It’s set to be a tough year for smartphones, and there’s plenty of change afoot as companies battle amid tightening customer purse-strings. The new iPhone is set to arrive over the summer; Palm’s Pre is imminent, and Microsoft have the latest incarnation of Windows Mobile waiting in the wings. Into that fray, HTC launch the Touch Diamond2, likely one of the last smartphones to use WM6.1 and an update to what was considered, when it launched a year ago, one of the game-changing handsets of Microsoft’s platform.
Physically, the Touch Diamond2 is larger in all dimensions than the original Diamond: 108 x 53 x 13.7mm for the new handset, versus 102 x 51 x 11.35mm for its predecessor. It’s also heavier – 117.5g versus 110g – though that’s not noticeable in the hand. Across the front, under the display, there’s a touch-sensitive scroll strip, under which there are four buttons – send, Windows, back and end (which doubles as home) - while on top there’s the power/lock button. The left side has the volume control, while the right is blank; the thin stylus draws out of the lower right-hand corner.
Round the back there’s the new 5-megapixel camera, and HTC have abandoned the textured finish of the first generation handset for a flat panel. Underneath there’s HTC’s ExtUSB port, which carries USB 2.0 and audio signals simultaneously but can also be used with a standard mini-USB plug. Wireless connectivity includes HSDPA (900/2100MHz) and quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz) together with WiFi b/g and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR.
Of course, the extra fascia space is given up to a larger touchscreen, now measuring in at 3.2-inches versus the Diamond’s 2.8, and running at 480 x 800 WVGA resolution compared to VGA. It’s an excellent screen, bright and crisp, although the LCD panel appears a little more inset from the touchscreen layer than other HTC handsets. We’ve not noticed any particular usability issue presented by that, however.
In terms of the underlying OS, both the Touch Diamond and the Diamond2 run the same: Windows Mobile 6.1. Where the former device debuted HTC’s TouchFLO 3D, though, the Diamond2 brings with it the latest, PeopleCentric version of the GUI. TouchFLO has gradually evolved from a straightforward skinned launcher to an environment which hides most of WM6.1’s key features. Where the previous version allowed you to read SMS messages but dropped you into the standard messaging app to reply to them, now there’s a threaded TouchFLO messaging system. This is part of PeopleCentric: SMS is one tab of each contact record, along with email and call history, showing you what contact you’ve had with that person.
Other aspects, like creating or editing a contact, have had a makeover too. There’s now a more finger-friendly way to add numbers, photos and basic details to contacts, though anything more complex requires you to hit ‘Advanced’ and drop into the old-fashioned dialog. HTC have also kept an eye on upgrading the Diamond2 to Windows Mobile 6.5, with the the switch from a ‘home’ to ‘Windows’ key in keeping with the demands of the new OS. Pressing that – or tapping the on-screen Start icon – now jumps to the Programs pane of TouchFLO 3D, rather than the standard pull-down Start menu. This is, according to HTC, more in line with WM6.5’s default launcher, though for 6.1 users it takes a little getting used to.
TouchFLO 3D’s changes have extended to various pop-up alerts and menus, too. Gone are the standard app menus triggered by the lower-right softkey; they’re now reskinned, better animated, much larger and support kinetic scrolling. Similarly messages like the power-off warning and alarm alerts have been redesigned, and look far more up-to-date. A significant difference is in the behavior of the status bar: where tapping that on an HTC device used to call up a pane of buttons, linked to connectivity, battery status and the like, now it summons a single Notifications page. This has a list of active connections, together with alerts such as New Mail or Missed Call, but confusingly has dropped the battery shortcut. This was always useful to check battery status mid-charge; you now have to access the gage via the Settings menu, an extra few taps.
Elsewhere there’s a new search bar in the browser tab of TouchFLO 3D, which saves a tap, and the new Push Internet feature. This allows you to set up to four different sites which you regularly check, and have the Diamond2 monitor them for you.
1 2 3 Next
(Review Page 1 of 3)