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Sprint HTC Touch Diamond Review
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Date: Oct 30, 2008
Section:Gadgets
Author: Sarah Miller
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Introduction

It’s hard to avoid making comparisons to Apple’s iPhone when you mention the HTC Touch Diamond. Although they are very different phones running on different operating systems, the Touch Diamond is arguably one of the closest competitors in the U.S. market today to the popular iPhone in terms of unique touch controls, an attractive looking user interface, power and versatility.

Even though the phones compete in some areas, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between the Touch Diamond and the iPhone in terms of their intended users. You see, HTC designed the Touch Diamond as a Windows Mobile, business-friendly device. Apple designed the iPhone from the ground up as a consumer-oriented device. Both phones offer similar functionality, but the way in which each company implemented certain features is different, largely because the audience is different. For this reason, we may point out similarities or differences, but each user must decide for himself which OS and feature set is most important when deciding on a phone.

That said, just because the Touch Diamond is business-friendly doesn’t mean it’s a device that’s all work and no play. Like other Windows Mobile phones, the Touch Diamond comes with a media player, built-in camera that can also capture video, and some slick-looking touch controls that are fun and easy to use. It also comes with a few addicting games. The Sprint version, which is what we’re evaluating here, supports Sprint TV and the Sprint Music Store as well.

There haven’t been very many Windows Mobile phones to date that have offered a plethora of touch controls. Part of this is simply due to the design of the OS: Windows Mobile, on its own, lends itself to stylus and keyboard navigational controls. HTC’s original Touch phone offers some touch controls with its TouchFLO interface, but you’ll still find yourself pulling out the stylus frequently while using this phone. The Touch Diamond takes the TouchFLO interface from the original Touch phone a step further by overhauling the interface and replacing it with Touch FLO 3D.

Another key difference between the Touch Diamond and other Windows Mobile phones to date is its size. The Touch Diamond is relatively small, especially when compared to thicker phones like the AT&T Tilt, which has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Thankfully, HTC didn’t sacrifice functionality for pocketability. This phone is just as powerful as many other Windows Mobile phones. Just how good of a job did HTC do at adding touch-friendly controls to the standard Windows Mobile interfaces?  Read on as we find out.
 

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Specifications

First things first: let’s take a general look at the hardware behind this phone. The Touch Diamond is thinner than many Windows Mobile phones, in part because it doesn’t have a hardware keyboard. It’s also narrower than some phones. A smaller size doesn’t mean this phone is lacking in terms of power, however.

Here’s how HTC describes this phone:

The HTC Touch Diamond gives you one-touch access to every aspect of your life and the important people in it with an intuitive 3D interface. The HTC Touch Diamond also places the power of the Internet at your fingertip with an unequaled Web-browsing experience. And all of these dynamic features and powerful capabilities are contained in a small and stylish form. You’ll be amazed when you see how touch can feel with the HTC Touch Diamond.

HTC Touch Diamond
Specifications and Features

  • Qualcomm MSM7501A 528MHz Processor
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
  • 256MB ROM
  • 288MB DDR RAM
  • 4GB internal storage
  • 4 x 2.1 x 0.6 inches (HxWxD)
  • 4 ounces (with battery)
  • 2.8-inch TFT-LCD flat touch-sensitive screen with VGA resolution
  • Dual-band (800/1900Mhz), CDMA2000 1xEVDO Rev. A, 1xRTT, and IS-95A/B voice or data with up to 1.8Mbps uplink and 3.1Mbps downlink
  • TouchFLO 3D
  • Touch-sensitive navigation control
  • Motion G-sensor (accelerometer)
  • Internal GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate and A2DP for stereo wireless headsets
  • 802.11b/g
  • HTC ExtUSB (11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one)
  • 3.2MP color CMOS digital camera with auto-focus
  • Speakerphone
  • Ring tone supported formats: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WAV, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, QCELP, MIDI, MPEG-4 formats
  • 40 polyphonic and standard MIDI format 0 and 1 (SMF)/SP MIDI ringtones
  • Rechargeable 1340mAh Lithium-ion battery
  • Up to 250 minutes talk time
  • Up to 350 hours standby time
  • Up to 8 hours media playback time for WMV (video); up to 12 hours for WMA (audio)


