The HTC Touch Diamond for Sprint showed up a little early to the CTIA Fall 2008 party, after a certain news outlet leaked the information prematurely. However, our concern wasn't so much over the broken news but, rather, would Sprint's version be better than the unbearably slow unlocked Touch Diamond we reviewed back in late June? And the answer is yes. The Sprint Touch Diamond is noticeably snappier, though the Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone can still get bogged down when too many applications are running. You do get the boost of Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network and wireless options aplenty, with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. There's plenty to keep you entertained, too, with support for the carrier's multimedia services and a dedicated YouTube application.
Now, whether we like it or not, the Touch Diamond will and already has drawn comparisons to the Apple iPhone. Is the Touch better? Well, it has many good points. The TouchFlo 3D interface is cool and helps make the Windows Mobile device more intuitive, but you still can't beat the iPhone's ease of use and Web browsing. That said, for Sprint customers looking for a smartphone to balance work and play (serious business users may want to hold out for the HTC Touch Pro) and want more functionality than the Samsung Instinct can provide, the Touch Diamond is a good choice. The HTC Touch Diamond will be available for pre-order starting September 14 and will cost $249.99 (after rebates and discounts) with a two-year contract.
By name, the HTC Touch Diamond for Sprint is the same as the unlocked GSM version. However, a number of design changes inside and out make the Sprint model almost like a new device. First, the smartphone has more rounded edges and gets a splash of color with a burgundy back cover that features a smooth soft-touch finish. We were a little torn since we liked the cool prism effect of the GSM version, but also liked the color and feel of the Sprint model. Obviously, style is subjective so your preference may differ, but in general, we'd say both are attractive devices.
The Sprint Touch Diamond is slightly thicker and heavier than the current GSM Touch Diamond, but overall it's still a very compact smartphone, measuring 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and weighing 4.1 ounces. It feels solid and comfortable to use, and you should have no problem slipping the handset into a pants pocket or purse.
That said, we recommend using some kind of carrying case in order protect the gorgeous 2.8-inch VGA that dominates the front of the smartphone. The touch screen displays 262,000 colors and has a 640x480 pixel resolution for an extremely vibrant and crisp screen. It was definitely easy on the eyes whether we were viewing images, e-mails, or Web sites.
Of course, the allure of the Touch Diamond is the 3D TouchFlo interface. In general, it works the same way as the unlocked Touch Diamond. There is a toolbar along the bottom of the screen that lets you scroll left to right and launch applications with one touch. In several of the programs--more specifically e-mail, the camera, and music--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 Home Screen and interface has been tweaked and customized for Sprint. You still get the larger clock and you can view such information as upcoming appointments, missed calls, and new messages. The toolbar icons are slightly different, a little more aesthetically pleasing in our opinion, and you also get a dedicated Sprint TV shortcut. As far as ease of use, there's a slight learning curve to the TouchFlo interface. Basic navigation is pretty simple to master, but once in other applications, it can be confusing as to how to return to the previous screen or which swipe motions apply to the specific app.
As for text entry, you can use the onscreen keyboard, which you can switch from full QWERTY to compact QWERTY to phone keyboard or other formats, depending on your preference. Most of the time, we used the full QWERTY mode. It's pretty cramped; we had a number of mispresses and we weren't able to fire off text messages or e-mails with as much confidence or as fast as we could with a tactile keyboard. The other nuisance is when you have the keyboard open, it takes up about half of the screen, so if you're entering text into any field on the bottom half of the screen, it's covered up and you have to use the scroll bar to get back to the section.
Below the display you get some tactile controls, including Talk and End buttons, a Home shortcut, a back key, and a directional keypad with a center select button. The latter is also touch sensitive in certain applications. For example, you can use your thumb or finger to make a clockwise or counterclockwise circle to zoom in/out of Web pages. In addition, you can press the navigation keypad up, down, left, and right.
On the left spine, there is a volume rocker, while the mini USB port and stylus holder are located on the bottom. A power button is located on top of the unit and on the back you'll find the camera lens. We think there are a couple of flaws. First, the USB port serves as the audio jack and though Sprint includes an audio adapter in the box that has a 2.5mm and a 3.5mm headphone jack, we'd rather have the 3.5mm jack just built into the device. Also, like the unlocked GSM version, the Sprint Touch Diamond is not equipped with an expansion slot. True, there's 4GB of internal memory, but for those who have large multimedia libraries, this might be an issue.
Sprint packages the HTC Touch Diamond with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, a headset adapter, a belt holster case, an extra stylus, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please see our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
With the flashy TouchFlo interface, HTC Touch Diamond doesn't seem like your typical Windows Mobile smartphone, but if you dig deeper you'll find the usual suspects. The Touch Diamond runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition with the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite for editing native Word and Excel documents, and viewing PowerPoint presentations. In addition, the phone features Windows Live integration, and while you can use Internet Explorer Mobile, Sprint's Touch Diamond also ships with the Opera Web browser, which many argue is a superior mobile browser than IE. Other PIM tools include Adobe Reader LE, a Zip manager, a voice recorder, a calculator, a notepad, and a task manager (located at the upper right-hand corner of the screen) to help optimize CPU and memory usage.