HTC Touch Dual Review

HTC Touch Dual

“The HTC Dual Touch is a good looking, adaptable phone that is unlike anything on the market.”
  • Lightweight; multimedia friendly; easy keyboard to use
  • Tricky touchscreen; average music capabilities; too many options
MSRP $659.00

Summary

Released in Europe late last year, the HTC Dual Touch has become one of the most anticipated smartphones for 2008. It still isn’t available via an American carrier, but Dynamism.com let us test drive the unlocked device. The Dual Touch is a space-age combination of touchscreen, stylus and slide controls. A few quirks keep it from phone nirvana, but those looking for a powerful, albeit complex unit will be pleased.

Features and Design

The HTC Touch Dual is about two inches by four inches so, when sideways, it can fit in an adult’s palm. It’s just over a half inch thick, a little meatier than the average smartphone. It has a dark blue shell and a porous, almost rubbery coating that is slightly sticky to the touch. The Dual Touch is easy to grip.

The phone is designed like a slider, albeit with a vertical slide instead of the usual horizontal. The top portion is taken up by a tall 2.8 inch glass-like screen, two buttons and a flat control. The two vertical buttons, the equivalent of traditional stop and go buttons, glow red and green when they are available. The flat control, which serves as an all-purpose menu joystick, is a square metal button surrounded by a touch-sensitive border. It only takes a minute or two to adjust to the unique design, though people with large fingers and thumbs will have to keep a steady hand for precise movements. The bottom portion of the phone is just the keyboard, a flat-surfaced collection of buttons made of a light, crystal-like material. Like other aesthetic decisions, HTC skips the usual design and puts three key options on each button, following the QWERTY setup as close as possible. (The first key is “QW!,” the second “ER1,” and so on.) The keyboard isn’t as wide as, say, the full-sized Sidekick, but isn’t as tiny as the average phone. The buttons and the lettering system are fast, responsive and easy to understand.

HTC kept the ports and controls simple. On the left side are the volume buttons and the mini-USB/power port. On the right is a well-disguised camera quick key and an equally well-hidden stylus holder (the instrument can be removed by pulling the small notch on the stylus itself). camera quickkey phone are simple. A power button is at the top and a fancy-looking, concave camera lens is fashioned on the back on the phone.

The HTC Dual Touch is a GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone, tri-band 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz, and is an unlocked phone, so you may use any current cell phone provider that is compatible with those networks. We tried AT&T, and it worked fast and smoothly with Internet browsing and with downloading. It takes powerful pictures and is multimedia friendly, so we would recommend including a microSD card with any purchase.

HTC Touch Dual
Image Courtesy of HTC

Setup and Use

The HTC Dual Touch comes in a durable, high-end black rectangular box that seems more fitting for a Gucci purchase (the lid doesn’t even need to be removed – it uses magnets to close). The included accoutrements are equally impressive: the phone, wall plug, mini-USB cord, iPhone-quality earbuds, an extra stylus, two software discs (one with Windows Media 6, the other with additional proprietary software) and a smattering of instruction booklets. Fortunately, one can get started by just flipping through the “What’s In The Box” brochure. (There is also an adapter plug for American outlets, so it can be used in US and European households.)

Getting around the Dual Touch is fine. The main menu screen has colorful icons representing ring preferences, applications, phone brightness, orientation (vertical or horizontal), security features and so on. Press the flat control to move along the menu… or use the stylus to double tap. In fact, the main challenge with the phone may be thinking you are missing something when, in fact, HTC is just trying really hard to satisfy your every whim. Like a stylus? Use it. Like joysticks? You can use that, too. Initially feature creep confusion becomes a lot easier once you accept that there are certain functions you’ll never use on this phone.

HTC even added a skin-sensitive touchscreen to the mix. Use your thumb to rub up from the bottom of the screen and a touch-controlled “menu cube” will appear. Rub left or right to access different menu options, such as email, SMS, Internet Explorer and phone book. This method seemed fast, intuitive, fun, and, perhaps, somewhat excessive. Again, a simple task like sending a text message can be done a dozen different ways. People not used to “open-ended” smartphones will be utterly confused.

HTC Touch Dual
Image Courtesy of HTC

Using Windows Media 6, the HTC Dual Touch easily uses Microsoft Outlook, but it also can access any POP 3 or IMAP4 email account. The included PC software will automatically download any Outlook messages and settings. (It will ask you to create an Outlook account if there isn’t already one.) Text messaging and emailing seemed smooth on the device, primarily because of the smartly-designed keyboard.

The Windows Media Player is the HTC Dual Touch multimedia hub. Once the phone is plugged in, Windows will ask if you want to create a folder for the phone. You can then drag and drop music, playlists and videos onto the HTC icon. The average song took a few seconds to transfer. For all the bells and whistles, playing multimedia on the Dual Touch is simple: play/pause, rewind and fast forward options, along with an onscreen volume control and music details listing. The sound quality was about average for a cell phone – heavy on the tweeter, non-existent bass – though we suspect the included earbuds were to blame.

The 2.0 Megapixel camera lacks a flash, a surprisingly omission for a phone of this caliber, but otherwise the HTC Dual Touch does the job. Press the camera button on the side – or go through the menus – and the screen turns into a viewfinder. (It should be held horizontally, like a traditional camera.) You can attach the photo, save it in memory and so on. One odd function is what may be described as a rapid-fire option: the camera will take five photos in rapid succession, allowing you to save the best ones. It’s a nice touch.

Price

As imagined, the cost of the HTC Dual Touch varies depending on where you purchase it. Since the phone is not officially available in the U.S. through a major carrier, you will be able to find it available through importers such as Dynamism.com.

Conclusion

The HTC Dual Touch is a good looking, adaptable phone that is unlike anything on the market. Practical users will be annoyed with the overbearing options and abundant functions, but hardcore phone lovers will be happy to discover all its little tricks.

Pros:

• Lightweight
• Multimedia friendly
• Easy keyboard

Cons:

• Tricky touchscreen
• Average music capabilities
• Too many options
• Camera is missing a flash