Review: HTC Touch Pro (Sprint) and HTC Fuze (AT&T)

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Short Version: The HTC Touch Pro is easily the best HTC device available from US carriers right now. If you’ve been considering a professional-level Windows Mobile phone with a QWERTY keyboard, the Touch Pro is an excellent choice.

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Overview and Features:

  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional underneath HTC’s own TouchFLO interface
  • 528MHz processor, 512MB ROM and 288MB RAM
  • Gorgeous 2.8-inch 640×480 touchscreen
  • Five-row slide out QWERTY keypad
  • Built-in GPS, Wi-Fi, and stereo Bluetooth
  • Memory expandable via microSD
  • 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus
  • HTML Opera web browser
  • Sprint claims up to 4 hours talk time, AT&T claims up to 7.4 hours
  • Sprint EVDO Rev. A data speed, AT&T 3G tri-band HSDPA
  • $299 after two-year contract and mail-in rebate ($100 MIR on Sprint, $50 on AT&T)

The Interface

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HTC’s TouchFLO interface runs on top of Windows Mobile 6.1, providing an intuitive and slick method to get from point A to point B. Once you start drilling down into menus and submenus, you’ll often find the familiar and plain Windows Mobile screens. But all the basic top-level stuff is wrapped in TouchFLO for the most part.

Moving around is relatively responsive, but it’s not quite a smooth-like-butter experience yet. There tends to be a tiny bit of lag every so often, enough that it’s noticeable without being overly frustrating. I found myself coaxing the device along rather than cursing at it, which I suppose is a good sign. HTC has a habit of patching its phones pretty aggressively during the first few months of a release, so I’d expect to see speed and stability enhancements rolling out soon and into early next year.

The Opera web browser is the same great, full HTML browser found on the Touch Diamond. It’s light years beyond most mobile browsers (though I still prefer Safari on the iPhone and iPod Touch). It’s way, way better than the mobile version of Internet Explorer, although that program is loaded on the phone if you need to use it.

The Keyboard

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I preferred Sprint’s keyboard over AT&T’s even though both are identical from a technical standpoint. Sprint’s top row features numbers while AT&T’s has symbols (click the above image to enlarge). This will completely come down to your own preference. I preferred to be able to quickly type numbers without using a function key.

The keys themselves are small and tightly spaced, so you’re not going to bring this phone to the national texting championships or anything. It gets the job done, though, and typing gets easier and faster with time. I have pretty big fingers, too, so if you’ve got bony, pointy digits, you’ll have an easier go of it.

Thankfully, the tactile response when pressing a key is pretty good. Each key travels downward far enough that you’ll know you’ve hit your target. The Enter, Space, and left Shift keys are big, which is nice. AT&T’s keyboard includes a function-selected numeric keypad to make up for the lack of top-row numerical keys.

The simple addition of the keyboard makes the Touch Pro far easier and more enjoyable to use than the Touch Diamond. It gives the device an air of seriousness, too, as it makes quickly answering e-mail messages a far more productive experience.

Size, Weight, and Battery Life

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The Touch Pro is a bit chunky, especially compared to the keyboard-less Touch Diamond. Business and power users likely won’t mind the girth and it’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but I was kind of surprised initially. The AT&T version is a bit heavier at 5.82 ounces than the Sprint version, at 5.3 ounces. Both feel very solid, though, which is a good thing to have in a phone you’ll presumably use all the time.

Both versions are the same size at 4 inches by 2 inches by .71 inches. The Sprint version has a flat, silver/grey back, while the AT&T version uses the same jagged-looking back as the HTC Touch Diamond. Again, that’ll come down to your preference.

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Battery life is passable, but you won’t want to stray too far away from the charger. With frequent use, you’ll need to plug it in every night. You might be able to squeeze two full days of light-to-moderate use out of it, but the battery indicator might make you a little nervous by mid-morning on day two. Thankfully the phone can be recharged with standard mini USB cables, which are pretty easy to find in a pinch.

You’ll like it if…

…you use Windows Mobile for the functionality but don’t care for WinMo’s look and feel, you want a device that can do just about anything (HTML browser, pretty good autofocus camera, music, video, GPS) and you need an actual, physical keyboard.

If you’ve used and liked HTC devices before and you’re trying to decide whether or not to upgrade to this one, then you can safely do so without being disappointed. It’s easily the best HTC device to date (though we’ll see if the Touch HD takes that crown) and the slide-out keyboard makes a world of difference over the Touch Diamond.

I’m not too keen on comparing one company’s phones against other phones, but if I had to do so, I’d say the Touch Diamond sits squarely between the iPhone and a BlackBerry — it’s a good mix of business and fun. It doesn’t do the interface and web browser as well as the iPhone and the messaging and typing angles aren’t covered as robustly as they are on a BlackBerry. I’ve very much enjoyed using the Touch Pro, though, because it covers both areas broadly and performs most functions with ease.

But not if…

…size matters or you’re looking for an iPhone or BlackBerry killer. Like I said, the Touch Pro can perform a lot of functions and handles most of them pretty well. It’s just not likely going to appeal to either of the extreme ends of work and play. And it’s built more like an SUV than a Ferrari. It’s not ugly by any means, but it’s built for function.

Also, at $299, the price seems to be just out of reach for the casual user. Business users, though, might not be all that put off by the price tag, especially considering that you get WinMo 6.1 Professional with all the Microsoft Office features.

Recommendation:

Windows Mobile users who want to get some work done during the day followed by a little fun at night are strongly encouraged to take a closer look at this phone. The interface is uniq
ue and easy-to-use and the web browser, entertainment features, and business applications round out the best phone we’ve seen from HTC yet.

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