I’ll give you a brief history about this site. It all started back in
2002 and we’ve been covering Windows Mobile faithfully even since.
However, a few years back a phone was launched that literally sent
shockwaves across the mobile phone landscape. Handset manufacturers are
all trying to immitate the interface, the experience and the easy of
use. The phone in question is Apples’ iPhone.
It arrives in quite a small, unassuming box. Inside the contents are
neatly designed to fit and everything is easy to find and setup. The
iPhone itself was larger than I assumed, but there’s rumours of a
smaller version already on the horizon.
We took an “unboxing” look at the iPhone in our introductory video and,
as a Windows Mobile user, I was all ready to leap on it and
scoff at the various problems with it. Y’know – no cut and paste, no
MMS etc etc. However, mid-way through looking at the iPhone, the guys
at Apple announced version 3.0 of the iPhone OS. It’ll be upgradeable
by all iPhone users, even early adopters, and it’ll bring copy and
paste, API’s, voice memos, MMS and landcape mode.
Damn.. Perhaps I should look into my iPhone criticisms box and find out
what’s left. Hmm.. 2 megapixel camera. Yeah, that’s rubbish isn’t it.
The pictures are blurry and… wait.. hold on a minute, most of the HTC
kit we’ve looked at in the last 6 years has had pretty blurry camera
quality. Sure, the Touch HD we’re comparing has got a 5 megapixel
shooter, but you’ve gotta hold the device pretty still for inside
shots. Let me have a look in that box again. AHA! I know.. You can’t
forward texts. Got a funny text from your mate? Want to forward it? You
….ah.. No, wait.. wait a minute. That’s fixed in iPhone OS 3.0 too.
The only criticisms I can dig out of my box are the lack of Bluetooth
file-transfer (which isn’t fixed in 3.0), lack of FM radio,
multi-tasking and battery power. To be honest I’m scraping the bottom
of the proverbial barrel here.
In this review we’re looking at the iPhone 3G 8GB and comparing it with
the nearest comparable Windows Mobile device – the HTC Touch HD. The
iPhone has a 480×320 screen and, to be honest, the HTC Touch HD easily
beats it with a WVGA 800×480 screen. The front of the iPhone has just
one button and, at the top, a grill for the earpiece. On the left side
there’s the volume up / down and a cool volume kill switch which, when
flicked, sets the phone into silent mode.
There’s a rounded feel to the phone due to the curvature of the back,
although the rear of the device is obviously a fingerprint magnet. Up
on the top strip of the iPhone there’s the power button and a very nice
3.5mm audio jack. Now, I know it’s a bit geeky to call a 3.5mm hole
“nice” but this is cut into the handset itself and is tiny but
excellent attention to detail.
Down at the base of the handset, which is split from the screen by a
silver band, is the iPhone dock connector and two speakers.
The back of the handset has a big Apple logo and the camera itself is
tucked up in the top left corner. I’m guessing they’ve done this to
keep it out of the way of possible scratches and hands. Our review unit
had already been through the wars somewhat and had a lot of scratches
on the back which did show the durability of thie thing if nothing
Inside we’ve got version 2 of the iPhone OS and there’s the App Store,
Microsoft Exchange push-email capability and all the iPod functionality
you come to expect. The 3G functionality is something that we, as
Windows Mobile fans, kinda expect in a phone anyway and, along with the
on-board WiFi, it showed Google Maps, TV, audio and other data quickly
and without hassle. Provided you’re near a WiFi hotspot or an o2 3G
mast you’re pretty much sorted. Strangely we found that the o2 coverage
was a whole lot better than it used to be when we tested the XDA
Exec some years back. As with all handsets though it does
tend to suck the battery dry fairly quickly when you’re downloading, so
you’ll find a lot of reviews mention battery life and the iPhone in one
sentance purely because they’re reviewing the thing and stressing it
out. I personally found that it did rather well, especially after a few
weeks when you’re using it “normally”. There’s accessories out there to
prolongue battery life should you need it.
We did various tests, like Google Maps running on both the iPhone and
the Touch HD. They both did well, although we had to ensure that the
“QuickGPS” application had downloaded recent data on the Touch HD
before we attempted to get a GPS lock. The iPhone initially told us we
were in a field somewhere, but it seems to begin by showing your “rough
location” in Google Maps using triangulation – not the GPS signal, then
it gets a more accurate position with the satellites. The more the
During testing we noticed several tiny but substantial bits of coolness
in the iPhone. When using the Safari internet browser it lets you zoom
in on the URL bar, when finding WiFi networks it’s intelligent and
quick, yet quiet and out-of-the-way when one has been located. The lack
of multi-tasking is perhaps a let-down for power-users but I found it
quite refreshing. How many Windows Mobile users wished that the
close-button actually closed stuff on your WinMo phone?
