We loved the original HTC Touch Pro. Or wanted to, anyway. Though HTC wowed us with distinct styling, a snappy keyboard, and a downright luscious screen, we could never quite get past how clunky the slow the TouchFlo 3D interface felt pasted over Windows Mobile 6.1. At the end of the day, we just couldn’t recommend it. But with a company as prolific as HTC, you seldom have to wait long for a better version. With the second go around on the Touch Pro2, HTC has attentively resolved many of the most annoying issues with the first phone, delivering one of the most livable Windows Mobile 6.1 handsets to date.
Features and Design
The original HTC Touch Pro derived much of its appeal from its unique styling, and while the company has kept built quality high for the Pro2, much of the edginess we saw in the first version has melted away. The rigid, crystaline lines that gave the jet-black Pro such a unique look have given way to a softened, matte-brown back, and the almost-sharp corners now wrap around in smooth curves. It’s a matter of taste no doubt, but in our opinion, carrying one of these phones no longer counts as a much of a fashion statement, and it could be confused with just about any other generic touchscreen phone.
That is, of course, before you turn it on. The HTC Touch Pro2 sports an enormous 3.6-inch LCD screen, which is not only bigger than the original’s, it’s bigger than the iPhone’s, and has more resolution, too. A full 800 by 480 pixels packed into its confines gives it dot pitch unmatched by nearly any other device out there. Unfortunately, HTC has shunned the responsive capacitive touch technology used on the G1 and its other Android-based phones, instead opting for a cludgier feeling resistive model.
The screen sits flush in a dark, mirror-like front bezel that runs from edge to edge. The only buttons found below the screens are the typical send and end call buttons, home, and back. Though they’re easy to press, the tiny size of the icons makes it difficult to see which is which before memorizing them. Like most phones, you’ll find a power button up top, a volume rocker on the left, and a mini USB jack below. Unfortunately, HTC continues to take the Samsung route in using a USB-based adapter in place of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which makes a miserable start for a music player. It’s also missing a dedicated camera button, though the easy-to-access microSD slot on the left makes up for it a bit (some companies hide them inconveniently below the battery). HTC has also added a touch-sensitive strip below the screen exclusively for controlling zoom, and an anachronistic stylus tucked away in the bottom right corner for Windows Mobile die hards still reminiscieing about the days of the Pocket PC.
A full QWERTY keyboard remains a hallmark of the business-targeted Touch Pro2. Sliding away the screen reveals a particularly spacious four-row keyboard with hard keys raised above a dished-out area. We found it easy to tap out Web addresses, text messages and even lengthy e-mails with it, and especially liked the way the screen tilts up roughly 45 degrees, making it much easier to view as you type at waist level.
The price for all the extra amenities: size and weight. The Touch Pro2 measures a pretty standard 4.57 inches tall and 2.33 inches wide, but feels quite chunky at 0.66 inches thick. An almost unheard of weight of 178.5 grams doesn’t help matters, but it does lend it a solid feeling that contributes to build quality.
The box for the HTC Touch Pro2 mirrors the accessory bundling for its other phones, including a USB cable for both power and data, a wall charger, and a pair of USB headphones. The company does throw in a chunky adapter to compensate for the lack of 2.5mm and 3.5mm stereo jacks on the phone, but its laughable size will make using any non-USB pair of headphones an exercise in embarrassment. We loved the wallet-like leather case, though, which fit snugly and actually looked nice enough to show off a bit.
Other features include 3G Internet access, GPS, and a 3.2-megapixel camera.
