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HTC Touch Dual at a glance
Live photos of HTC Touch Dual
HTC seems like it is not going to stop surprising us and even making us happy – the Taiwanese company is not shy of experimenting and keeps going its very own way, furthermore it manages to come up with some interesting and even novel solutions at times when nobody expects them to pull it off. The HTC P5500, aka Nike, aka Touch Slide. Please, meet the HTC Touch Dual, so familiar and so unlike the original Touch.
We have been waiting for HTC to come up with a sliding communicator for a long while. Back when it was still in the works, and the web was buzzing about it, the Touch Dual changed a couple of names and appearances. When it was codenamed Nike, the Internet saw first leaked images of the communicator, which were quite wide of what it is now.
Notwithstanding, this image of the Touch Dual had lasted for quite a while, up until the day when we got to know that this communicator would in fact continue the HTC Touch’s line. That was the moment when the new pictures of the device gave almost the true looks of the Touch Dual.
Today, when the HTC Touch Dual is being officially announced, we will share with you how we felt about the first hours of our quality time with the device – what sets it apart from the original Touch and what’s new in it.
The HTC Touch Dual is a member of the newly formed HTC’s range. Back when we reviewed the HTC Touch we already pondered over this idea of HTC’s – a line-up of communicators that would be developed separately from other solutions. Despite sharing the platform and the OS with other solutions, all models with “Touch” prefix will go different ways with them. All advertising campaigns and promotions of these products build not only functionality, but their belonging to the device type ‘communicator’.
For a consumer this will look like a range of beautifully shaped and ergonomic phones, probably coming with the ‘smartphone’ suffix, which has already made it to minds of many users. Over at HTC they are not trying to differentiate their models by functionality, target audiences have higher priority. The Touch series aims at the mass-market, and the members of this line-up should allow HTC to grow beyond the image of a Windows Mobile device maker in the eyes of consumers. For this purpose the company has been steadily developing its generic shell, adds new features and interfaces atop of the default package delivered by Windows Mobile. And just like Nokia, HTC don’t feel ashamed to copycat the way some functions found in the iPhone are implemented. But more on this later.
The new Touch bears strong resemblance to the original model. Moreover, when closed, the HTC Touch Dual is almost no different from the Touch. It is only about its dimensions, where the Dual is somewhat narrower, being a tad taller and thicker.
The idea of making up models with similar designs is quite interesting – later on, the Touch series will seem to be the line of products sharing some design cues, yet being different in terms of functionality. The generic design only adds to its recognizability. Saving for some additional components, the casings of the Touch and the Touch Dual are identical – similar plastic coated in soft-touch layer, minimalist design with only a few buttons or other elements.
Right under the display is a tiny thumb rest, that helps you zip the Touch Dual open, in fact it comes with spring mechanism that makes for smooth and soft slide action. All you need to do is slightly push the top half, and the mechanism does the rest on its own. The keypad here, however, is the moot point, we will look into it in our full review, and for now let me express my personal doubts in its usability.
The keypad layout is somehow similar to BlackBerry, with every key having 2-3 letters on it, which certainly takes some getting used to. Seeing how squashed the keypad is, these buttons are not always a breeze to use.
Interface, major changes
At a glance you get the feel that nothing has changed since the release of the Touch. But the deeper to go, the more you notice HTC’s homework alongside new fetching features. Putting it simply, HTC’s engineers have made the best of the TouchFLO abilities and enhanced the proprietary interface.
Now the device features an index side-bar for contacts search.
The Touch Dual also comes with interfaces for viewing images and videos. The gallery can be navigated as well as rotated with finger gestures (what’s up iPhone).
And as regards the keypad, which is, unfortunately, disabled in the current firmware version when it comes to typing text messages and letters (we do hope they will get over this) – we will focus on this in our full review.
The interface has in fact undergone a slew of minor improvements that are inconspicuous when having a quick hands-on session with the device. For example, it now comes with the feature for browsing through your mail accounts and the messaging menu by moving your finger across the display. If you are using a Windows Mobile powered communicator and its default mail application you have probably noticed how inconvenient it is to switch between text messages and mail – you have to tap the folders icon, and then look for the account you need, tap it again… The Touch Dual makes it simple – say, you have opened the messaging window and see the list of your massages, but now you need to go to your mail. To do that just sweep your finger horizontally and you are there. Sweep across one more time – here comes the next account, doing it again brings up the messaging window again. This is very straightforward and intuitive.
Enlarged Start menu for easier finger-based navigation, enlarged status bar, holding the volume and the battery level indicators, tweaked Task Manager, so it is easier to go around using your fingers. All these are tiny details that complete the big picture and make for a positive image of the device. It has become so much easier to handle, so you start feeling that now this thing is easier to use, and those actions couldn’t be more intuitive. The display measuring 2,6” from corner to corner, against the original 2,8”, hasn’t become awkward to use. Even with its diagonal shrunk, the device is still easy to control with fingers. This is a good example of how important the software department is, and over at HTC they do realize that.
The model runs Qualcomm MSM 7200 platform and is powered by ARM11 CPU running at 400 Mhz – the same as that found in the HTC TyTN II. The RAM volume has been improved upon the original Touch – now the device comes with 128 Mb onboard. The communicator supports microSD cards (SD 2.0 and SDHC as well). We’ll see how much of a good performer it is when we get our mitts on a commercial unit, so for now, we will have to made do with these facts alone.
After several days of twiddling with the device, you simply can’t make up your mind and have your final judgment shaped up, but even now some things are pretty clear. The idea of a range comprising touch-phones is very contemporary. At the moment when Nokia and Sony Ericsson start embedding GPS into their solutions, taking some prospects away from Windows Mobile, HTC makes the right move. The Touch Phone series develops in the vein it should, given HTC’s current state – they company prefers to do it on step-by-step basis, without trying to make a major breakthrough.
The HTC Touch Dual has two sides to it – it retains some new concepts, boasts improved interface, enhanced finger-based device management system, and thus shorter response times. These were the positives. But on the other hand, it is a slider, and we don’t quite catch it why would a communicator need such keypad comprising the cues of both QWERTY and alphanumeric pads? So it seems to be quite queer, especially seeing how comfortable the on-screen keyboard is.
It is a bit too early to think about the model’s future and sales, however we suspect that this transition to the slider-type design might spell disaster for the device. The Touch Dual has some potential and generally does the job, being a straightforward and intuitive in many respects. However neither the hardware keyboard nor the form factor fits this otherwise straight line. This piece doesn’t seem to have found its place in the puzzle – probably, we will get to know more once the model starts shipping. Expect to see a breakdown on the HTC Touch Dual in our full review.
Published 02 October 2007
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