Like many of these sophisticated smart multimedia phones, voice quality seems to have taken a back seat with the HD2. Voices sound tinny and hollow, without enough volume to overcome moderate ambient noise. There’s not nearly enough volume to listen to a movie sans headphones.
You know when you’re in trouble when a phone needs two operating systems. HTC understands that Windows Mobile 6.5 is a mess, and has somewhat civilized it with its HTC Sense.
Sense’s humanizing influence is apparent from the splash screen; You get the weather (with neat weather effects, like rain drops being swept away by animated windshield washers) and icons for three apps. Swiping up, the weather folds back like the side of a cube, revealing icons for nine apps, the selection and sequence of which you can customize.
But then we’re back to Windows. To get to all apps, functions and settings, you have to go through the Start menu and scroll down the usual long parade of confusing Windows Mobile icons. One of the default apps is Windows Marketplace, where you can buy Windows Media apps. Fine, except – you are prompted to first download the Marketplace app! Any new apps are loaded to the bottom of the single Start menu page, exhibit A why the iPhone and Android went to a multi-page model.
Another problem with two operating systems is that twice as many things can go wrong. For instance, the unlock slide on the lock screen also lets you know how many new e-mails you have waiting. But occasionally the slide wouldn’t unlock the phone, which meant we had to pry off the battery cover, remove the battery and reboot the phone. And we still got those occasional annoying pop-up Windows notifications about connections happening or not happening that then had to be dismissed.
The phone’s e-mail app is both functional and fun. You can scan your inbox via the usual scrollable list, or you can have your e-mail stacked like a virtual paper pile, and dismissively swipe each read or replied-to missive right off the screen.
One vast Sense improvement are its home screen tabs. This scrollable horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen contains quick link icons for up to 14 apps and functions. Unfortunately, you can only choose to display icons from among these 14, which include your contact list and messaging, and no others. We desperately wanted to add “camera” to the tabs bar, since there is no physical camera key or shutter, but it’s not one of the 14 choices.
There is, thankfully, a dedicated phone key so you can get to the phone function quickly. The dial pad seems a bit squashed, but still roomy thanks to the HD2’s generous screen real estate, to accommodate the iceberg-tip of your Outlook-imported contact list above it.
At 4.74 inches long, HD2 is taller than most phones. Good for the generous screen area, not so good for landscape typing. I have medium-sized hands, and we found ourselves awkwardly stretching our fingers to thumb-type in landscape – which isn’t always available, either.
As with all T-Mobile phones, Web speed depends on location, if you’re lucky enough to be in the carrier’s comically incomplete 3G coverage area. But even in 3G or via Wi-Fi, pages loaded ridiculously slowly, taking six to seven seconds for mobile-specific sites, and twice as long for standard Web pages. EV-DO delivers the same content in three to five seconds.
Opera Mini is the default browser, but Internet Explorer is available. You get multipage browsing with each, but Opera doesn’t always default to the mobile versions of sites; It did for ESPN and The New York Times, not for CNN. Stick with the Opera browser, though. Opera loaded pages faster and cleaner than IE, which partly accounts for it being the default browser. (That whole anti-trust business is probably the main reason.)
For a cellphone, HD2 takes magnificent photos, possibly the best we’ve seen since the oddly ill-fated Kodak-Motorola Motozine ZN5 and the Sony-Ericsson C902, both of which were more like cameras with a cell phones attached than vice versa. Although lacking in edge detail like most cell-cam photos, images are bright, pop-out colorful, and as long as you keep the phone stock-still, the flash brilliantly illuminates indoor scenes. However, with a touchscreen shutter release, it’s very difficult to keep the phone as still as necessary to get an unblurred shot in anything but bright sunlight.
Photos in the photo gallery automatically orient themselves to fill the screen – no need for the accelerometer – and you can pinch to zoom.
While not high-definition, HD2’s VGA video also is spectacular for a phone, with nary a trace of the usual pixelization, even when blown up on a 27-inch iMac screen. Be advised, however, that video can be captured only in landscape mode; Footage shot in portrait will end up sideways.
-This sample footage has been compressed for web.
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HTC rates the HD2 for 6.3 hours talk time and eight hours of video playback, which is pretty impressive given its large screen.
Impressive, yes, and probably the best video-watching 3G phone on the market not made by Apple (soon to be surpassed by Sprint’s 4G EVO on June 4). But fighting with Windows Mobile, even with HTC Sense chaperoning, is simply not worth the effort. Stick Android on this puppy and you’ve got something.
- Large, beautiful 4.3-inch 480 x 800 pixel LCD
- High-end multimedia capabilities including FM radio
- Superb 5-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash
- Responsive 1GHz Snapdragon processor
- 16GB microSD card preinstalled
- Respectable battery life
- Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional OS
- Slow Web browsing
- Reflective display
- No dedicated camera shutter release button