You do get some tactile controls on the HTC Touch. Below the display, you get tiny Talk and End buttons and a five-way navigation toggle. Along the right side, you'll find a camera activation key and the SIM card and microSD slots, which are protected by an attached cover. At first, we were pretty excited that you could side load your SIM card and the expandable media until we tried to access the slots. The flap is incredibly hard to open, and we tried using our nail, the stylus, and other sharp objects to crack it open. In the end, the easiest way to access these slots is to take off the back cover and then jimmy it open. But really, that kind of defeats the purpose of having it on the side, don't you think?
There's a volume rocker on the left side, a mini USB port and lanyard loop along the bottom edge, and a power button at the top. And finally, the phone's speaker and camera lens and self-portrait mirror are located on the back. The HTC Touch comes sleekly packaged with an AC adapter, a wired stereo headset, a microSD card, a USB cable, a protective pouch, a cell phone dongle, and reference material. Check out our cell phone accessories page to learn how you can further personalize your device.
Aside from the new interface, the HTC Touch doesn't offer anything revolutionary in the features department. At its core, the HTC Touch is still a Windows Mobile smart phone, running the latest Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition. (You can learn more about the operating system here.) We won't touch on all the details; instead we'll just highlight some of the bigger items and then delve into finite details when the U.S. model finally is launched later this year.
At this point, it's unclear whether the U.S. version of the Touch will be CDMA or GSM, but the new U.K. model is a tri-band GSM handset and offers a speakerphone, smart dialing, voice commands and dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory, and as always, the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. You can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry, as well as home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 20 polyphonic ringtones.
Wireless options on the HTC Touch include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. Unfortunately, there's no 3G support, so you're left to surf the Web via EDGE speeds or by hopping onto a hot spot. The Touch was able to find and connect to our test access point immediately, and we were surfing the Web in a matter of minutes. As for Bluetooth, the smart phone supports wireless headsets, hands-free kits, object exchange, file sharing, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets.
Finally, the HTC Touch is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with 8x zoom and video-recording capabilities. The options are pretty standard for a camera phone. You have your choice of five resolutions and four quality settings. There's no flash, you do get white balance settings, including one for night shots, and various image effects. There's also a self timer, a time stamp option, a picture counter, and a flicker adjustment, among other things. For video, the Touch can capture clips with or without sound in MPEG4, Motion JPEG, or H.263 format. There are only two resolution choices, but you get the same white balance and color effect settings from the still camera.
Picture quality was OK. Overall, objects had good definition, and colors were mostly bright. However, there was some blurring in the middle and a hint of a yellow overtone. We also found that you had to hold the phone really still to get a decent shot. Video quality was subpar, as clips look extra pixelated.
We tested the tri-band (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) HTC Touch in San Francisco using Cingular/AT&T service, and call quality was OK. We could hear a slight background hiss when we talked to friends; not enough to prevent us from having a conversation or interacting with our bank's voice response system, but enough to be annoying. On the other hand, our callers reported excellent sound with crisp audio and little to no interference. Unfortunately, we didn't get great results from the speakerphone; voices sounded far away and echoed on both ends of the conversations. We were able to pair the Touch with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset with no problems.
Armed with a 201MHz TI OMAP850 processor and 128MB ROM/64MB RAM, general operation was a tad slow. With about 12MB of free program memory, there was often a few-second delay when opening applications. At first we thought our device just didn't register our touch commands, but it was really a performance issue. Launching any of the multimedia functions really did a number on the Touch, as the screen sometimes froze midway between the music player and menu screen. This happened on a number of occasions, and got to be quite frustrating. Listening to music through the phone's speakers isn't bad. There's plenty of volume, but it's lacking in bass, and unfortunately, you don't get much of a boost with the included pair of earbuds. Video clips were watchable in short spurts.
The HTC Touch's battery is rated for 5 hours talk time and up to 8.3 days of standby time. In our battery tests, we were able to get 6 hours of talk time on a single charge.