HTC Touch Diamond smart phone

HTC Touch Diamond smart phone

HTC's Touch Diamond ($350 with a two-year contract) is a well-designed Windows Mobile smart phone whose compact, candy-bar design widens its appeal.

At 4 by 2 inches, the case of the Touch Diamond is about as wide as the Apple iPhone 3G's screen is. And at 0.45 inch deep, it isn't super-thin but is slim enough to fit into your pocket.

The phone felt comfortable in my hand, and seemed well-constructed when I used it. The 2.8-inch VGA touch-screen display offered crisp, bright images; when I tried to use the on-screen software keyboard, however, I found the display a tad small for finger input.

The Touch Diamond's operating system is Windows Mobile 6.1, but you might not notice that at first glance. That's because you can accomplish many tasks through HTC's custom TouchFLO 3D interface, which puts contacts, text messaging, e-mail, media (video and music), and Internet access at your fingertips.

In my hands-on tests of the Touch Diamond, I found its implementation of TouchFLO 3D attractive and generally easy to use, though it did have some awkward points. For example, the slider bar at the bottom of the screen is less convenient than a more conventional home screen would be, and applications are occasionally sluggish.

Since it is based on Windows Mobile, the Touch includes the full suite of Windows Mobile applications in addition to HTC's own. While this presents you with two media players and two Web browsers, it also means that the Touch Diamond comes preloaded with quite a bit of software (including Outlook Mobile and Office Mobile).

For browsing the Web, you get Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile. The Opera browser can handle regular Web sites as well as mobile sites--and it can do so over the Sprint EvDO broadband network or over a Wi-Fi network. But like similar smart-phone browsers, it does not include Flash support out-of-the-box.

The Touch Diamond's built-in accelerometer can recognize when you tilt the phone on its side. In my informal testing, the screen rotation kicked in quickly when browsing through photos but not as well with Opera, where I had to shake the phone a little to get the screen rotation to work. Also, the home screen appears to be designed for use strictly when the phone is in its vertical orientation: It doesn't rotate when you rotate the phone.

Considering that the Touch Diamond isn't played up as a multimedia-centric phone, I found its multimedia handling to be surprisingly good. The built-in 3.2-megapixel, 2X zoom camera/camcorder yielded pleasing results in my experience. Camera features include auto-focus and white-balance settings, as well as a timer and even a tool to stitch together a panorama. It won't replace your stand-alone digital camera, but the Touch Diamond's camera will do a reasonable job in a pinch.

The Touch Diamond comes with a music player application that supports a number of popular audio formats, including MP3, AAC, and WMA. In addition, it offers its own YouTube application for accessing any YouTube video (unlike the iPhone 3G, whose YouTube application works only with a select subset of videos. The phone comes with 4GB of internal memory--a nice find in a phone at this price; on the other hand, it lacks a media card slot for expanding memory.

Aside from letting you access your own multimedia, the Touch Diamond has hooks into such Sprint services as Sprint TV (for live and on-demand programming), Sprint Music Store (over-the-air song downloads), and Sprint Radio. The phone also supports Sprint Navigation for GPS-enabled audio and visual turn-by-turn directions.

Predictably--since this model's screen is smaller than the ones on some other smart phones--the HTC Touch Diamond's on-screen QWERTY keyboard's keys are quite small and close together. The Touch Diamond does offer both the on-screen QWERTY keyboard and a roomier 20-key phone keypad layout, which you can switch to on the fly--so you aren't tied to any particular layout. The keyboard gives you good visual feedback, but it may take some getting used to. In general, I found the touch screen to be responsive, though the phone's interface was sluggish at times, depending on the application.

In my tests in the San Francisco Bay Area, I found call quality to be very good. Voices sounded clear, and the volume level was appropriate. Unfortunately, the screen remains active when you bring it to your ear, which can result in accidental touch input from your face.

Stay tuned for the PC World Test Center's battery life tests on the Touch Diamond. We'll update this review with a full rating once those tests are completed.

It may not fully quench your iPhone lust, but the HTC Touch Diamond is certainly worth a look. Though I ran into a few annoyances (such as occasional sluggish performance), my experience overall with the Touch Diamond was positive.

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