With the HTC Touch, HTC has done a great job of making a user-friendly touchscreen interface phone with the all-important matte black, rubber casing that's likely to appeal to Apple iPhone refuseniks.

To gauge just how deeply the Apple hype ran, we had the editor of our sister magazine, Macworld, test out the Touch initially. Despite being grudgingly impressed, as far as the Apple iPhone goes, he's a goner.

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Stiff competition

We expect much the same to happen to other fans of fashion phones who largely want a solid media-centric phone with the essential ‘designed by Apple' cachet and to be seen ‘pinching' and swooshing with aplomb. It's certainly a flash number, but for now it's lacking the solid communications we believe are critical in a smartphone. Sadly, the HTC Touch also lacks some of these features, most notably 3G/HSDPA.

The HTC Touch is a triband phone with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well as GPRS/Edge. As far as business smartphones go, it's a stylish cut above the pack.

However, it's not straightforward to make calls with the HTC Touch. You first have to add the number you want to dial. Not impressive: time-consuming and frustrating.

We had a few issues at first with the Touch being unable to find ActiveSync on our PC, but installing the Sprite Backup applet allows the Touch to restore any contacts or other content should it accidentally lose them.

Multimedia

Click on to the camera – or press the hardware button on the righthand side – and the HTC Touch's screen quality becomes apparent. It uses the whole of its depth to take landscape or portrait images with EV, white balance, a self-timer and access to stored photos all offered with no need to hunt them down. The top resolution is just 2Mp, which seems a shame for such well-thought-out cameraphone software.

Cameras from Canon and Sony, as well as the iPhone, recognise when you change the device orientation. The HTC Touch can't. It does have a software button onscreen which does the same thing – except when in camera mode.
Nor can you view anything in Windows Media Player other than in landscape view. In fact, the HTC Touch doesn't really advertise its media playback credentials at all.

While you can access many useful items from the HTC Touch's Launcher screen, you're stuck back with the fiddly WM6 (Windows Mobile 6.0) drop-down Start menu if you want to track down the Streaming Media function.

Media Player itself doesn't get a look in unless you go to the programs menu and scroll all the way down to find it, or slot in some video footage that then autoplays.

The microSD card slot is hidden beneath the metallic silver strip that runs around the HTC Touch's girth, which is also where the SIM resides. Getting to these cards is best done by removing the back cover first.

Another criticism of the HTC Touch is that the software keyboard is somewhat small. Given the large screen, it would've been easy to devote more space to this - even if it meant sacrificing the familiarity of a qwerty layout. This is a phone, after all, and given that the onscreen numerical keys for touchscreen calling take up the entire display, a similar approach for entering text would have been preferable.

Lack of 3G and removable media issues aside, these are minor quibbles. Even our Mac fanboy guinea pig stuck with the HTC Touch, and there's no doubt this is a handsome and well-constructed phone.

As with other WM6 devices, calls, contacts, emails and other essentials are neatly and clearly displayed. The HTC Touch's web browser is good, too, quickly bringing up images and relevant links in response to our searches. On the ‘Touch Cube' main screen we also found details such as current weather and five-day forecasts for your location at-a-glance useful.

Touch navigation

Getting around is simple enough while using the TouchFLO touch-sensitive overlay. It's not fast or at all swooshy, however. As a battery-saver, the HTC Touch's bright 2.8in screen is quick to go off, and you need to coax it back with a firm finger press or touching the power button.

There are good-sized (half-centimetre square) icons on the Launcher (how Mac is that?) for quick access to a phone settings menu – put it in Flight mode, activate or deactivate wireless LAN, Bluetooth, direct data connections and the direct push email. The HTC Touch's Launcher also takes you straight to the Internet Explorer web browser, emails, instant messenger, solitaire and a button to lock the phone so you don't inadvertently rack up a huge bill unintentionally calling people.

HTC Touch: Specs

  • Triband GPRS/Edge, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi smartphone
  • 201MHz Omapi 250 processor
  • 64MB DDR RAM
  • 128MB ROM
  • WM6
  • TouchFLO touch-sensitive 2.8in 65K colour TFT display
  • 2Mp camera
  • mic
  • microSD memory card slot
  • mini USB headphones
  • 58x100x14mm
  • 112g
  • Triband GPRS/Edge, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi smartphone
  • 201MHz Omapi 250 processor
  • 64MB DDR RAM
  • 128MB ROM
  • WM6
  • TouchFLO touch-sensitive 2.8in 65K colour TFT display
  • 2Mp camera
  • mic
  • microSD memory card slot
  • mini USB headphones
  • 58x100x14mm
  • 112g

OUR VERDICT

On the whole, we like the TouchFLO overlay on the HTC Touch handset, but HTC has missed a trick by leaving out 3G – and it should be more straightforward to make calls. This is a handsome, well-constructed keypad-free handset but, for all its touchiness, is it's basically a WM6 handset. It's not an iPhone.

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