The HTC Touch Pro2 has been making the rounds to all the major carriers with much fanfare, yet its keyboard-lacking sibling, the HTC Touch Diamond2, has thus-far stayed hidden in the shadows, which is a shame since we loved the unlocked model when we reviewed it earlier this year. Fortunately, things have changed and AT&T is now offering a version of the smartphone, called the HTC Pure, that ships with Windows Mobile 6.5 out of the box and carries an affordable price tag of $149.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.
With Windows Mobile 6.5, the Pure offers a better user experience than Windows Mobile phones of the past by presenting a friendlier and simpler interface and a mobile Web browser with more power and better navigation. In addition, Microsoft adds some useful services, such as its own application store and its My Phone backup service. That said, if you're after a smartphone for Web browsing and multimedia capabilities, we'd recommend sticking with the iPhone. If you want something that offers a good balance of business and entertainment features, the HTC Pure is a nice alternative and certainly bests the carrier's only other touch-screen smartphone, the LG Incite.
Much like T-Mobile did to the HTC Touch Pro2, AT&T made some modifications to the original design of the HTC Touch Diamond2 to come up with the HTC Pure, and we can't say we're thrilled with the end result. It's not that the Pure is an ugly phone; it's just that it's ordinary. The Touch Diamond2 offered a bit more flash and wow factor with its ultraslim profile and brushed-metal finish, while the Pure kind of blends into the crowd, feeling a bit plasticky and slick. That said, the design is simple and clean, and the smartphone fits nicely in the palm of you hand and has no problems slipping into a pants pocket.
Fortunately, AT&T didn't mess with the display. The HTC Pure boasts a WVGA (400x800) resistive touch screen. Images and text pop with color and clarity, and though we would have preferred a capacitive screen since it doesn't require as much pressure or precision as resistive screens do, we found that the Pure's display worked just fine over our testing period. It also has a built-in accelerometer, which will automatically change the screen orientation from portrait to landscape when you rotate the phone. We found it to be quite responsive, but do note that this doesn't work in all apps, though it does for Web pages, e-mail, photos, and video.
As for input methods, the Pure offers an onscreen QWERTY keyboard, including a landscape keyboard. Despite looks, both the portrait and landscape keyboards are pretty easy to use and, with some practice, we were able to type pretty quickly with minimal mistakes. The buttons provide haptic feedback when touched, so you'll feel a vibration to let you know the screen has registered the command. All that said, don't expect the Pure to be an e-mail machine. It's fine for checking messages and for quick e-mail replies and texts, but heavy e-mailers might want to consider something with a physical keyboard.
On the left spine, there's a volume rocker, while the right side houses the speaker. The power button is located on top of the device, and there's a Mini-USB port/power connector/headset jack on the bottom. Yes, that's right; there's no 3.5 millimeter headphone jack. Instead, AT&T packages the HTC Pure with a 3.5 audio adapter as well as an AC adapter, a USB cable, an extra stylus, a 3.5 millimeter audio adapter, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
As part of the Touch series, the smartphone uses HTC's TouchFlo 3D interface. You can choose to stick with the company's tried-and-true UI or you can give the new Windows Mobile 6.5 Today screen a try. To hide TouchFlo, simply go to the Start menu, Settings, and tap on Today. From there, go to the Items tab, deselect TouchFlo, and check Windows Default. Here you'll also be able to select other apps you want add to the Home screen, while switching to the Appearance tab will let you customize your device with different background images or one of six themes, including five designer themes from Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Rock and Republic, Ron Arad, and Vera Wang.
Back on the main page, you'll see the new layout, which is a bit Microsoft Zune-esque. A slide bar lets you scroll up and down through the various apps, which are noted in large, clear font. For certain items, such as messages and photos, you can swipe from left to right to see files or subcategories within that app. For example, in the Calendar section, you can do a sideways finger swipe to see upcoming appointments. It's certainly an improvement over the previous format, but we still preferred TouchFlo's UI, since it provides more information at a glance.
Another interface change you might have noticed when you went to change the Today screen is the new honeycomb layout of the Start menu. In an effort to make Windows Mobile more "touch friendly," Microsoft added more spacing between the repolished and more-eye-pleasing icons to reduce the chances of any mispresses. Microsoft also added new shortcuts for MSN Money, search, Windows Marketplace, and Microsoft MyPhone. You can move up and down the page to see all the apps with the swipe of your finger. In addition, you can rearrange the icons by doing a long press on one and then tapping "Move to top."
One other notable feature of Windows Mobile 6.5 is the new Lock screen. It shows upcoming appointments, missed calls, messages, and date and time right on the screen even if you've got your phone locked. If you've got multiple notifications (the number of notifications will appear next to the lock icon), you can touch the lock icon, which then presents a drop-down menu of sorts displaying how many of each--messages or missed calls--you have. Upcoming appointments are shown on the bottom third of the screen, along with the date and time. What's even better is that you can tap on each notification to go directly to the specific app (messages, phone, calendar) after unlocking the phone or entering your password or PIN (if you've set one up), rather than unlocking it, checking your notifications, and then launching the appropriate programs, so it cuts out a couple of steps.
Overall, the UI is certainly cleaner and looks sleeker than on the previous model. Windows Mobile 6.5 also adds more gesture support, such as being able to flick your finger on the screen to scroll through long lists, which is welcome, not to mention long overdue. How about multitouch next? The Lock screen is definitely useful, as well. However, is this all revolutionary? No. Microsoft still needs to play a massive game of catch up. Still, though, the interface enhancements, as small as they are, do make Windows Mobile a friendlier operating system for consumers and provide a better user experience, making the phone easier to navigate and understand.