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  1.    #1  
    Hopefully this thread won't get moved. I think there's value in having WM-related threads kept in the TreoCentral forums for Palm OS users thinking of switching and curious about "the other side." Anyways, I picked up a Sprint Touch yesterday. Paid the full price ($500) for it. I could have gotten another $75 for re-upping for 2-years, but I wasn't sure if I'd be keeping it, so I figured I'd keep my contract as-is, since I'll be eligible for better discounts in a few months.

    I've been using a Palm OS Treo 700p for a while now and have also owned/used the 650, 600, and 300, so I'm a long-time Treo user. My Palm OS experience also includes the original Pilot 5000, a Samsung SPH-i300 (one of the first "Touch" smartphones), and a brief trial of the B&W Kyocera Palm OS phone. I've also had a lot of experience with WM devices, dating back to a Compaq iPaq (I forget the model number - I think it was the first iPaq with the Pocket PC OS), the HP iPaq 4155 (still have it in a box) which has a remarkably similar form-factor to the HTC Touch, and, most recently, a tried out a Sprint HTC Mogul. I may be forgetting a device or two.

    When I tried the HTC Mogul, my main incentive for purchasing it (other than simply wanting to try something new/different than the Palm OS Treo I had been using for so long) was that I liked the idea of doing some development with .NET. I was going to be using .NET C# at work (I had many years of VB6 and prior experience) and I figured it would be good experience and fun. And as someone who is very focused on usability issues, I figured there were plenty of opportunities for me to make some apps that might be useful to others. I had dabbled with Handheld Basic ++ on the Palm OS (creating a virtual thumbboard for the Tapwave Zodiac and other 480x320 Palm OS devices - currently still in beta), but with the Palm OS future uncertain and no 480x320 Palm OS smartphones out there, the financial incentive for developing for that was lacking.

    So, sorry if I bored you with that background info, but I figured it might be useful to some. Now on to my initial thoughts about the Sprint HTC Touch...

    The first thing I noticed when picking up the Touch is the rubbery/suede-like plastic finish. This is similar (identical?) to what some old IBM Thinkpads and Radio Shack remotes used, and I believe certain recent Treos (680?) use it as well. I love it and think that all phones should have this type of finish. I've always been a bit worried that my smooth/slippery Treos would slip out of my hand and onto the concrete, and the Mogul felt especially "delicate" because I had to hold it somewhat awkwardly to avoid accidentally pressing one of its many side-mounted buttons.

    My days with the Mogul were probably doomed from the start, because at the time I bought it I was already won over by the idea of a large screen-mostly device. The iPhone was out and worked great but, more importantly, I had created my virtual thumbboard app for 480x320 Palm OS devices and had already decided that a well-designed virtual thumbboard paired with a right-sized screen was superior to a hard thumbboard in many respects. And the Mogul, with its poor-feeling thumbboard (IMO), didn't change my mind. While playing with the Mogul, I installed SPB's virtual keyboard app and decided that, while far from perfect, I actually liked it a bit better than using the hard key thumbboard. With the news of the upcoming HTC Touch, it seemed like an easy decision to return the Mogul. Why "pay for" (with it's added thickness/weight) a hard thumbboard that I didn't even like? Sorry, I guess I got side-tracked there. Back to the Touch...

    I played with it a little on the ride home using it as a phone. I had a couple of calls come in and I liked the phone sound quality. But talking and driving with a stick-shift isn't easy, so I plugged in the included wired headset. It's a stereo headset, so I left one of the earbuds dangling. My sister complained that she had trouble hearing me, so I'm not sure if the mic on the headset isn't located well or what the problem was. Not a big deal since I expect to probably pair it with a bluetooth speakerphone.

    The form-factor of the phone is quite good. It's slim and small (though too small, IMO, as I'd prefer a larger device if it came with a larger, higher-res screen), and feels good to hold. The location of the power button harkens back to the Treo's of old. The D-Pad and center button feel good, though I'd prefer a matte finish on the center button for better "grip" (a very minor quibble). The Talk/End buttons have good tactile feedback, but I personally think that dedicated Talk/End buttons are unnecessary (I bashed the 700p for "wasting" button functionality on this), so I expect/hope to remap other functionality to these buttons. The camera button feels fine, too, and I was happy to see built-in support for remapping this button for both press and press-and-hold actions (too bad they didn't allow the same customization for all of the buttons).

    I wish I could say good things about the volume slider, but I can't. It's absolutely horrible. I just want a Treo-style volume toggle. And add a top-mounted Treo-style mute switch, too.

    Since I'm talking hardware, let's talk about the screen. I haven't used it in daylight yet, so I'll have to report back on that. In dim/dark environments, it seems very bright and colorful. Unfortunately, it's field of view is quite bad. Worse, when tilting the device in certain directions, it doesn't just become dimmer, it actually turns into a negative image. Bottom line: you need to be looking straight at it to get a really good image. I'm worried how this will play out when using it as a GPS in my car. The screen's glossy finish is also a fingerprint/smudge magnet, and I find myself wanting a matte finish when typing on the virtual buttons to get a bit more "grip". On a positive note, I like the fact that the screen is flush with the top of the device. I'm hopeful that this will result in better accessibility to the edge-positioned buttons/keys on a virtual keyboard.

