An improvement over the first Touch but still short of rivals. (August 24th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: HTC (Telus as carrier)
Price: $150 (3 yr. contract)
- Exceptional 640x480 screen; more responsive than the original Touch.
- Much better media player and overall TouchFLO interface.
- Opera Mobile a clear edge over other Windows Mobile phones.
- Above average battery and call quality in its category.
- EVDO Rev A and Wi-Fi support.
- Better 3.2MP camera; 4GB of built-in storage.
- Still a "confused" UI: requires switches between d-pad, finger, and stylus input.
- Removable storage dropped from previous design.
- Just one expansion port with no 3.5mm earphone jack.
- Camera is just a resolution upgrade, still has mediocre image quality.
the TouchFLO interface and web browsing
The original TouchFLO interface was really just a minor adjustment at best to the core Windows Mobile interface. While there were a few shortcuts, their scarcity and the difficulty of pulling up the full interface ultimately didn't have much bearing on the interface; it may as well have been Microsoft's reference design.
The Diamond's interface has been completely overhauled and is infinitely more useful. In part helped by the 640x480 screen, virtually every common function has some level of simplified, visually appealing interface. It's such that users can finally perform some functions without a jarring switch to the plainer Windows Mobile controls. HTC's desire to bolster its standing in media playback is especially apparent here: the photo browser bears an uncanny resemblance to the iPhone's Photo Library, while the music player has a Cover Flow-style interface that supports browsing music by 3D album covers as well as by a far more intuitive list view than Microsoft's still-dreadful mobile Windows Media Player interface. The change is enough that the Diamond really can work as a media phone, albeit still not quite on par with the iPhone or N95's sheer level of control using playlists, podcasts, and other more advanced audio playback.
All the same, it's still clear that HTC has a long way to go. There are still a number of areas in the interface where users are bumped unceremoniously into the Windows Mobile interface, even for tasks that should be relatively casual. The mail client is a particularly bad example and lets you preview some of a message in TouchFLO, but won't let you read the rest or delete the new message from the top level; checking messages becomes an inordinately complex affair where it's always necessary to switch interfaces.
HTC also hasn't escaped what's likely its most glaring problem: its indecision over input methods. Paradoxically, the surface level of the TouchFLO interface is actually quite clumsy when used with the touchscreen instead of the directional pad; the former sometimes results in accidental input or no input at all. Accessing the camera is an awkward multi-step process guaranteed to miss target-of-opportunity shots. And while the situation improves in the deeper levels of TouchFLO, Windows Mobile itself effectively requires a stylus with too-small menu items and on-screen keyboards. It's not uncommon to switch between physical buttons, finger input and the stylus all in a single session. Combined with an at times sluggish response time, the flaws are enough to actually slow input rather than speed it up and make a convincing case for the simplicity of its American-made challenger, even if it lacks a few conveniences.
Web browsing is at least much better than for most smartphones we've tested lately, and especially Windows Mobile devices. HTC has chosen to pack the Diamond with Opera Mobile by default instead of using Microsoft's comparatively slow, limited Internet Explorer. It lacks the quick navigation of a multi-touch interface or the sheer volume of web support that make web-based apps a pleasure on Apple's device, but it does render website accurately and quickly -- basic feats that most mobile browsers still can't manage. The stylus is also thankfully unnecessary as it's possible to both double-tap to zoom the page and to pan around using one finger.
Notably, this is also one of Telus' first phones to ship with EVDO Revision A cellular data access out of the box. It ultimately has only a small impact on browsing speed versus normal EVDO, but it's appreciated and is backed up by Wi-Fi for those times when the 3G connection is tenuous or non-existent.