HTC Touch2 review: HTC Touch2

Something else we miss in Windows Mobile 6.5 is multi-touch capability, whereby you can zoom in on photos and maps by pinching your fingers together on the screen. The iPhone brought this functionality to town, but it's a feature now also shared by the Hero and Palm Pre.

The Touch2 makes up for the multi-touch deficit by having a touch-sensitive area under the screen that lets you zoom in or out by sliding a finger across it. We prefer this to on-screen buttons that hide parts of the image, but it's still not as accurate as multi-touch, because you can only zoom into the centre of the page. On a Web page covered in tiny links, zooming is essential, and multi-touch is so intuitive and speedy compared to other methods that we just don't want to live without it anymore.

On the other hand, we welcome Windows Mobile 6.5 with open arms, due to some useful improvements. The most obvious on the Touch2 is the inclusion of bigger, finger-friendlier icons and menus. The start menu, for example, is a staggered list of big icons, instead of the tiny icons of yesteryear. We only wish the makeover had gone further, because applications like Windows Media Player still look dated and haven't had a usability overhaul.

Back right up
Microsoft's app store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, wasn't up and running on our sample Touch2. There was just a splash screen, boasting 'coming soon'. In the meantime, there are still hundreds of great apps for Windows Mobile that you can put on the Touch2, but there's no easy way to find or install them.

The Qwerty keyboard's keys are tiny. A landscape option would have improved the typing experience

The other flagship service touted by Microsoft, My Phone, was up and running. Similar to Apple's MobileMe and Nokia's Ovi, not to mention a host of other offerings, My Phone offers a Web-based service that backs up and syncs your phone over the air. That means no more plugging in a USB cable to sync contacts, transfer photos and music, or back up files from your phone to your computer.

We found My Phone easy to use, both on the phone and in our Web browser, which isn't Internet Explorer. We especially like the simplicity of the My Phone Web site, and the fact that you can upload media files that you want to transfer to your phone, although huge movies are a no-no, since there's a file-size limit. The service lacks the ability to track your phone by its GPS signal, or wipe it remotely, but Microsoft says it's still in beta, so more features are likely to be on the horizon.

Besides these new services, the Touch2 is packed with the wealth of features that we've come to expect from HTC's Windows Mobile handsets. You can record video, listen to music in umpteen file formats, snap photos on the 3.2-megapixel camera, and save everything to a microSD card. There's also an FM radio, or you can stream audio over Wi-Fi or 7.2Mbps HSPA, and you'll hear everything as it's meant to be heard, thanks to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Touch2 is easier to use than previous Windows Mobile handsets, thanks to the combination of Windows Mobile 6.5's finger-friendlier interface and HTC's TouchFlo. This pint-sized phone is easy to pop in a pocket, but it offers a relatively small touchscreen, and, without a landscape version of the on-screen keyboard, you'll still have to wield the stylus, unless you have sharp fingernails. New services, like My Phone, should help the Touch2 bridge the gap with its competitors, but, until Windows Marketplace for Mobile is up and running, it trails far behind in terms of usability.

Edited by Charles Kloet