It’s no secret that my current obsession is Apple’s iPhone. Perhaps, for PC Advisor readers, I should point out that I’m Macworld’s editor and – as such – am widely regarded as bit of an Apple fanboy.
The iPhone has had me hooked since it was first announced. It’s not hard to see why. It has all my favourite things in a small Jonathan Ive-designed package: it’s pocket-sized, stylish; it offers internet and email; it plays music and video. All of which is controlled by a swanky touchscreen interface.
Anyway, my friends over here at PC Advisor thought it would be interesting to get my opinion on the new HTC Touch phone. I’ll swiftly gloss over the fact that it’s clearly ‘inspired’ by the iPhone and point out that ‘it’s pocket-sized, stylish; it offers internet and email; it plays music and video. All of which is controlled via a swanky touchscreen interface.’
More here: First look: HTC's Touch vs Apple iPhone
The HTC Touch is an iPhone ‘rip’ from head to toe. But it’s out first, which raises an interesting point. Steve Jobs may claim that the iPhone is revolutionary, but it’s clearly not. Everything it offers can be done today – I just have been doing so in fact. I’ve been using a completely touch-screen mobile phone to place calls, send texts, surf the net and check my email. It may not have a Google-maps app, but it has Microsoft Office and Live Messenger support - so let’s not split hairs.
What it doesn’t have is ‘Designed by Apple in California’ stamped on the back. This may sound trite but I think it’s a pertinent point. One thing that Apple does well is design user-interfaces. Something that the HTC Touch half has, and half doesn’t.
The problem is that the HTC Touch is based upon Windows Mobile 6.0. This is a very powerful, but infinitely fiddly system, ultimately designed to be used by stylus wielding bean-counters and not the fat fingers and thumbs of the general public. I could discuss the feature set of Windows Mobile 6.0 with an avid Windows user till we’re both blue in the face, but I still don’t have the time or inclination to use a fingernail to aim at a 3x3mm icon.
HTC have clearly seen the iPhone interface in action and decided to add a new interface to the system, called TouchFLO. This is designed for our unwieldy fingers. Slide a finger from the bottom to the top of the screen and TouchFLO springs into action. It offers big thumb sized icons for all your favourite tasks (email, internet, phone calls); sliding left and right swooshes the menu around to bring up a list of favourite contacts or access to music and videos.
TouchFLO is an incredibly stylish touch, and by far the best thing about the phone. Sadly, when you pick an option (such as music or email) it instantly backs out to Windows Mobile 6.0.
I couldn’t get the HTC Touch to sync via my Mac. Hardly surprising seeing as it’s a new operating system and Microsoft doesn’t offer Apple support. More annoying is that, so far, I can’t get my Vista PC to sync with it either. So far it just comes up as an unsupported device and the device driver has a big exclamation mark above it.
So far I can’t get music and movies on the device, which limits any testing. However, I’ll sort it out somehow.
One thing I will say is this: ‘I’d bet my last pound that the minute I slot an iPhone into either a PC or Mac computer, iTunes will kick into action and the whole thing will be sorted out, synced up, and ready to roll within minutes’.
For all that I like the HTC Touch. It’s clearly a cut above your average smart phone and a good attempt to put a more intelligent and user-friendly interface on top of Windows Mobile 6. HTC has shamelessly copied the iPhone in terms of physical design and touch screen interface ideas, but this is by no means a terrible thing. The phone is on sale today and - as such - has the edge on both Apple’s iPhone and other smart phones on the market.
As for me though, I’ll just keep waiting for the iPhone to come out.