Thoughts On The HTC Touch Pro 2 - InformationWeek

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IoT
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8/12/2009
04:57 PM
Marin Perez
Marin Perez
Commentary
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Thoughts On The HTC Touch Pro 2

I've spent a good amount of time with HTC's Touch Pro 2 for T-Mobile, and this beast has a long feature set that will make smartphone fans drool. But is the Windows Mobile-powered gadget just a good device on paper?

I've spent a good amount of time with HTC's Touch Pro 2 for T-Mobile, and this beast has a long feature set that will make smartphone fans drool. But is the Windows Mobile-powered gadget just a good device on paper?Hardware

There's no way around it: the HTC Touch Pro 2 is a brick. It's a hefty device that just feels bigger than it really is (full specs here). With that said, it's not entirely unwieldy, and it still easily fits in a pocket.

The size of the device means it has more room for a big screen, and the 3.6-inch display is gorgeous. Whether you're shooting off an e-mail, surfing the Web, or watching a video, the 800 by 480 screen is crisp and sharp, and colors are vibrant. It is a resistive screen though, and it's not as responsive as the capacitive screen found on the iPhone or the Pre. Still, it's pretty responsive with or without the stylus, and the accelerometer adjusts the orientation quickly.

The bulk of the device also gives ample room for a large, slide-out QWERTY keyboard. You can slide it out horizontally and then flip up the screen about 45 degrees for a real mobile computing experience. The keys are big, have plenty of room between them, and are the right mix of "clicky" and responsive. There's a full row for numbers too, so you won't have to mess around with the alternative button to include a phone number in messages. There's also auto-correction software in there, but it's so easy to quickly type messages that this hardly comes into play.

T-Mobile is offering it in a mocha color, and it's stylish and snazzy. I know the Zune got a lot of grief for its brown color, but I've had enough of silver and black products - bring on more brown gadgets. I also like how this version has the microSD slot accessible from the side of the device instead of behind the back cover. This isn't a major deal, but it's nice to hot swap memory cards if needed.

Software

The software is both frustrating and easy to use. First of all, it's been a while since I've used a Windows Mobile device as my primary phone, so it took me a while to get into Microsoft's lame user paradigm (downloading apps from the browser, finding them, and installing them is a chore). I got really frustrated the first 10 minutes while trying to set up my usual things - Facebook app, Google Sync, etc. - because things like the iPhone, Android, webOS, and even BlackBerry have conditioned me to expect more intuitive interfaces.

But once you start getting into the groove, this is a nice phone to get things done with. Like most of its modern devices, HTC layered on their own user interface on top of the OS. TouchFLO 3D isn't changed that much from previous versions, and it's still finger-friendly, generally very aesthetically pleasing, and offers a good amount of customization. Like other versions though, the jump from the TouchFLO UI to the underlying one can be somewhat jarring, especially in the mail clients.

Messaging and e-mail are top notch too, as it has Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time syncing with Outlook e-mails, contacts, and calendaring. Web-based providers like Yahoo Mail and Gmail can also be brought to the device relatively easily, and the large keyboard makes shooting off e-mails a breeze. The texting client's rock solid but nothing to write home about, and it's capable of supporting a smorgasbord of instant messaging programs.

The Touch Pro 2 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, but it should be upgradable to the 6.5 version that's expected to be released in the fourth quarter. I think that decision will ultimately be up to T-Mobile, but there are other places to go to get it.

Call Quality, Data, Multimedia

Call quality was really strong, whether I was on the move or stationary. HTC's making a big hubbub about the handset's speakerphone, and it is actually really good. You can activate the speakerphone by laying the phone face down on a surface, and there's also a mute button. I tried this mode with multiple people, and they knew I was on speakerphone but said the call quality was very clear. The Straight Talk feature combines a lot of voice, messaging, and e-mail features, and it makes it really simple to create a conference call by selecting names from your inbox. Overall, the call management software is excellent, and will be appreciated by any mobile worker.

The handset can take advantage of T-Mobile's growing 3G network, and I found speedy data reception throughout most of San Francisco. Speeds are pretty consistent with what you'd get from Verizon or Sprint, but I did not run official speed tests. One little quirk I don't like in the software is that the big browser icon launches you into mobile Internet Explorer instead of the superior Opera Mobile that's also on deck.

I gave up my car earlier this year, as living in San Francisco just made it a ticket magnet. As such, my commutes consist of walking or public transportation, and I've long since ditched an iPod in favor of a music-capable phone. Because of this, I absolutely loathe multimedia-capable handsets that don't have a standard headphone jack, and, unfortunately, the Touch Pro 2 falls into this category. You have to use a stupid USB dongle converter for regular headphones, and it looks like that won't be the case for the Sprint version. I know this is a minor issue for many of you, but this does hurt this handset's ability to be a true convergence device. It's a shame too because this thing could be a multimedia beast: it can play pretty much any normal video or audio standard, download podcasts on the go, and the screen's gorgeous.

The Final Take

It's a bulky handset packed to the gills with features, and the large keyboard and best-in-class speakerphone make the Touch Pro 2 a good choice for mobile professionals. There are still some hiccups with Windows Mobile, and the lack of a standard headphone jack angers me to no end, but neither is enough for me to disparage this handset. This should be winding up on pretty much every major carrier, so you might want to wait for your carrier to nab it because T-Mobile's $349.99 price with a new contract is a little too high for my taste.

Any questions about the Touch Pro 2 that this review didn't address? Leave me a comment, drop me a line at [email protected], or tweet me @marinperez, and I'll get back to you. I've got a backlog of handsets that I'm giving the once-over, so watch this space for some more reviews over the next few weeks.

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