So, we tested the browser. The Safari browser works brilliantly well,
as does the Opera browser on the HTC Touch HD, however we found that –
whether it be memory management or the OS – the Safari browser was
smoother and simply a joy to use. Switching between tabs was like
gliding on ice. I’ll say it again and again. Smooth. Remember that
word, because I, as the consument, do not want
smooth-jutter-smooth-jutter. I just want smooth. No bumps, no “Hey, I
know you’re looking at your pictures right now, but I’ve just found a
wireless hotspot”. No! I’m looking at my pictures! If I wanted a
Wireless hotspot I’d ask you to find one, or I’d sit on the main home
screen. I’m busy right now, so go away.
As I went through this comparison I noted the strengths and weaknesses
of both handsets. The HTC Touch HD is far ahead when it comes to specs.
You can add more memory to it – stick a bigger microSD card in and
you’ve got instantly bigger storage. It’ll do video calling too, plus
there’s an in-built FM radio with RDS and that innovative TouchFLO 3D
control system by HTC. There’s TV-out too, a standard miniUSB port and
that 5 megapixel camera which has auto-focus, which the iPhone doesn’t.
There’s simply no denying that the Touch HD screen is gorgeous. Colours
are rich and the resolution is excellent.
I also have to mount praise onto HTC for the design of the externals
and the brilliant TouchFLO 3D interface we just mentioned. I believe
it’s done far more for Windows Mobile than Windows Mobile 6.5 will do
for the platform. Just look at the facts – HTC have designed a
smooth-flowing interface which has drop-kicked the Microsoft “Today”
screen back into the 1990’s where it belonged. Windows Mobile 6.5 is
introducing an interface which looks like the existing Microsoft Pocket
PC programs list, albeit with different scrolling and a funky
background. The TouchFLO system is quick, smooth and customizable. It’s
also an interface that most of the “ROM Cookers” (those people who
re-engineer the official OS for different handsets) will strive to
weave into their downloads. For me, if those guys are using it, then it
must be good.
So, technically the Touch HD wins and the interface on the HD may also
have the edge over the iPhone, however it’s the overall package that
matters and this is where Microsoft comes into play. The original idea
behind the Pocket PC, we presume, was for Microsoft to make the OS and
then everyone else could do anything to it. The logic was the same as
the desktop OS – like Windows XP for example. You can install Windows
XP but then you can download stuff that’ll give you a new interface
for example), new features, new applications. It was all
about customizing your phone to be what you want it to be. That’s why
we started this site – you could make your phone into a Cool
Smartphone. However, times have changed and the competition has raced
ahead. The problems started when things became a little too fragmented.
The “look and feel” of the original Windows Mobile OS was sometimes
maintained in applications, but sometimes it wasn’t. Then when
operators and manufacturers decided to take the OS and bolt a new GUI
on top, it made the existing programs, games, apps and Microsoft
built-in programs look clunky and disjointed with the main interface.
Things got worse for customers switching handsets as different control
panels appeared and a new interface had to be learnt, plus customers
also found that switching to a brand new handset was perhaps the only
way to update their phone.
So, when I wanted to buy an application on the iPhone I just went to
the App Store, browsed, bought, installed. On the Touch HD I had the
choice of online stores or direct downloads from publishers sites. Once
you find the application you want it’s then another battle to install
it. There’s CAB files, PC installers, Zip files and a confusing range
of payment methods, trials and device types to sift through. Some
developers have tried to work around the range of Windows Mobile
handsets by asking customers to browse to their site and it’ll
auto-detect what device you’re using. This works well if you’re using
Internet Explorer on your device, but if you choose another browser,
such as Skyfire, Opera or the Iris browser, it may not detect your
phone properly. Plus you’ve also got to type in the URL of the
developers website to get it in the first place. It’s painful, and
Microsoft are aware of this fact. They’re introducing their version of
the App Store, called Windows Marketplace, and it’ll arrive in the new
Windows Mobile 6.5 OS soon.
Yes, that’s right – in Windows Mobile 6.5. If you’ve got this spanky
Touch HD you’ll not be able to use a central shopping system, plus
you’ll not be able to upgrade the operating system either. Not unless
you want to download an “unofficial” OS anyhow. Seems unfair doesn’t
it? Indeed it is, and this is the problem. The Touch HD and other
Windows Mobile devices started off by mirroring the PC OS. You had your
base Operating System and you could go on the web or to the shop and
buy something to put on it. Great. But there’s one major problem. You
can upgrade the Operating System in your PC. Generally you can’t do
that with Windows Mobile, not unless you want to buy a whole new one.
Sure, that’s to be expected right? How do you sell PC’s if you don’t
upgrade the hardware and the OS too? That’s right, but when the
hardware of the phone is perfectly capable of running the new operating
system – as in this case – it seems a crime that you can’t upgrade it.