    The last hardware-related item I'll talk about is the camera. I haven't used it in daylight, but in low-light conditions PQ is awful. The shutter speed appears to be slow, resulting in easy blurring. I've seen some sample pics taken outdoors during the day, and it looks quite good there. I've always been an outspoken critic of the quality of cameras in phones. I don't care about megapixels. Give me a low-res camera that takes good pictures and I'll be happy.

    Well, I've blathered on enough about some of the hardware for now. I'll post back later with my extensive thoughts about the OS/GUI.
    Now THIS is the future of smartphones.
  2. #2  
    Your review is spot on...you might want to try the Tengo Thumb keyboard...I am fastest with it compared to all others.
  3.    #3  
    Thanks for the response.

    I've heard of Tengo but haven't tried it yet. As I've mentioned before, I wrote a virtual landscape thumbboard app for the Palm OS which I'd like to port over to WM.

    A couple of quick comments about the hardware...

    - I really like the D-Pad design. It's very comfortable, easy to use for directional purposes, and easy to use for selecting things (with its big button), and it's difficult to accidentally do one when you mean to do the other (e.g., hit left/right/up/down when you're trying to select or vice versa). Of course, in a device like this, you ideally wouldn't need to use the D-Pad for much of anything. One time I'd want a D-Pad on a finger-friendly device is for gaming, but the Touch fails to deliver on this front because, if you're using it in landscape mode with the D-Pad on the left of the screen, there are no hard buttons to the right of the screen. Keep in mind that one of my favorite devices was the Tapwave Zodiac, which had a wonderfully versatile hardware design.

    - The screen itself seems to require a bit more pressure than other touchscreens, likely due to the "bezel-less" design. I found this annoying at first, where I'd tap on something and the screen wouldn't recognize my tap, but I've adapted and now know to apply more pressure when tapping, and so I don't think it will be an issue.

    OK, let's move on to software. First, the bad news...it's still running WM6 under the covers and that OS/GUI leaves a lot to be desired in terms of usability and, in particular, from a finger-friendly perspective. If I had to isolate one thing about the WM GUI that truly infuriates me, it would probably be Microsoft's guidelines for the OK button. This comes into play all the time. You've got a pop-up window or you're editing a contact or whatever and in order to save your changes, or click "OK", you've got to tap on a tiny little button in the upper right. This doesn't work well on a device like the Touch, because you've got to tap with your fingernail in order to make sure you hit that tiny little thing. The ignorance of this design detail becomes very obvious when you've got a window up which has both an "OK" and a "Cancel" option. The OK button is that tiny little button in the upper right, whereas the Cancel button gets a right-sized button in the location you would normally expect to see (on Windows for the desktop) such a button.

    Microsoft made some design guideline changes with WM6 (or was it WM5?) when they introduced the "soft" buttons. They had a great opportunity there to right some of their wrongs, but they didn't. With that OS release, they should have dropped the teensy-tiny circular OK button and told developers to put large OK (and Cancel, when appropriate) buttons at the bottom of the screen. They should have also introduced a new hard button: Menu. Let's face it...*every* app needs an app-specific menu. So when you *always* need an app-specific menu of less-frequently-used options, you should have a hard button to access that. But Microsoft didn't do it. Instead, what we now have is a situation where nearly every developer has to waste screen real estate to display that soft button bar, and they have to waste one of their precious *two* spaces in that soft button area for a "Menu" option. Ridiculous.

    Another usability oddity is the Start menu / Today screen. I was never a big fan of the Start menu. It made sense on a desktop, but not on a PDA, IMO. When Microsoft introduced the Today screen idea (it wasn't always there, right?), I liked it, but the Start menu was still there. To me, they're overlapping/redundant. Lose the Start menu and keep/enhance the Today screen. Bringing it back to the HTC Touch...the Start menu (and, for that matter, any tapping on the title bar) isn't a finger-friendly thing, anyway, because it's not really big enough. HTC tried to improve this a bit by making a larger-font version of the Start menu. It's definitely better than the stock Start menu, but it's still not ideal.

    That's it for today's installment. I'll bash Microsoft on some of the other WM usability issues, and hopefully begin to discuss more of the HTC software "improvements" (some of them real, others more gimmicky and/or not quite good enough) in another day's installment.
    Now THIS is the future of smartphones.
  4. raiderfan's Avatar
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    #4  
    and looking foward for more on the Touch from you.......I am really on the fence with this thing.....I don't see a future in the Palm OS and i'm looking at the Touch as a replacement for my Treo 700p....
    Last edited by raiderfan; 12/06/2007 at 07:42 AM. Reason: grammar
    "Yet each man kills the thing he loves, from all let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look, some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss the brave man with the sword."
    -- Oscar Wilde

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