The HTC HD2 is the greatest Windows Mobile phone in the world. That may not necessarily be saying much, but HTC has effectively covered up Windows Mobile's flaws with a customised user interface so beautiful that just looking up the weather brings tears to our eyes. Also, the HD2's huge, 109mm (4.3-inch) screen makes the tiny icons in Microsoft's mobile OS worth tapping on.
We'll update this review with contract prices as soon as they're available, but, in the meantime, you can pick up the HD2 SIM-free for around £500.
Forget miniaturisation. We want bigger, flashier screens on our mobiles, and that's what the HD2 delivers. It sports an epic screen -- the biggest of any mobile currently out there, in fact. Despite this, unlike the , it doesn't feel that huge, since the bezel around the screen is so small. At 67 by 121 by 11mm, it's possible to pop the HD2 into a pocket, although you'll need a big one.
We love the large touchscreen for all the usual reasons -- it makes it simple to surf the Web and watch videos, for example -- but one of its biggest strengths is that it makes using Windows Mobile easy. Despite improvements in the latest version of the OS,, there's no hiding the fact that this operating system was originally designed to have tiny icons that the user poked with a stylus. Now that we're used to poking with a fingertip, we need big, finger-friendly icons. The HD2's huge touchscreen makes everything easy to tap.
What really made us drench the HD2 in tears of joy, however, is the fact that the touchscreen is of the capacitive variety, so you don't have to apply pressure to make it work. The touchscreen is responsive and a pleasure to use, especially in the parts of the user interface customised by HTC. The home screen, for example, has a fun, sliding menu bar along the bottom, for navigating to key areas of the phone, like contacts and messages. HTC's great design and the huge screen make this part of the phone simply gorgeous. We usually consider weather apps a waste of space, but we could watch the smooth, beautiful animation of clouds rolling in on the HD2 for days.
Now for the bad news. We'd love to report that HTC has swept aside all of the pain and sorrow of yesteryear and delivered Windows Mobile out of the darkness, but there are still a few flaws.
In many places, features are duplicated, with an HTC version and a Windows Mobile version. This left us bewildered at times, especially when our task wasn't straightforward. We found that videos might open in HTC's player or they might default to the dated-looking Windows Media Player. Troubleshooting email could lead to a maze of screens, all offering to get us configured but leaving us wondering if we'd set up the right stuff. This duplication can work on a PC but it's far too complicated and confusing on a phone.
In some cases, problems arise because HTC hasn't gone far enough -- its user-interface tweaks feel cosmetic. For example, emails look great on the home screen, and they're fun to flip through with the swipe of a finger, but only a few lines are displayed. To read the whole thing, view images or even reply, you have to open the message in the ugly Windows Mobile email viewer. When filing it away, you'll be presented with Windows Mobile's tiny, out-of-proportion folder view. To add insult to injury, we found the pretty email view sometimes had trouble displaying special characters correctly.
We can forgive HTC for leaving many areas of Windows Mobile's user interface untouched, because we won't often be visiting the ActiveSync configuration screen, for example. But email is one of a smart phone's most important features, and we don't like being dumped out of the warm bath of the HTC Sense user interface into the cold shower of Windows Mobile.
HTC has brought the same social-networking mojo that we loved on the HTC Hero to the HD2. This includes an address book that grabs your friends' info from Facebook, a photo gallery that grabs their online photos, and a dedicated Twitter app as one of the home-screen tabs. It all works fairly well, although we had to merge many of our contacts manually if they weren't using the same email address everywhere. Also, Twitter didn't update reliably enough.
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Windows Mobile is a great platform for app developers, but we found the HD2's on-board apps to be a mixed bag. For instance, the YouTube app is fast and easy to use, while the Facebook app doesn't have all the features we need -- we ended up going to the Web site to check our inbox.