Back in October 2008, we received the unfortunate news (through Twitter, of all things) that HTC would not bring its HTC Touch HD smartphone to the United States. The company wrote "... by the time we could bring Touch HD to the States, it would be old news. We do have other cool stuff coming." Fair enough, but we couldn't help but wonder if we were missing out on something great. Mostly, we couldn't take our eyes off the Touch HD's extra-large, 3.8-inch WVGA touch screen.
Well, thanks to our friends at eXpansys USA, we were able to get an unlocked version of the HTC Touch HD to take for a test drive, and in short, HTC was right. The smartphone's display is impressive, but beyond that, its features and performance are nothing extraordinary. In fact, we think the Touch HD doesn't quite live up to its name with disappointing video support and performance. Plus, it doesn't support U.S. 3G bands and with an unlocked price of $700, we want it all. If you're going to spend that kind of money, you'd get more with the or one of Nokia's N series devices. For now, we'll pass and look forward to HTC's upcoming products.
Boasting a 3.8-inch WVGA (480x800 pixels) touch screen, the HTC Touch HD features one of the largest displays (if not the largest display) on a smartphone, beating out other touch-screen devices like the Apple iPhone (3.5 inches), RIM BlackBerry Storm (3.25 inches), and Samsung Omnia (3.2 inches). Though it may seem like a couple tenths of an inch wouldn't make such a big difference, it's definitely noticeable when viewing messages, documents, and Web pages, since it's easier to read text and you can see more. The Touch HD's spacious screen certainly doesn't hurt in the photo and video department either. The high-resolution display makes images extra-sharp and colors pop that much more.
Given the larger screen, the Touch HD is slightly bulky. The handset measures 4.3 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and weighs 5.1 ounces, so it won't make the most comfortable fit in a pants pocket. The phone has a solid construction, however, and features a soft-touch finish on the back to gives it a nice, grippable texture.
Like the company's other Touch series devices, including the Touch Diamond and Touch Pro, the Touch HD features HTC's TouchFlo 3D interface, which consists of a tabbed toolbar along the bottom of the screen where you can scroll through various applications and information. Without having to go into the Start menu, you can easily access your messages, the Internet, multimedia, weather forecasts, and more. There's also a Programs tab where you can assign up to 24 buttons for one-touch access to your favorite apps.
The TouchFlo UI definitely goes a long way to make the Windows Mobile more user friendly. It's better organized than Samsung's TouchWiz interface, but it's still not intuitive as the iPhone's. Also, while you can scroll through lists easily with the finger swipes and zoom in on a Web site by double-tapping the screen, we'd be lying if we said we didn't miss the multitouch capabilities of the iPhone. The Touch HD's touch screen was mostly responsive, though there were a couple of occasions where the transition between menu tabs wasn't the smoothest (more on this in the Performance section). Another complaint is that the built-in accelerometer only works in a couple of applications, such as the Web browser and photos.
The Touch HD's onscreen QWERTY keyboard is similar in size to the iPhone's. The keys are marginally smaller, but it didn't pose a problem as we were able to compose text messages and e-mails with minimal errors. There is a landscape keyboard when the screen is in that mode, and the smartphone also provides other input methods as well, including a compact QWERTY, phone keypad, letter recognizer, and more. There are also options for auto correct, T9 word completion, and spell correction.
Since you'll be using the touch screen for most tasks, there aren't a ton of physical buttons on the HTC Touch HD. Below the display, you do get several of the standard phone controls, including Talk and End keys, a Home shortcut, and a back button. They are touch-sensitive controls and provide a vibrating tactile feedback. On the left side, there is a volume rocker, while the right side only has a stylus holder. You'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power button on top of the unit, and a mini USB port on the bottom. Finally, the camera and speaker are located on the back, and the SIM card holder and microSD expansion slot are behind the battery cover.
The accessories that come with the HTC Touch HD may vary depending on where you purchase the smartphone. Our review unit came with a charger, a USB cable, an 8GB microSD card, an extra stylus, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.
Once you get beyond the spacious display, you'll find that the HTC Touch HD is largely like other Windows Mobile devices. It runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition and comes with the standard Microsoft Office Mobile Suite for viewing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and Direct Push Technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. The Touch HD also supports HTML-formatted e-mail and you can access POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, which, in most cases, is a simple process of inputting your username and password. In addition to Internet Explorer Mobile, the handset also ships with the Opera Mobile Web browser out of the box, which allows for tabbed browsing, but, sadly, no Flash support. Like the Touch Diamond, however, there is a dedicated YouTube application.
Other reloaded PIM tools include Adobe Reader LE, a Zip Manager, WorldCard Mobile business card reader, a voice recorder, a task list, a task manager and switcher, and a calculator. You can, of course, add more applications to the smartphone based on your personal and business needs. There's no shortage of third-party apps for the Windows Mobile operating system; for title suggestions, check out Download.com.