Editors' note: This review has been updated since originally published with some clarifications to the "Design" and "Features" sections.
Ever since Sprint got its HTC Touch Pro in early November, the rest of the cell phone community (non-Sprint users) has been getting a little antsy to find out when they might be able to get their hands on the Windows Mobile smartphone. Well, for AT&T subscribers, that day is today.
As early rumors suggested, AT&T's version of the Touch Pro has been dubbed the HTC Fuze and offers many of the same great features as its CDMA cousin, including Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. It's also tri-band HSDPA/UMTS and supports the carrier's various multimedia and voice services, such as push to talk and AT&T Video. There are some design flaws and performance hiccups, but overall, it's a smartphone that can competently handle the needs of a demanding business user and can also bring some fun diversions when needed. If you're looking to upgrade your AT&T Tilt or need more functionality than the messaging-centric Samsung Epix and RIM BlackBerry Bold, the Fuze is a good fit. The HTC Fuze is available from AT&T now for $299.99 with a two-year contract and after a mail-in rebate.
As a rebranded version of the HTC Touch Pro, the design of the HTC Fuze for AT&T isn't much different from the Sprint model, though there are some minor differences. First, the Fuze features an all-black casing, losing the silver trim that accented the Sprint Pro. The Fuze also forgoes the gray soft-touch back cover in favor of the geometric one found on the unlocked HTC Touch Diamond. While the prism look is definitely cool, the lacquered finish makes it a bit slick and holds a lot of smudges and fingerprints. Overall, it's a very sleek-looking smartphone and while at 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and 5.8 ounces, the HTC Fuze makes for a bit of a tight fit in a pants pocket, it's more compact than the AT&T Tilt.
The Fuze features the same 2.8-inch touch screen as the HTC Touch Pro with a 262,000 color output and 640x480-pixel resolution. Images and text look sharper and more vibrant on the VGA display, compared with the Tilt's screen. The Fuze also features the HTC TouchFLO 3D interface. There is a toolbar along the bottom of the screen that lets you scroll left to right and launch applications with one touch, and in several of the programs (e-mail, photos, and video) you can go through your files and messages by swiping your thumb/finger up or down the screen, all with a cool animated 3D effect. The default Home screen is similar to the Sprint version, though obviously with AT&T's flavoring and services. You can, of course, personalize the Today screen with different themes and background images.
Another feature of the display is a built-in accelerometer. This technology automatically switches the screen view when you rotate the phone, so for example, when you turn the device from a vertical position to a horizontal position, the screen will go from portrait to landscape mode. It's a nice timesaver since you don't have to go through the menus to do so, but one of our complaints about the Sprint HTC Touch Pro is that there was a noticeable delay for the accelerometer to kick in, which got to be annoying. There's a bit of lag with the HTC Fuze as well, but, thankfully, it's not as bad as the Touch Pro.
To provide business users with the best tools and functionality, the HTC Fuze comes equipped with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for all your messaging needs. The layout and feel is slightly different from the one found on the Sprint Touch Pro. Though the size of the buttons is the same, they're a little more slick and instead of a dedicated number row, the top row of keys on the Fuze are reserved for symbols while the number buttons share space with the letter keys on the right half and are highlighted in blue. There are also some shortcuts to popular applications like calendar, e-mail, and the Web, on the last row. Despite the varied layout, to which we were pretty indifferent to, we had no problems typing messages and were satisfied with the keyboard overall.
Other controls on the HTC Fuze include a standard navigation array below the screen, which includes Talk and End keys, a Home shortcut, a back button, and a directional keypad with a center select button. The latter is also touch sensitive and in some applications, like the Web browser, you can use your thumb or finger to make a clockwise or counterclockwise circle to zoom in/out of pages.
There's a volume rocker and a push-to-talk button on the left side and a power button on top. On the bottom of the smartphone, you'll find a reset hole and a mini USB port which also acts as the power connector and headset jack. Once again, we're disappointed by the lack of a standard headphone jack, but there is an audio adapter included in the box. Finally, the camera and flash are located on the back and behind the battery cover lies the microSD/SDHC expansion slot, which can accept up to 16GB cards (and theoretically up to 32GB cards).