HTC’s Touch spectacularly failed to ruffle the iPhone in the touch UI stakes. It even retreated to the comforting womb of the mechanised keypads for its follow-up the Touch Dual, which featured TouchFLO as a sideshow.
Its newest tickler, the Touch Cruise, contines to dabble with physical controls, but rocks up with a feature set that threatens to put its predecessors, and the iPhone, to shame.
This Windows-powered smartie comes loaded with built-in GPS, integrated Wi-Fi, 3.6Mbps-flavoured HSDPA and a 3megapixel snapper with autofocus. In fact, take the full QWERTY keyboard out of the equation and, pound for pound, the Touch Cruise is the feature equal of its heavyweight stablemate, the HTC TyTN II.
Despite still being well built, compact and relatively slender, the Cruise does lack its compadre’s smooth curves and slinky design. It’s essentially a tarted-up and more streamlined HTC P3300 with a flat fingerprint-attracting mirrored fascia and large 2.8-inch display.
HTC’s finger-led TouchFLO technology kicks in when you swipe to activate the three-sided spinning Touch Cube. Stroke left or right and you can access contacts and call options, multimedia, messaging and internet features. Its responsiveness has improved since the original Touch and it works surprisingly well. A stylus is poised to help out if your fingers get tired.
The front navigation wheel compliments the touch-screen nicely. Not only does it spin for quick menu-scrolling but doubles as a traditional five-way joypad. This receptive turner comes into its own when seamlessly zooming in and out of the sat nav map view. They may look touch-sensitive but the front buttons are also reassuringly mechanised and friendly to thumb for those still allergic to a complete touch phone experience.
A dedicated key fires up the sample TomTom City sat-nav software and the built-in GPS receiver sniffs out a sputnik fix very quickly. You’ll have to invest a further £72 for UK and Western European maps but the intuitive TomTom solution is worth the outlay. Its on-road navigation performance coupled with the Cruise’s finger-friendly touch UI makes for a good mix.
Traditionally, the cameras on Windows Mobile handsets are, well, bobbins, but the Touch Cruise just about bucks the trend. The 3megapixel snapper struggles on metering and is prone to over-exposure but at least the autofocus is sharper than the HTC TyTN II.
Naturally, you get all the Windows Mobile PIM trimmings, push email support, and synchronisation with Outlook, while the Windows Media player ably spins your tunes with the help of HTC’s Audio Manager menu system.
The Touch Cruise is certainly one of the better Window’s mobile smartphone on the block and will excite Microsoft fan-boys, business bods and those looking for a phone with a fully-integrated sat-nav experience.