When it comes to touch-screen phones, there are those who dig them and those who want to bury them. And when we say touch-screen phones, we mean the models that largely lack physical buttons, more specifically tactile dialpads and keyboards a la Apple iPhone, LG Prada, and Samsung Instinct. The HTC Touch also falls into this category, and when we originally reviewed the Windows Mobile smartphone, we had major issues with its minuscule onscreen keyboard. HTC pretty much got the hint, as it implemented better and larger virtual keyboards on the Verizon and Sprint versions but still, some desire the feel of actual keys.
Enter the HTC Touch Dual. While still offering the TouchFLO interface, the Touch Dual features an integrated slide-out 20-key QWERTY keyboard that facilitates entering text and composing messages. In addition, it's the first smartphone to ship with Windows Mobile 6.1 in the United States, and supports our 3G bands (note: supports AT&T's 850/1900MHz HSPDA/UMTS band). We will say that for the unlocked price of $549 (we're talking about Nokia N95 prices here), we would have liked to have seen the inclusion of Wi-Fi or GPS. Still, there's a lot of power packed into the compact device. The HTC Touch Dual is available now at Best Buy stores and online.
The HTC Touch Dual has a very similar face to the HTC Touch, but there are a number of notable differences. First, it's no surprise that the smartphone is a bit taller and thicker than the original Touch, given the addition of the slide-out keyboard. The Touch Dual measures 4.2 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and weighs 4.2 ounces compared with 3.9 inches long by 2.8 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and 3.9 ounces. It's still a compact handset, though, and you should have no problem slipping it into a pants pocket. In addition, the mobile has a soft-touch finish to give it a rubbery texture.
As a result of the narrower body, the Touch Dual has a slightly smaller screen at 2.6 inches diagonally. It still displays 65,536 colors and a 320x240 pixel resolution for a clear and bright picture, and of course, it retains the TouchFLO interface. This unique feature lets you navigate through certain menus with a series of finger swipes or taps. Perhaps gimmicky to some, but it looks cool and worked well during our tests; the touch screen was also responsive.
Unlike the previous Touch models, there are some tweaks to the interface. First, since the Touch Dual ships with Windows Mobile 6.1, you get the new Getting Started menu that will guide you through the setup of your e-mail, Bluetooth headset pairing, ringtones, and more. You'll find this option on the Home screen, but once you're done configuring everything, you can remove the item altogether. The clock size has also been increased on the Home screen, and the HTC Home screen features panels where you can check your weather, sounds, mail, missed calls, and other information.
Another difference is the new task page that appears when you slide the screen up to expose the 20-key QWERTY keyboard. This screen gives you a quick way to create new appointments, e-mail, text messages, and other tasks. It's a nice little shortcut since it only requires one click to perform the operations.
Now, onto the keyboard. One of our biggest gripes about the HTC Touch was the onscreen keyboard. The first Touch had a minuscule keyboard that was impossible to peck at without a stylus, but we'll give credit where credit is due, as HTC improved the keyboard on the Sprint and Verizon versions with a larger buttons. Even still, there are some who just like the feel of actual keys (present company included) and the HTC Touch Dual fills that void. The keyboard mimics that of the SureType models found on the BlackBerry Pearls. We found the layout to be a tad cramped, and the buttons actually seem a bit wobbly. However, it gets the job done and it made entering text and composing messages much easier. You still have the option of using the onscreen keyboard and other input methods, such as Block Recognizer and Transcriber.
Other controls on the Touch Dual include Talk and End keys and a four-way navigation toggle with a center select button right below the display. On the left spine, you'll find a volume rocker and a microSD expansion slot hidden at the bottom corner. The right side holds the power button, a camera activation key, the stylus holder, and another hidden compartment for the SIM card. The latter is particularly difficult to access. You have to take off the battery cover and then remove the battery to pry open the cover to get to the SIM card slot. Granted, you won't be switching out your SIM card often, but still, it's a bit of a nuisance.
The HTC Touch Dual comes packaged with an AC adapter, a mini USB cable, a pair of earbuds, an extra stylus, a soft carrying case, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.