HTC Touch 3G

Hey, remember nearly a year and a half ago? HTC sent us something called the HTC Touch. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before. Up until the arrival of the HTC Touch most Pocket PC handsets were either fairly bulky or brick-shaped. The HTC Touch arrived and I opened the box upside down. I kept looking for the phone because the small pebble-shaped object that fell out was the battery… or so I thought.

First up here’s a couple of videos to show the HTC Touch 3G in action ..







The original version of the HTC Touch had a lot of features, but lacked 3G. To address this the new version gets the 3G technology and an obvious name to help people realise what’s inside. Sure, WiFi is on board, but you’ll also get a new enhanced HTC TouchFLO system, a 3.2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, microSD and a stack more. 3G / HSDPA is on board but there’s no camera for video calls. Hmm.. now, let’s deal with this straight away shall we? Ask yourself, when was the last time you wanted to make a 3G video call? Some people will want to, and may have a loved one that they’d like to see through the wonders of video calling, but for me I’m not that fussed. Give me a fast data connection, that’ll do me fine.

The Touch 3G is a little thinner and shorter than the HTC Touch Dual. It’s thinner too, and somehow more elegant despite looking quite similar. HTC have created a fairly understated design here. Black frontage, grey border around the screen, black rear and a silver belt around the centre with what looks like just two buttons.

Inside the new HTC TouchFLO system brings the YouTube player, the excellent Opera web browser with true finger-friendly navigation, Google maps (that’ll make use of your GPS nicely) and an RSS hub. You also benefit from fast and silky access into weather forecasts, music, media, pictures and the comonly used settings like ringtone selection and wallpaper choice.

The screen itself is bright and crisp with colours looking vibrant and clear. It’s a 240×320 screen which, while not quite up to the HTC Touch Diamond standard, is sufficient for this device. Nagh – I mentioned the HTC Touch Diamond. What are the differences ? Well, there’s no FM radio here, or tilt sensor… or 3D graphics accelerator etc, but you still get a lightweight handset with the Opera browser, GPS, 3.2 megapixel, YouTube, WiFi
and 3G / HSDPA. The Touch 3G, like most of the recent HTC devices, will also automatically detect the SIM card you put in and setup the data / MMS settings automatically if you get the unlocked one from devicewire.com.

Let’s take a look around the handset, starting with the back (for a change).
There’s a smooth battery cover with speaker and a 3.2 megapixel camera. This
hasn’t got a plastic cover over the camera, so images should be crystal clear.
The images this produces can be seen a little later on in this review.

 

In the daylight, above, you can see that the handset looks
black, however the one we’re reviewing here is brown – you can see this better
in the shot below..

The Touch 3G maintains the smooth pebble shape and is very
comfortable to hold. I love the smooth yet cushioned back. Meanwhile around the
front there’s a warning on the screen which tells you not to put the phone in
your pants while you sit down. this is something that will no doubt raise a
smile from the British audience, as underpants are generally known as pants…

I’m guessing that HTC have had quite a few returns after people
have sat on the phone. This is something that has probably gone on since phones
have been small enough to fit into pockets. While we’re here, let’s take a look
at the box. This is what we received – the handset, battery, charger, USB cable,
headphones / headset and a screen protector.

The top of the handset has a power button which is smaller than
we’ve seen on other handsets, but it is easy to locate and press. You can also
see the earpiece "grill" and the LED’s along with the stylus, which is on the
lower left of this image..

The left side of the Touch 3G has a long and thin volume control. I like
this, it’s a little out of the ordinary but still does the trick very well.

Then as we head towards the bottom of the device you can see the
miniUSB port, microphone and the main controls. They’re slightly raised but
still understated, and there’s no "soft keys" for activating the two menu
options at the bottom of the main screen. Just hit the screen itself to achieve
this.

If we take the back off and the battery out you’ll see where the
SIM and the microSD card live. The microSD will click in and out of place,
whilst the SIM card (at least in this unit) slid into place and needed a little
encouragement to come back out again – no spring-loaded mechanism from what I
could see. You’ll also notice a red "Reset" button for when things go wrong ..

Inside

Let’s take a little look inside the handset courtesy of our usual batch of
screen shots. The Touch 3G runs and HTC TouchFLO system and you’ll notice
instantly how similar it is to the Touch FLO 3D system in the HTC Touch Diamond.
It’s a close match and, even without the graphics accelerator and VGA screen, it
does a fantastic job at lifting Windows Mobile 6.1 off the page. There’s just no
way that anyone should be releasing Windows Mobile 6.1 without any attempt at
GUI customisation now – especially when HTC have raised the bar so high over the
last year or two.

Below is the main "home" tab showing the time, alarm setting (this would show
the time if I’d set it) and there’s fast access into your calendar, call history
and the network / battery status tabs in all screens. The "People" tab will let
you add your most used contacts, which will sync with your computer contacts. If
you’ve got more than 6 most-used contacts, don’t worry – this screen scrolls up
and down. The image you assign to your contacts will be displayed on each button
- press it to dial that person. Everything works quickly and installed programs run speedily too thanks to the faster CPU.