In the box: 

  • Standard Lithium Ion battery
  • Battery door
  • AC phone charger
  • Carrying case
  • USB charging cable
  • Additional stylus
  • Mini USB stereo headphones
  • 4-in-1 adapter

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Design

The Touch Diamond is an attractive looking phone. It has a high-gloss black finish on the front and soft touch maroon finish on the back. While attractive, the high-gloss black finish on the front tends to collect fingerprints. As a result, you’ll likely find yourself cleaning the display often, though we didn’t notice performance degradation in terms of response even when the screen was dirty. Compared to the original HTC Touch, the Touch Diamond is noticeably narrower but has the same height and thickness as the Touch.

             

On the left side of the Touch Diamond, you’ll find a volume rocker that is flush with the side of the device. The right side of the Touch Diamond is clean, save for the stylus in the bottom corner. This stylus is magnetic, so you don’t have to worry about it falling out like you would with other phones. Some users may feel that the stylus is a bit on the short side, since it’s not one of the longer, retractable styli that you’d see on some devices. Even though the stylus is shorter than some, it didn’t cause us any grief.
 

                


On the top of the device, you’ll find the power button. A multi-purpose mini USB port which serves as the charging, data, and headset jack is on the bottom of the device. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack on this phone. Instead, HTC opted to include a pair of USB headphones and a 4-in-1 adapter that allows you to plug in your own set of headphones. The back of the device has a slightly curved, soft red finish and the 3.2MP camera.
 

                


Given this phone’s multimedia capabilities with the Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV, we wish HTC would have included a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone. The included USB headphones do the job, but there are plenty of instances in which we’d rather use our own, higher quality headphones with noise cancellation. Although the 4-in-1 adapter provides a 3.5mm headphone jack, it’s also about the same height as the phone itself, which makes it a bit cumbersome if you’re trying to keep the device in your pocket.

  

Below the Touch Diamond’s 2.8-inch VGA touch screen, you’ll find four flush buttons (home, back, call send, and call end) along with a touch-sensitive scroll wheel / D-pad combo. The back button is unique—we don’t usually see this on Windows Mobile devices. As you would expect, this button simply returns you to the previous screen. Although handy, there were plenty of times a dedicated hardware OK button may have been more useful, particularly since trying to close applications with one’s finger isn’t always easy given Windows Mobile’s small on-screen OK button.


 

The scroll wheel / D-pad looks like it’s raised, but really, it’s not much higher than the rest of the device. The center of the D-pad is indented. To use the D-pad in a traditional sense, you press the flat area next to the circular scroll wheel for up/down and left/right controls. The scroll wheel is very useful—you simply run your finger around it to zoom in and out of Web pages, Word documents, and more. The area around the D-pad acts as a notification light to let you know when a call is coming in, when you have new email, and more. It also cycles through a pattern of lights while the device is charging.
 

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Interface

As mentioned, the TouchFLO 3D interface sets the Touch Diamond apart from other Windows Mobile phones we’ve seen in the U.S. to date. In short, TouchFLO 3D puts a really cool user interface on top of the basic Windows Mobile functionality. There’s much more to it than just that, however.

TouchFLO 3D replaces the standard Today screen with a different Home screen that has several tabs at the bottom: Home, People, Messages, Mail, Sprint Music, Photos and Videos, Sprint TV, Internet, Weather, Settings, and Programs. You can tap to select any of the shown tabs, but since they do not all fit on the main screen, you can also drag your finger across the tabbed area to scroll through the icons. As you glide through the icons, a transparent icon and text appears to tell you which icon you are on. Whenever you like, the Home button will return you to the main screen or you can scroll to it using your finger.

