While the iPhone 3G’s interface is still a Pete Townshend-sized nose ahead of the mobile competition, its foes have been closing the gap. Take the HTC Touch Diamond – not only is it the closest a smartphone has come to emulating Apple’s slick UI, it’s a poster boy for a new generation of user-friendly Windows Mobile phones.
The Diamond’s newest stablemate, the Touch Pro, has an almost identical feature list, but adds a slide-out QWERTY keypad that makes it ideal for the ‘work hard, play hard’ brigade and puts it on a collision course with the Nokia E71 and BlackBerry Bold.
From the front, the Pro is almost identical in vital stats and design to the Diamond, flaunting that annoying finger smear-attracting mirrored façade but a less ornate rear panel.
Check out its profile, though, and you’ll be shocked at its tubby silhouette. The five row QWERTY keyboard has not only given it a portly 18mm waistline, but contributed to its massively hefty 165 gram weight.
Messaging fiends might be willing to overlook its chubby contours because the sliding mini QWERTY is pretty pleasant to thumb despite its seemingly cramped arrangement. A word of warning though: fat pinkies may struggle at times.
The range’s TouchFLO UI seemed to be improving with each Touch member, so we expected even more from the Pro.
Unless we received a rogue review sample, it proved an absolute dog to use; with a frigid response to finger swipes and taps and terrible processor lag, it just made us long for the warm finger-loving embrace of the iPhone 3G. Naturally, a stylus provides back-up, but we recommend you approach with caution if the Pro is on your radar.
Night at the Opera
Armed with HSDPA, Wi-Fi and a stunningly sharp 2.8in VGA display, the Pro is suitably primed for surfing the Interweb. Slide open the QWERTY and you’re greeted with a new look eight icon homescreen giving you access to your email, messages, contacts, calendar and the slick Opera 9.5 web browser among others.
The Opera browser proved a perfect foil for the Pro’s touch navigation. Double tap the screen and you can zoom in on the web page, while dragging your finger across the screen allows you to pan the web page. It’s still not as effortless as the iPhone but learn its touch sensibilities and its works quite well.
The Pro also irons out some of the Diamond’s other niggles. Although generous, the onboard 4GB memory has been replaced with a microSD card slot so you can expand capacity up to 8GB, while the RAM quota has been upped from 192MB to 288MB.
Elsewhere the 3.2MP camera, now with a feeble LED flash, is considerably sharper than its predecessor, although the CIF-quality video recording remains disappointing for a leading smartphone.
Despite an overly meaty girth, the Touch Pro definitely ticks the boxes marked style and features. But a thorny UI makes it redundant in the usability stakes, and ruins what would have been the best QWERTY Windows Mobile smartie we’ve seen.