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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.
The Touch Diamond supports Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. You can also configure the smartphone to access POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, which, in most cases, is a simple process of inputting your username and password. We were able to set up our Yahoo account on our review unit with no problem and started receiving e-mail within a few minutes. Sprint offers a download that installs three of the major instant-messaging clients--AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger--onto the phone.
Voice features include a speakerphone, voice dialing and commands, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory and you can store multiple numbers for a single entry, as well as home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 64 polyphonic ringtones. The smartphone also has Bluetooth 2.0 that supports mono- and stereo-Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, file sharing, dial-up networking, and more. If you want to use the Touch Diamond as a modem for your laptop, you will need to sign up for a Sprint Power Vision Modem Plan, which runs $39.99 per month for 40MB or $49.99 per month for unlimited.
Whether you're using it as a modem or just cruising the Web on your device, you should get some good speed given that the HTC Touch Diamond works with Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network. The Rev. A bumps up download speeds to the 600Kbps-to-1.4Mbps range versus 400Kbps-to-700Kbps, while upload speeds will average around 350Kpbs to 500Kpbs (compared with EV-DO's 50Kpbs to 70Kbps). In short, you're going to get faster Web browsing, e-mail, and downloads--that is, if you live in a coverage area (you can find a coverage map from Sprint's site. Alternatively, you can also hop onto any available hot spot, since the smartphone also has integrated Wi-Fi.
The final wireless feature on the Touch Diamond is GPS. A utility called QuickGPS is also installed on the device to speed up the time it takes to find your position; it works by downloading the latest satellite information via an Internet connection. You can get some basic navigation tools with Google Maps but for more robust capabilities, you'll have to turn to a location-based service (LBS) like Sprint Navigation. The LBS offers turn-by-turn text- and voice-guided directions, traffic updates, local search, and more. Sprint Navigation is free for the first day of use, but afterwards, you will have to pay $2.99 per day or $9.99 per month for unlimited use.
The HTC Touch Diamond wants to provide you a nice balance between work and play, so there are plenty of entertainment features on the smartphone. To start, there's support for Sprint's various multimedia services, including Sprint TV and the Sprint Music Store. Sprint offers these services as part of the Sprint Power Vision pack, which ranges in price from $15 to $25 per month. Sprint TV gives you access to programming from a variety of channels, including CNN, Comedy Central, and Sprint Exclusive Entertainment. In addition, you can listen to live streaming music and talk radio from Sirius, VH1 Mobile, and MTV Mobile. Meanwhile, the Sprint Music Store offers simultaneous track downloads both to your PC and wirelessly to your phone. Songs cost $0.99, or you can get a six-pack for $5.94.
You can, of course, transfer your personal library to the smartphone. Windows Media Player 10 Mobile supports a number of audio and video formats, including AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, WMV files, and more. The HTC Touch Diamond also has some multimedia extras, including a YouTube-dedicated app, a streaming-media program, and a utility called MP3 Trimmer that allows you to cut and trim MP3 files and make them into ringtones. Given all this multimedia goodness, we have to say again that we're disappointed by the lack of expandable media.
Finally, the Touch Diamond is equipped with a 3.2-megapixel camera with up to 4x zoom and video recording capabilities. There are six capture modes (photo, video, panorama, MMS video, contacts picture, and picture theme). For still photos, you have a choice of five resolutions and four quality settings, in addition to white balance and brightness controls. Other tools at your disposal include a photo counter, a self timer, flicker adjustment, and various effects. In video mode, you get four resolutions as well as white balance, brightness, and effects.
Picture quality was a little disappointing, since colors looked very dull and flat. It's too bad since objects were clearly defined and otherwise looked good. Video quality was also pretty poor with very dark and grainy clips.
We tested the dual-bad (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) HTC Touch Diamond in San Francisco using Sprint service and call quality was decent. On our end, the audio was mostly clear but at times we could hear a slight background hiss. It wasn't anything that interrupted the conversation, and we had no problems using an airline's voice-automated response system. Meanwhile, our friends had no complaints and were impressed by the clarity of the phone call. Unfortunately, speakerphone quality wasn't the greatest for either party. Volume was pretty weak on our side, our callers said we sounded tinny, and there was a slight echo. We had no problems pairing the Touch Diamond with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
The most impressive thing we noticed about the Sprint HTC Touch Diamond is how much more responsive and snappier the smartphone felt in general usage. We didn't experience any of that frustrating delay when trying to perform simple tasks like switching between menus or launching applications. That said--as with other Windows Mobile devices, the more applications we had in use, the slower the device responded, particularly some of the multimedia features like Sprint TV.
As far as multimedia performance, music playback through the phone's speakers sounded a bit tinny and harsh. There wasn't very much warmth or bass to the songs. Video quality was mixed. We watched some clips using Sprint TV and YouTube and the picture quality was pretty atrocious, with lots of pixelation and some interrupted playback. However, when watching a WMV clip from our personal library, it was perfectly fine. We used both Wi-Fi and Sprint's network to connect to the Web and had no major issues.
The HTC Touch Diamond's 1,340mAh lithium ion battery has a rated talk time of 4.2 hours. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 4.5 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Touch Diamond has a digital SAR rating of 0.85 watt per kilogram.