On the Home screen, you’ll see a large clock, call history information, and upcoming appointment information. By simply swiping your finger up or down across the screen, you can minimize the large clock and reveal additional appointments, etc that don’t otherwise fit on the Home screen.

The People tab can hold 15 of your favorite contacts along with photos of each of these people. HTC provides generic silhouette photos, or you can use your own pictures from an individual’s contact listing or the camera reel. By tapping All People, you’ll bring up the standard Windows Mobile Contacts listing that is sorted alphabetically with HTC’s Random Access plug-in. This plug-in provides A to Z shortcuts on the right so you can scroll to a particular contact quickly.
 

         


On the Messages tab, you’ll see SMS and MMS messages with support for threaded text messaging. You can access different conversations by flicking your finger up or down across the screen. The Mail icon provides access to email accounts with snazzy graphics that show your email messages as letters coming out of envelopes. Here, you can scroll through messages by flicking your finger up or down across the letter.


             


Internet launches the Opera Mobile 9.5 browser and also provides easy access to the phone’s YouTube application. The YouTube application automatically displays a list of videos in Portrait orientation and then switches to Landscape mode when playing an actual video. While the phone does have a “Motion G-sensor” (accelerometer), its functionality is only accessible through some applications, and the YouTube app is not one of them. In other words, you can’t easily change the display of a YouTube video from Landscape to Portrait mode simply by rotating the display. There are also shortcuts to Facebook and MySpace from the Internet tab. Both of these links bring up the respective Web pages within the Opera browser.


             


Pictures and Videos lets you flip through albums from the main screen. You can also launch the camera and the camcorder from this tab. Tapping any image or movie lets you see that item in full screen mode. The accelerometer works within this application, so all you have to do is rotate the device to change display orientation. A slideshow mode is available that will automatically flip through photos in full screen mode.


     


The Weather tab provides access to current forecast information, complete with animated graphics. For example, if it’s rainy, you’ll see a little windshield wiper that cleans off rain drops. You can track the weather for up to 10 cities worldwide. You can also tap the lower left corner of the screen to reveal a 5-day forecast for the area.


     


In essence, the Settings tab is a shortened version of the standard Windows mobile settings Screen. This tab is divided into Sync Data, Sound, Wallpaper, Communications, Data, and About areas. Sync Data initiates synchronization. Sound provides access to sound profiles, ringer and system volume controls, ringtones, and ring types. Wallpaper is self-explanatory and controls your Home screen’s wallpaper. Communications lets you turn the phone, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Microsoft Direct Push, and Data Connections on and off. Data lets you change when to download weather settings, and About provides general phone information. An All Settings link in the bottom corner provides access to the full Windows Mobile Settings menu.


          


Finally, the Programs listing to up to 18 programs, with nine shortcuts displayed on a single screen. By default, the phone has shortcuts to Live Search, Sprint Navigation, Pocket Express, File Explorer, the OZ Instant Messaging client, and the RSS Hub application. You can remove any of these shortcuts, and of course, you can add your own to any of the blank spots. An All Programs link at the bottom of the screen provides a scrollable list of all available programs.


         


We really liked the TouchFLO 3D interface as a whole. It is smooth and provides easy access to most of the phone’s functions we use on a regular basis. In addition, this user interface is clean and overall visually appealing. In fact, it is sometimes easy to forget you’re using Windows Mobile when you’re immersed in TouchFLO 3D.
 

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Functions and Software
Web browsing on the Touch Diamond is much better than on some Windows Mobile devices because HTC integrated Opera Mobile 9.5 into the device. Internet Explorer is still available should you wish to use it, but Opera Mobile 9.5 does a much better job at providing a desktop-like browsing experience on a mobile’s small screen. As a result, we hardly found a need to use Internet Explorer during our tests. If you rotate the device while browsing in Opera, the phone’s screen will change orientation to match. You can also zoom in and out of pages by sliding your finger clockwise and counterclockwise around the scroll wheel.

