstandingly bright or sharp, but we had no visibility problems in bright sunlight, and if you can forgive the small size, it's fine for viewing photos and video.

One persistent nag is the screen's strange, glossy coating, which makes it look like you've forgotten to pull off the protective sticker.