This is what customers expect now, at least from Microsoft. Whilst
low-end phones from Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are expected to be
binned every year or two, the high-end expensive Microsoft handsets
aren’t – not in customers eyes. The Touch HD and other Windows Mobile
phones can cost over £500 to buy unlocked. That’s a huge investment for
people. If they buy it on a contract it reduces the initial outlay but
there’s a massive delay before they can go and buy an even better phone
due to the contract length. We’ve all seen those 18 and 24 month
contracts. We want a high-end phone that can get better
during those 2 years of ownership, not just remain static and be
eclipsed by the iPhone with it’s continually evolving OS. This time
last year I could perhaps even raise a smile at the iPhone and show how
much better by Windows Mobile was, but soon that iPhone will be
receiving an update.. my phone won’t, not unless I throw it in the
trash or wait until my contract expires.
The “package”. Sure, you’re going to think I’m labouring this point
now, but the iPhone “package” lets me buy songs and sync them easily.
It lets me buy apps, TV shows and movies easily – it lets me transfer
them and play them easily. No additional software, no codecs to worry
about, no individual credit card payments, no confusion. Open iTunes,
search for music, download, sync, play. The package is complete, it’s
ready to go.
Put it this way. Let’s say that the iPhone is a DVD player. You take it
home, you plug it in, you buy a DVD. It arrives, you play it. It works.
The Touch HD, through no fault of it’s own, runs Windows Mobile and has
no integrated shop. Imagine this is a DVD player too. You buy it, take
it home, plug it in. But when you go to buy a DVD you find several
hundred shops, all selling DVD’s, but in different
formats. Some will work on your DVD player, some won’t. It can be
complicated, but at the end of the day it’s all about how you want to
use your phone.
You, as the Windows Mobile customer, may look at the iPhone and scoff
at the locked-down, rigid platform which is geared at making money for
Apple. iPhone customers will look at WinMo and perhaps mention the fact
that it’s a little disjointed between the hardward and the software. If
an iPhone user wants a burger, they go to the McDonalds drive-thru and
they’ll say, “Give me burger, I want burger”. If a WinMo owner wants a
burger then they’ll have the choice of bread, burgers and toppings –
they can go to any supermarket and get any burger they want.
Things are changing too. Windows Mobile is turning into “my
Windows Phone” and moves are being made to maintain choice but make the
selection process easier – make the OS more friendly, make using it
Apple are doing the same with iPhone 3.0 and theyr’e also bringing more
and more Enterprise options in their attempt at crossing over from
“just” a consumer phone. Exchange sync was a major step forward, and
during the coming months it appears that both OS’s are trying to do
more of what the other one excels in.
iPhone however, still suffers from only being available from one
operator in each country. In the US, only AT&T sell the device.
In the UK, it’s o2. There’s some unlocked iPhones appearing but Windows
Mobile still has a greater range of networks and a huge
factors. Phones with sliding QWERTY keyboards, numeric keypads, touch
screen, non-touch screen, exandable memory and
Choice is another keyword. I’ll admit to being quite keen on the iPhone
because everything is easy to do, but usually there’s only one channel
or one way to do it. I love the fact that I can plug my Windows Mobile
into my computer, see a big file system, download some MP3’s off the
net and drag them across to my phone. I love the fact that there’s
usually eighteen different ways of doing everything. The freedom of
choice is there.
Both handsets pack the YouTube application, both have on-screen
keyboards. The iPhone perhaps wins the battle of keyboards purely
because of the multi-touch aspect, but the Touch HD and it’s huge
screen means that typing isn’t a problem in the first place.
This top photo was taken in one of our videos. The left shot was taken
with the iPhone whilst the right was taken with the Touch HD. As with
all our reviews, just click the image and you can get the original.
The top row of these photos were taken with the iPhone on a trip out
These shots were taken with the Touch HD..
It’s hard to decide a winner. The iPhone will easily kick the Touch HD
when it comes to handling and getting music, TV shows and software. It
is a phone for people who don’t want to “mess” – it does what it says
on the tin and it’ll do it easily. The Touch HD is more capable, with a
better camera, potentially bigger storage and greater flexibility. It
offers a fantastic interface and HTC have almost single-handedly held
the OS together over the last year with the TouchFLO 3D system.
Like I said before, it’s all down to how you want to use a phone. If
you want a phone that’ll do everything simply, effectively and with a
beautiful interface, get an iPhone. If you want a large range of
handsets with physical keyboards, numeric keypads, a range of screen
sizes, styles and specification plus a fantastic interface, get a HTC
Windows Mobile. In the case of this review though, where we pitched the
Touch HD against the iPhone, we’re really struggling. The iPhone is
upgradeable to a new OS through official channels. The Touch HD is not,
although a quick look at xda-developers.com
will sort that (unofficially). The Touch HD has a better camera, better
battery life, an FM radio and is more flexible. The iPhone has a
collosal backing across the web with companies falling over themselves
to make iPhone apps and iPhone formatted websites, plus it’s
got an interface I just couldn’t fault.
For me personally, I’m sticking with the HD, but I’ll admit that this
has been one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written and, to be
honest, the mainstream user should probably and will definitely go for
the iPhone due to it’s integrated app store, music store, upgrade
capability and following.