There were a couple instances in which we had to restart the Touch Diamond because we either locked up the phone or it appeared sluggish. Although this was rare, a soft reset generally resolved the issue. The reset button on the Touch Diamond isn’t nearly as accessible as it is on some other phones: We had to remove the battery cover and pull out the stylus in order to reset the phone. A hard reset (which will erase the phone and restore it to factory defaults) using hardware keys is a bit more difficult to perform than a soft reset, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since one shouldn’t need to hard reset the device much, if at all.

When entering a phone number on the Phone screen, the Touch Diamond matches the number you type both numerically and alphabetically. In other words, if you type 266, it will match all numbers with 266 in it, along with anyone who has a form of Ann in their name.

HTC created custom screens for incoming and outgoing calls. The incoming screen shows your contact’s photo, name, and phone number at the top with a green Answer button next to a red Ignore button near the bottom. The outgoing screen shows the person’s photo (or the default silhouette photo if none is available) at the left with their name and phone number to the right. Below this information, there is Hold, Add Call, Note, Mute, Speaker, and Contacts buttons. A large, red End Call button is at the very bottom of the outgoing call screen.
 

         


Outlook with Microsoft Direct Push Technology and HTML support can provide access to both personal and corporate email accounts, including popular POP3 and IMAP accounts such as AOL, Gmail, Earthlink, and Yahoo! mail. Thanks to support for Microsoft Direct Push, your contact information, email, and other important data synchronizes nicely with Outlook over the air. Of course, people without an Exchange server can synchronize via ActiveSync as well.

When connected to a computer, the phone gives you the option to use ActiveSync or DiskDrive. ActiveSync synchronizes the device with the computer according to your chosen settings. DiskDrive enables a mass storage mode and essentially treats the device like an external USB hard drive.

Cyberon’s Voice commander handles all voice dialing capabilities along with other voice controls which let you access various functions of the phone. This speaker-independent voice recognition software doesn’t require any training on your part. It can dial contacts, tell you the time, open applications, and much more via simple voice commands.

The PIM functionality of the Touch Diamond is largely controlled by Windows Mobile, so you’ll see the same Calendar, Notes, voice recording, and Tasks screens as what you’d see on other Windows Mobile 6.1 devices. These functions have all worked well for us in the past, so we’re OK with the fact that HTC didn’t change them.

The Touch Diamond supports both SMS and MMS messaging, so you can send text, pictures, and video messages to friends and family. You can initiate new messages from the TouchFLO 3D interface, but the actual typing of the message will occur within the standard Windows Mobile environment.

When tapping out a message or entering other text, you can choose from one of three custom keyboards (Phone Keypad, Compact QWERTY, and Full QWERTY). The Phone Keypad is a 12-key, T9 keypad, while the Compact QWERTY keyboard resembles a SureType keyboard with only two letters per key. The Compact QWERTY supports T9 input as well for faster data entry. All of these keyboards require a fair amount of screen real estate, but this is fairly common with many phones that use on-screen, finger-controlled keyboards. Other input methods include the Block Recognizer, the standard Windows Mobile small QWERTY on-screen keyboard, Letter Recognizer, and Transcriber.


             


Windows Live Search is preloaded on the Touch Diamond for easy access to maps, directions, traffic information, movie listings, gas prices, weather updates, and more. Live Search can even interact with the phone’s GPS receiver to provide location-based information. With the phone’s support for Sprint TV and the Sprint Music Store, you’ll have easy access to live TV, video on demand, and downloadable stereo-quality soundtracks. You can even use the Sprint Music Store to listen to music while you’re sending text messages or browsing the Web.

In addition to Bubble Breaker and Solitaire, you’ll find an amusing (and addicting) game called Teeter. In this puzzle game, you must maneuver a marble around various “holes” and obstacles in order to get it in the green slot. To do this, you use the phone’s accelerometer and tilt the phone up, down, left, and right.

Because the Touch Diamond runs on Windows Mobile 6.1, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of applications that are already available for you to purchase and install. By installing additional applications that fit your needs, you will get even more value from this smartphone.

