Less than a year after HTC revolutionised their device line-up with the Diamond range of products, the company has launched a refresh of two of the most popular handsets, the Touch Diamond2 and the Touch Pro2. The Touch Diamond2 is available now contract free and will be launching on the mobile networks later in the year.
First impressions are important and on the outside the Touch Diamond2 certainly does the job. Gone is the irritating faceted back of the original Touch Diamond, as is the D-Pad, a common occurrence in current HTC devices. We see a new touch sensitive zoom bar for applications such as Google maps and Opera Mobile. The front fascia on this review sample is a cool brushed aluminium, which looks fantastic and very professional. The device is solid in the hand, well balanced in weight has an overall aura of a product manufactured with little expense spared.
So you can probably tell I’m impressed so far. We’ll take a look under the hood shortly, and while the spec’s aren’t ground breaking (it *is* just a hardware refresh, remember), HTC has been hard at work to squeeze every last drop of power and functionality out of both the hardware and the software.
Here are the raw numbers:
- Qualcomm MSM7200A 528MHz CPU
- Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
- 512MB/288MB ROM/RAM
- 108x53x14mm, 118g
- 3.2” WVGA (800x480px) Resistive touchscreen
- 2100MHz 5.2Mbps HSDPA/Quad-band GSM
- Wifi/BT2.0 with EDR/GPS/ExtUSB
- 5Mpix Camera with AF (VGA forward camera)
- 1100mAhr battery
- microSD slot
- FM Radio and G-sensor
Some of those modifications may tempt current Diamond owners; however it is would appear from the timing of the launch that HTC are aiming to bring in new customers and keep their flagship devices competitive.
Let’s take a tour of the device. The front is obviously dominated by the 3.2” WVGA screen. The LCD part is bright and the colours vibrant, it is set a few millimetres below the touch-sensitive panel. Above we see the forward camera for video calling on the right, and the in-call speaker in the middle with green, red and orange notification LEDs either side. Directly below the screen you can just make out the zoom-bar area. Sliding your finger across this will zoom in emails, Google maps and Opera 9.5. In true HTC style this is a novel addition which works well, but is horribly under used. Why can we not slide between TouchFlo tabs, emails, or scroll when in landscape? As good as the gesture support is, it can still be a little fiddly on the main screen. More on that later, though. Finally we see the hardware buttons: start and end call, and the start and back (actually an OK/close) buttons, both now compulsory for the impending Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade to come later in the year. The end call button also doubles as a home key, with the home icon etched into the metal fascia. The default hold option on this key also locks the device.
The reverse is as minimalist as you would expect, a single glossy piece of plastic covers the microSD slot (accessible without having to remove the battery), SIM card slot and battery itself. At the top we see the 5Mpix camera aperture set in a small brushed aluminium mount, retaining that link to its Diamond heritage.
The top has a single button for power and standby, and the extUSB and microphone are located at the bottom. The left side holds the familiar volume buttons and the right has a slot for the loudspeaker. The stylus is housed in the bottom right corner, it lacks the magnetic locking mechanism of the original Diamond, however it will still bring the device out of standby and unlock when drawn out.
The base OS is currently the slightly ageing Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, however once 6.5 is officially launched later in the year HTC will be providing owners with an update download. Presumably new devices from this time will be loaded with the update out of the box (we can only hope, Microsoft has a less than stellar record for keeping device software at the cutting edge!). However over the top of this we see HTCs excellent finger-friendly TouchFlo3D interface. Again, this was launched with the original Diamond, and while we’ve seen some improvements in other devices launched in the mean time (namely the Touch Pro and the Touch HD) this latest version delves deeper than ever into the OS, covering up even more of the default interface. For the majority of daily use, you'll almost never need see the standard Windows Mobile interface.
The majority of tabs will be familiar to current Touchflo3D users: home, people, messaging, email, web, stocks, camera, music and weather. The home tab takes advantage of the extra 160 pixels at the bottom of the screen by displaying extra calendar entries and the weather tab shows an additional four-day forecast. (Please note the green bar at the top of the screen is the excellent “Batti” battery monitor, and is not included out of the box. You can however download it for free here!)
Current users of TouchFlo3D may have noticed an omission from the tabs above: the programmes list. This is our first taster of the extent to which HTC have gone to make Windows Mobile a joy to use on the Touch Diamond2. The traditional start menu is out, instead on tapping the Windows logo we’re presented with a 3x8 grid of application icons, with 4 rows visible at a time, exactly as the programmes tab worked (and not insignificantly dissimilar to the new Windows Mobile 6.5 grid start menu. It would appear this was a combination of a natural evolution of the original programmes tab and an effort by HTC to make the transition to 6.5 less confusing). The home, people, calendar and settings icons are locked and somewhat annoyingly cannot be removed (end call takes me home, why do I need a software button for this too?). This menu shows some of the apps I’ve personally added, however ActiveSync, YouTube, Google maps and Teeter are there out of the box. “All Programmes” lists everything you would come to expect from a standard Windows Mobile start menu.
Further enhancements come with the notifications bar, a tap at the top of the screen lists finger-friendly buttons for new messages, appointments, emails, et cetera. Notifications are easier to read, and even menus get a beauty makeover.
Day to day use
This version of TouchFlo3D is perhaps the quickest I have used. The interface has almost zero lag, and HTCs enhancements make one-handed use feel completely natural. The touch screen is accurate and responsive. As a heavy message user, I had no problem banging out emails and texts using the HTC full QWERTY and (my personal preference) the 9-key xT9 pad.
The email inbox has yet to have been touched by HTC, however as one of strengths of Windows Mobile this has not posed an issue, especially when coupled with those enhanced menus and on-screen keyboards. Auto-rotate is also supported, useful for fixed-width HTML emails.
HTC have enhanced people management, with contact management software completely replacing the standard contacts list. When viewing your contacts from the call screen, you can tap their contact card to view your call record with them, and messaging history for emails and SMS messages. The email collator may be useful if you have a few contacts you regularly contact but is perhaps a little redundant when you consider Windows Mobile inbox smart-filtering. The SMS threaded messaging screen puts the Microsoft version to shame, however. This is also the default screen when tapping a message to open it from the message Touchflo tab.
The WVGA screen makes web browsing a task with little compromise. Opera Mobile 9.5 is now an extremely mature browser and handled my regular batch of sites with no major issues. Text scaling works well, the zoom bar can be useful on sites which do not take well to the small screen, and page renders are crisp and readable. Opera supports auto rotate using the G-sensors and the full widescreen view is perfect for many websites.
While the comparisons to the original Diamond are an obvious angle to view the Touch Diamond2 from, it has to be considered as an independent device. The spec is fantastic, and while it is not equipped with a large internal storage, 8GB microSD cards are cheap now and widely available.
The extent to which HTC have improved TouchFlo3D and delved into Windows Mobile with their customisations is admirable, and second to none. While still provided, the stylus is all but redundant. The interface is quick and responsive, intuitive and a pleasure to use.
The device is comfortable to hold and easy to use with a single hand. The build is sturdy and the design makes it stand out as a high-end, premium handset. It feels in no way tacky or cheap, exactly what we have come to expect from HTC
The good, the bad and the ugly
Good: TouchFlo3D, makes day-to-day use a pleasure.
Bad: The depth of HTCs enhancements are sometimes a little inconsistent.
Ugly: The camera is still poor quality in all but the best lighting conditions.