On the next couple of tabs you can access your texts and email
messages. These will appear on the screen, but you can go into the message to
read it in full detail. Flick up and down to go through your messages or create
a new one with that little "pencil" button on the top right. The variety of
on-screen QWERTY keyboards that HTC provide do a great job in allowing data
entry to the phone.

 




The Opera browser, which if we’re honest is a million times better than Internet Explorer, is included. It’ll offer quick and fluid access into your favourite websites and includes favourites, tabbed browsing, zooming and the text wrapping we saw in the video above. You can also go straight into your favourites from this main screen. In the below shot you can see me browsing coolsmartphone.com. The page itself appears in the exact same way to your desktop machine so you don’t need to worry about finding special mobile-specific websites when you’re on the move. The standard Internet Explorer browser is included too of course, but it’s tucked away in the usual “Pocket PC”-style interface.







The YouTube application, which you’ve hopefully seen in the videos above, will let you watch the entire range of YouTube content on the move. It will use quite a bit of data, so ensure that you’re connected to WiFi or you’ve get a decent data plan when you’re sucking down the latest Britney video on 3G. Search options and top rated videos are accessible here – I’m watching one of our very own videos here..






You can also twiddle the playback settings to get the best quality should you wish…




On the next tab we’ve got the pictures and videos selection. This is where you fire up the camera – there’s no dedicated button for snapping people on this phone, so this’ll be your access point. The pictures you’ve taken will slide up and down just by using your finger to push them, then you’ll hope into the HTC Album software to have your pictures in a slideshow. You can also MMS or email photos from here etc.



The camera application itself is easy to use and comes with a range of options including brightness, white balance, resolution, storage type, timer and capture type.







The images produced by the 3 megapixel shooter struggled in low light and this particular handset seemed to give images a slightly washed-out feel. This could be due to the ROM I was using, so I’ll have to reserve judgement for now. There’s no light and, as is usual with HTC cameras, you’ll have to hold the phone absolutely still to take a shot in anything less than daylight. That said, the extra resolution does give your pictures an extra sharpness.


As usual you can click on the images below to see the original shots direct from the HTC Touch 3G itself..








The next tab allows you to listen to MP3s stored on your device. The microSD card slot will let you save stacks of music which will show up here for you to choose. Again you can flick these images with your finger just to listen to different tracks, then press play. You can also skip through songs and choose which part of the tune you’d like to listen to. There’s a full music library system, shuffle, repeat and an audio booster to get better sound quality when your headset is plugged in..






The weather tab, which we showed you in the video above, will let you choose your local city and get the weather forecast. It concentrates more on cities rather than your local town or village, and data is pulled automatically with “roaming data” turned off as default so you don’t get a huge bill. You can have many different locations, which is always handy if you’re darting between places or just want to know what you’re missing out on abroad. Some of the weather details are animated – like the rain forecast we saw in the video, and it’s easy to remove cities or update the weather forecast on-the-fly.




The next tab interfaces into Google Maps and will let you search the map for points of interest or locations. If I wanted a pizza in London I’d simply enter “pizza in london”. Here I’m going to look for a pub in Birmingham, UK.




I like the sound of that Irish bar, so let’s choose it. Once you do so there’s more information so you can contact them and find out what sort of payment they do etc. The owner of the business may have provided other information which might be of use, such as disabled access, opening times etc.




OK, sounds good. Now all I need are directions…




As you get closer to the destination you can zoom in to get a better idea where you’re heading, plus it’ll keep track of your location with the on-board GPS..




On the next tab there’s access into your settings. This is where you change the background, ringtones and go into the communication settings. Turn WiFi / Bluetooth on or off in this screen.




On the last tab there’s a quick-access grid to get you into any programs you may have installed. You can quickly add or remove them in a similar fashion to the contacts tab we saw earlier. Here you’ll notice an RSS reader. This will keep you up to date with your favourite news sites or personal blogs – just put the appropriate RSS link in and you’re hooked into the latest info.









Conclusion

The Touch 3G maintains the cute looks of the original HTC Touch with enhanced speed and a lot of extras. It’s a refined and understated handset which hides the Microsoft Pocket PC graphical interface well. Buy this and you’ll benefit from a cool phone with all the geeky bits you’ll ever need like Microsoft Office Mobile for editing documents, contacts and schedule sync. You’ll also get the cool stuff – YouTube videos, fast browsing, a smooth interface, Google Maps, weather updates, camera, music and photo albums.


The HTC camera still struggles in low light, but apart from that everything is flawless. It’s dimensions and design will appeal many and it’s a great addition to the HTC lineup. HTC have crammed in an excellent GUI in the shape of HTC TouchFLO and, even without the fancy graphics processor seen in the Diamond, it’s such a leap forward for Windows Mobile handsets.


If you want one of these, head on over to devicewire.com – there’s a choice of colours and they’re currently selling for £333.99, network free. Price is at time of writing.