Business users in particular will appreciate that Office Mobile is preinstalled on the Touch Diamond, giving you the ability to work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. A built-in RSS reader, MP3 ring tone creator, and other software is also included. Sprint also included a download link for OZ Instant Messaging software, which supports Yahoo!, AIM, and Windows Live Messaging.
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Performance
Some of the more obscure features of the Touch Diamond really show that HTC put some thought into making this phone a usable device. For example, when you pull out the stylus, the device automatically wakes up. Should you remove the stylus while on a call, the phone will activate the Notes feature, so you can record a phone number, directions, or other important information. Also, if a call comes in while you’re in a meeting, all you have to do is turn the phone over to silence the device.

The Touch Diamond’s 2.8-inch touch screen is gorgeous, mostly because of its VGA resolution. The device auto adjusts the backlight based on the surrounding lighting conditions. The screen is flat, with no bezel surrounding it, making it easy to touch items in the corner of the display. The Touch Diamond’s 3.2MP autofocus camera took excellent pictures, though there isn’t a flash, so you’ll definitely need adequate surrounding light. Video quality for a mobile device wasn’t too shabby, either.

The touch screen itself is responsive to a stylus tap, fingernail, and even the pad of our finger. Thanks to TouchFLO 3D, you can easily scroll through nearly any menu by simply dragging the pad of your finger up or down the screen.

Battery life seems to drain a little quicker than we’d like. The phone typically lasted about 24 hours with fairly light use, with some voice conversations, and the occasional weather information download. Data activity and long voice communications drained the battery faster. As long as you’re able to charge the phone every night, or even possibly once during the day, battery life shouldn’t be a huge issue, however. It’s possible that HTC could improve upon battery life in the future with a ROM update, though the company’s representatives couldn’t comment on future updates at this time. As a whole, even though the Touch Diamond’s battery life wasn’t something to brag about, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker, either.

Another complaint we’ve heard about the Touch Diamond is regarding connectivity and dropped / missed calls. We did not experience any of these issues during testing, though it’s possible that different areas of the country may experience different coverage issues. This is another issue that could theoretically be addressed in a future ROM update, but we were unable to confirm anything with our HTC contact.

Sprint’s version of the Touch Diamond supports EVDO Rev. A for fast Internet browsing. When such a connection is not available, or when you want even faster speeds, you can activate the phone’s Wi-Fi capabilities, assuming a hotspot is available.

The phone has a healthy 4GB of internal storage available for all of your files, movies, photos, and applications. Although many users will find this storage to be adequate, there are also many of us who would have no problems filling the phone to capacity. Sadly, HTC didn’t include a memory card expansion slot, so 4GB is all you get.

In our tests, call quality was good, and we had no problem pairing the phone with a Bluetooth headset. We could hear everyone we called clearly both through the phone and through the headset, and no one complained of the sound on the other end, either.
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Conclusion
As a whole, HTC did a good job when designing this phone and the TouchFLO 3D interface. Although there are a few things we’d change (like adding a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD slot), none of these things are deal breakers. Assuming you can live without a hardware keyboard, this is one of the smaller, more attractive Windows Mobile phones we’ve seen to date. It’s easily pocketable, yet still has plenty of power, storage, and functionality.



Many people may categorize the Touch Diamond as a business device due to the fact that it runs Windows Mobile and supports Microsoft Direct Push, but really, it’s also a joy for consumers with its touch controls, media capabilities, 3.2MP camera, and more. With its sleek, black finish, the device has a serious look, yet its soft, red casing on the back alludes to the phone’s fun side as well.

The phone is currently available from Sprint for a price of $249.99 after discounts, rebate, and a two-year contract. Over time, this price will drop, but for a newly released Windows Mobile smartphone, this price is right on target with the rest.
 

  

  

  

  • Attractive, small handset
  • TouchFLO 3D interface
  • Accelerometer
  • GPS & Wi-Fi
  • Vibrant VGA display
  • Fingerprint magnet
  • No microSD expansion slot
  • No 3.5mm audio jack



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