The relatively inexpensive Touch Viva is a touchscreen Windows Mobile smart phone with a surprisingly snappy interface. It lacks the bells and whistles of higher-end handsets, but handles the basics well and provides an enjoyable email experience -- despite its lack of 3G
The HTC Touch Viva is a simple-looking phone with simple ambitions. There's no 3G and no GPS, but do fewer features mean it's a bad smart phone? We tested the Viva out to see if it's too simple for its own good or if it's a bargain.
You can pick up a Viva for around £250 SIM-free from online shops such as eXpansys.
If you've seen the original HTC Touch, you won't discern a great difference in the Viva's appearance. A relatively slim, plastic casing houses a resistive touchscreen. The Viva's screen dips in, rather than being flush against the bezel. Underneath the screen is an easy-to-press navigation key, flanked by the send and end-call keys.
Instead of having the matte, rubbery finish found on the original Touch, the Viva is glossy. We didn't mind this, but you may find it looks like a lower-quality product. One advantage of a glossy finish is that it slips more easily into a pocket and, impressively, our unit didn't seem to pick up any fingerprint marks.
As with most HTC devices, there's a built-in stylus, but we found the screen responsive enough to use with our fingers. Our only criticism is that the edges of the screen do get in the way of pressing it comfortably. Windows Mobile being what it is, you will inevitably find that you need to use the stylus at times, which we're not crazy about.
The Viva isn't a high-end smart phone and, as such, lacks some bells and whistles. There's no 3G or GPS, but you do get Wi-Fi and a revamped TouchFLO interface that's similar to TouchFLO 3D and runs really fast. In fact, we think it's one of the fastest Windows Mobile phones we've used.
When you turn the Viva on, a series of finger-friendly icons appears on the bottom of the screen, allowing you to quickly scroll to your messages, contacts or even weather updates. HTC's attempt at making Windows Mobile more usable isn't bad, but you do find yourself fiddling with small icons every now and then.
HTC has managed to make the Windows Mobile messaging interface much more usable. You can select from several on-screen keypads, including a full Qwerty or a standard mobile-phone keypad. Both work well, but we found using the stylus faster than using our fingers.
Another smart move by HTC is using Opera Mobile 9.5 as a browser instead of Internet Explorer Mobile, which doesn't render pages as well. Opera Mobile allows you to zoom in and out of full Web pages and also lets you open tabs, making browsing the Web straightforward and enjoyable.
If it's email prowess you're after, the Viva performs well, whether you need Gmail or Microsoft Exchange, and set-up is very straightforward. We set up our Gmail account in seconds, but you may find that setting up Exchange accounts takes more time and may require the assistance of an office IT administrator, if available.
The lack of 3G becomes annoying when you want to download data quickly. Whether it's browsing the Web or trying to download a picture, the Viva would be a much better phone if it had 3G. The HTC Touch 3G, which is essentially the same phone, does have 3G, so if you are prepared to pay a little more, buy that instead.
When it comes to viewing media, the Viva lets you scroll through pictures by flicking them across the screen, and you can zoom in and out of them by rotating your finger on the screen. This method isn't as smooth as using the iPhone's pinching motion, but it works. Video playback looks okay, but the screen isn't the sharpest we've ever seen.
The Viva's camera takes still pictures and video but, with only a 2-megapixel sensor, its images aren't fantastic. If you only want to send small pictures via MMS or view shots on the Viva's screen, it works well. Video is grainy but watching higher-resolution videos that you've downloaded is pleasant enough.
The TouchFLO music player looks good but, in practice, we found it easier to use Windows Media Player Mobile, which has better on-screen controls. Rather than having to stumble through the Windows Mobile menu to get to the music player, you can add a shortcut to the TouchFLO 'programs' tab, which makes things much easier.
From the TouchFLO shortcut menu, which you can get to by sliding your finger across the on-screen slider at the bottom, you can also access YouTube. The YouTube app works best via Wi-Fi, and there's a competent mobile version of the popular video site that's useful if you want to share videos with friends.
One of the Viva's most disappointing aspects is its lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack -- you're stuck having to use the earphones in the box, and they're not great. It's a small detail, but we think the jack is essential on today's smart phones and, hopefully, something we'll see on all future HTC handsets.
In terms of features, the Viva is rather pedestrian, but it does perform well overall. We found the interface surprisingly fast and, if you're looking for a Windows Mobile phone that does the basics and does them well, this is definitely a contender.
Battery life is quoted at 480 minutes' talk time and 270 hours' standby time. We found that, with moderate use, the battery lasted for over a day. These figures will, of course, change depending on how much you use certain features, such as Wi-Fi. You may also want to check how often you send and receive emails, as this is a major battery drainer.
The HTC Touch Viva is a basic Windows Mobile device that will disappoint anyone looking for a high-end smart phone with all the trimmings. But what we really like about the Viva is that it's snappy and does the basics well. There's no 3G or GPS and yet we still enjoyed using it for email.
The Viva will suit you if you need access to email and Microsoft documents. But, if you want to write long emails and simply can't handle a touchscreen, check out HTC's Touch Pro or S740, which feature full, mechanical Qwerty keypads. Or, if you'd rather avoid HTC altogether, check out the BlackBerry Curve 8900.
Edited by Charles Kloet