Testing and Usage
Although it’s been almost a year since the first Touch Pro launched, Windows Mobile hasn’t moved forward an inch, so HTC has once again reverted to its reskinned version of Windows Mobile 6.1, with an interface known as TouchFLO 3D. T-Mobile’s myFaves interface (which gives you a spinning wheel of your five most-used contacts) replaces the traditional home screen, and a sliding strip of icons below offer access to frequently used options like weather, Internet and settings. We can only guess that the HTC crew cleaned up the TouchFLO 3D code for the Touch Pro2, because it feels much faster than the Touch Pro, even though they share nearly identical processors. Unfortunately, the finicky touchscreen still creates a somewhat choppy navigation experience from missed button pressed and stuttery scrolling. We often selected the wrong icon from the scrolling list of tabs at the bottom due to its insensitivity. Switching to the stylus alleviates the issue, but we’re not fans of operating a phone with a metal toothpick.
Many critics of HTC’s earlier TouchFLO phones complained that the interface just didn’t extend far enough – as soon as you got past a handful of properly skinned menus, the interface reverted back to the vanilla Windows look, ruining the high-end illusion. The company has obviously spent some time layering on the paint, though, because it takes quite a bit of effort to steer off TouchFLO menus on this phone. Even the calendar has been skinned, and has some neat additions, like weather icons when adding appointments within forecast range, making you to think twice about scheduling that round of golf next to an animated thunderstorm. Even so, we couldn’t help bumping into the standard Windows interface after drilling down through enough options.
The Pro2′s extremely high resolution screen works wonders for making Web pages look the same way they would on a full-sized computer, but the interface can’t quite bring it up a par with mobile Internet masters like the iPhone or Palm Pre. The dedicated touch strip on the front for zooming makes an attempt at solving one of the biggest barriers to browsing, but the intuitive pinching motion used on multi-touch phones still feels infinitely more natural, and accurate. Oddly enough, the zooming strip below the screen only works with Opera, which is hidden on the programs tab. The far more obvious globe icon from the TouchFLO 3D menu launches Internet Explorer, which inexplicably doesn’t work with the phone’s own zooming capability.
Though the 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus sounds impressive on paper, pictures from it look absolutely dismal. Even for a camera phone, pictures from it were loaded with digital noise, muted color, and blur. We’ve seen cams with much worse specs take better shots, and we would never rely on the Pro2 as a stand-in for a point-and-shoot cam.
HTC clearly took a cue or two from Apple on its music player app, but unlike most phones with Apple aspirations, it actually comes pretty close on execution. Everything from the momentum on the lists to the look of the bottom icons feels familiar, and though it’s clearly no iPod, we think the Pro2 makes quite a nice music player for a business phone.
Misheard words and and distorted conversations can make or break a business deal, which means voice quality can make or break a phone intended for business users. Fortunately, the HTC Touch Pro2 excels more than most other smartphones in this department. Callers on the other end reported near land-line quality over T-Mobile’s network in Portland, with zero break up, warble or distortion. And that’s with only two bars of signal. Incoming sound quality was also superb, but we did notice a slight hiss in the background at times.
HTC rates the Touch Pro2 for 510 minutes of talk time and 500 hours of standby, which we observed pretty close to in real-life usage.
Someone at HTC is paying attention. The second generation of the HTC Touch Pro fixes many of our quibbles with the first, and improves upon what we already liked. The interface got faster and more refined, the screen got bigger and tilts, and build quality remains top notch. If there’s any step back, it might be the case design, which has gone from Gucci to Men’s Wearhouse, but most folks will still find it an attractive phone. As usual, our biggest beef lies with Windows Mobile 6.1, which feels decrepit beneath the new coat that HTC has painstakingly applied in an attempt to freshen it up. To that end, we suggest checking out some of HTC’s Android-based phones on T-Mobile, like the G1 and Magic, before opting for the Touch Pro2. On the other hand, if you count yourself one of the few fans of Windows Mobile 6.1, you’re looking at one sweet piece of hardware. We think the HTC Touch Pro2 may be one of the finest Windows Mobile 6.1 phones available.
- Gigantic, extra-sharp display
- Outstanding call quality
- Solid build quality
- Decent accessory pack
- Dressed-up interface
- Exceptionally weak camera
- Clumsy resistive touch screen
- Dry design