HTC Touch launches; first impressions and thoughts as an iPhone rival

HTC Corp., announces the HTC Touch. The Windows Mobile smart phone offers a touchscreen interface and could be a potential iPhone rival.

HTC Touch
Click to start HTC Touch slide show HTC

HTC, the company behind many of today's most popular Windows Mobile smart phones, is known for offering a broad range of devices. It has done petite, thin, and powerful, and it's even gone above and beyond traditional smart phones, as we saw at CTIA 2007 with the introduction of the HTC Shift and HTC Advantage . And now here's the company's latest twist: the HTC Touch.

The details:
Announced today for the United Kingdom (foiled again!), the HTC Touch features a technology called TouchFLO that allows you to operate the smart phone just by swiping your finger on the device's 2.8-inch, 65,536-color touch screen. The motions are preprogrammed to perform certain actions. For example, swiping your thumb in an upward motion launches a page where you can access contacts, media, or applications; sweeping left to right rotates through the various functions; while you can close out of apps by swiping downward. In addition, the screen knows the difference between the touch of a stylus and your finger and will act accordingly, and there's a new HTC-designed home screen where you can get one-touch access to your messages, calendar, contacts, and weather conditions.

Aside from the advanced touch screen, the HTC Touch looks different than any other smart phone we've seen from the company. Known as the HTC Elf in some circles, the Touch is certainly petite at 3.9 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighing 3.9 ounces. One observer said it resembled the Rio Carbon MP3 player, and I'd say that's a fair comparison. It actually also kind of reminded me of a Tamagotchi toy--is that bad? HTC says the Touch is targeted more toward consumers who want to make the leap from a regular cell phone to a smart phone. Oh yes, this is a full-blown smart phone. It runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition and has support for push e-mail, integrated Bluetooth 2.0 (A2DP supported) and Wi-Fi, a microSD slot, and 128MB ROM/64MB RAM. It's also equipped with a 2-megapixel camera and is rated for 5 hours of talk time and up to 8 days of standby time. While today's announcement was for the U.K., the HTC Touch is expected to cross the pond and ship in the United States during the second half of the year, though pricing and carrier have not yet been determined.

First impressions:
Fellow Craver Nicole Lee and I actually got some brief hands-on time with the HTC Touch, as the company paid us a visit last week. Personally speaking, I have my doubts about the smart phone. First, using the touch screen was a frustrating experience. I could never get it to work right. Swiping left to right didn't do much, and I couldn't really close out of apps by using the downward motion. I also noticed the screen held a lot of smudges, which bugged me. That said, I'm sure I could learn to use the Touch with more time. The HTC reps had a good handle on the workings of the touch technology (but one would hope so, since it is their product), and there's always a bit of a learning curve when you get a new device. No, my biggest gripe is there isn't an easy way to enter text. Given the compact design, a full QWERTY keyboard is clearly out, but are you telling me I'm left to peck out messages with a stylus and tiny virtual keyboard? I understand it's not a machine for the power business user, so composing e-mail isn't the issue here. But what about text messages or IMs? The phone may be great and the multimedia capabilities top-notch, but I'm a huge texter and if this is my only method of sending messages, I'll have to pass. BUT this is all after spending maybe 20 minutes with the device, so I'm not passing any final judgment yet. HTC is throwing an event tomorrow here in San Francisco for the global launch of the HTC Touch, and I should be getting one of my very own to test, and I'll give it a fair shake. So be sure to check back Thursday for our full review.

iPhone competitor:
Of course, with its touch screen capability, some are bound to wonder if the HTC Touch will rival the Apple iPhone. Come on, you know the comparison is bound to happen. So will it give the iPhone a run for its money? I don't know, and we won't know till the iPhone comes out at the end of the month . As far as HTC is concerned, the company said the Touch was in development long before the Apple announcement and it welcomes the competition and attention it brings to the smart phone space. How's that for a safe answer?

What are your initial impressions of the HTC Touch?

About the author

Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.

 

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