HTC Touch Diamond

Now that the Apple iPhone has been released and we’ve all been put under the trance of its spells, some other manufacturers would like to show you that they too believe that “touching is believing.”

Now that the Apple iPhone has been released and we’ve all been put under the trance of its spells, some other manufacturers would like to show you that they too believe that “touching is believing.”

One of the original portable pocketable computer makers HTC is getting in on the action with the HTC Touch Diamond, a new Windows-based Smartphone that boasts 4 gig of memory, HSDPA, a 3.15 megapixel camera, and looks that really set itself apart from anything out there at the moment.

With a screen that has a better resolution than that of the iPhone and touch-based gestures evolved from the HTC Touch devices of recent years, the HTC Touch Diamond is one of the more interesting concepts on the market.

A touch-phone that aims to be as good a phone as a media player, picture viewer, and runs Windows? The idea is too good to be true. Just what exactly are HTC bringing to the table?

Well aside for the already noted features, you get a touch-based phone with a great resolution inside of a smaller body. Smaller than the already established Apple iPhone, the HTC Touch Diamond has a really nice feel to it with light plastic cut into diamond-like segments on the underside and a heavy glass top that seems to accentuate the idea that this phone was designed by a designer and not an engineer.

While the screen allows finger swipes in a way that is almost gesture controlled, you also have use of a wheel around the edge of one of the main tactile button in the center, allowing your finger to circle the edge and zoom in and out of images. Even the stylus is slightly different with a magnet working with it to allow an easy way to hold the pointing tool in its place when it sits in the phone. On top of all of this is the next version of the HTC TouchFLO software for ease of use in navigating your phone.

While all of this sounds like it would make an excellent competitor to the iPhone, you’ll find in using it that there’s something horribly wrong with the HTC Touch Diamond.

For starters it’s slow… really slow. This is one of those things many of us sort of saw coming. Like a freight train ready to run over the lady in peril, I think many of us in the technology review world jumped out of the way and hoped HTC would save themselves from their own design which sadly they did not.

I’m probably not making a lot of sense here so I’ll explain. The Touch Diamond uses a touch-based interface that’s been custom designed to be finger controlled, something of which Windows Mobile has never really been. The current version of 6.1 is better than past iterations of Windows, but we’re still playing games here because it’s mostly a stylus (mouse) heavy OS.

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To counter this, HTC have made an evolution of their TouchFLO interface found in previous handsets. It’s slick, simple, and seems to require only one hand to operate it giving you the freedom to flick easily to your desired menu option. But rather than be something to be proud of, the Touch Diamond’s interface is let down by a sheer lack of speed because it is existing on top of the Windows Mobile operating system as opposed to existing as part of it. This is the primary problem that the interface has in that it’s not integrated and as such uses even more memory to complete the same job as Windows Mobile’s Start Menu does except with more finesse. I’m not sure whether the handsets can keep up though because between the review unit I’m using and the ones found at launch, I thought that the Touch Diamond felt noticeably slow. Lag was easily present just trying to get to and from different menu options and even out of them and in the various programs found on the device itself.

It should be noted that the HTC Touch Diamond is not an iPhone. That’s an important distinction to make especially when you realise how much artistic freedom has been given to the software designers to borrow design elements from Apple.

The other reason it’s important to say that “this is not an iPhone” stems from some of the hardware elements found on the iPhone.

For one, the Touch Diamond lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, a staple for anyone considering a phone for music. This means that instead of listening with your favourite headphones, you’ll have to be content with either the supplied mediocre USB earbuds or find a Bluetooth stereo pair you like.

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It also comes with a set amount of memory that can’t be upgraded. At 4 gigabytes of space – some of which is already taken by the operating system – you’ll have half the memory of that of the low-end iPhone. With such a limited size in the Touch Diamond, good luck finding a comfortable balance for your media and applications, especially without any chance of upgrading the memory.

Then you have the keyboard, an area which saddens me somewhat.

One of the ways I like to review products (if I can) is to write my review on the product itself. I find this gives me the feeling of what it would be like to own and use it. In the case of the HTC Touch Diamond, I simply couldn’t write my review. Typing in web addresses found me frustrated in ways no other pocket computer had done in the past.

And yet as a phone, it performs admirably. I’m still a bit uneasy about punching numbers in on a touch-based device – the iPhone included – but the lack of speed found in the HTC Touch Diamond coupled with the smaller screen made this feel less than desirable. I wasn’t sure what I was pressing half the time and felt that the entire experience could have been improved upon. Once you have typed in the number, I found the call quality to be most excellent.

In the end, the question remains “is this a worthy iPhone competitor” because that’s the unfortunate place this phone finds itself in. Being a touch device released this year, it is competing with the likes of the iPhone, a phone that is now no longer just really for consumers and is taking the business world head on.

I would have to answer no, not yet at least. While I would say that there are some excellent features that make the HTC Touch Diamond worth playing with, its lack of speed and upgradeability will leave you waiting – and waiting – for something to actually happen when you use your phone, and this really isn’t good enough.

Product: HTC Touch Diamond

Vendor: HTC

RRP: $999

Website: HTC Touch Diamond

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark