HTC has produced a dazzling smartphone. Everything from the prism-style back to the vibrant screen simply sparkles. It's also snug in both the hand and pocket.
Wi-Fi, HSDPA, HSUPA and A-GPS are all included, as is a 3.2-megapixel camera, accelerometers and the new 3D TouchFLO interface.
The touch-screen just isn't as easy to use as it needs to be, with accidental key presses occurring frequently.
The 3D TouchFLO interface looks amazing despite its flaws. The Diamond's navigational powers are excellent, although the lack of camera features may deter some prosumers.
A modest battery life of 330 minutes' talktime and 285 hours' standby.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:52:49 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
A devilishly handsome handset that packs an array of features despite its svelte size.
The 3D TouchFLO interface is not very user friendly.
The prosumer smartphone market is a notoriously difficult market to crack, with subsequent successful devices proving few and far between. Perhaps the best example of a handset that has achieved the universal feel of appealing to both the business user and the camera-doting music-playing consumer is the Apple iPhone. With the new iPhone 3G recently hitting stores, Apple has once again thrown down the gauntlet to its counterparts, HTC being one. The Taiwanese manufacturer pre-empted this launch with its own super-savvy touch-screen handset (let us not forget that HTC was one of the pioneers of the touch-screen revolution), the HTC Touch Diamond.
Having been invited to the initial launch of the Diamond in May, the accompanying press video had us here at Mobile Choice drooling at the slick user interface. Unfortunately when it came to the actual demo of the handset the screen froze before we could get to grips with it. ‘Worry not' our demonstrator told us; all such problems would be ironed out by the official release date. So when our review sample arrived in a rather dashing box, our appetite was once again wetted.
The HTC Touch Diamond looks fabulous. It's relatively small and lightweight for a smartphone, at just 11mm thick and weighing in at only 110g. But don't let these stats deceive you, as the Diamond packs an awful lot into its svelte body. The 2.8-inch screen dominates the front of the handset, with a panel featuring four hard keys and a command key found just underneath. The panel feels a little loose which is a shame because apart from that the Diamond is a work of art. The back of the handset features a plastic glossy prism-like design that gives it a real designer look, although both this and the screen are a real magnet for grubby paw prints.
When we powered up the phone we were left twiddling our thumbs for a good 20 seconds. Not quite long enough to go and make a brew, but enough to cause mild irritation. However, once the homescreen springs to life all is forgiven, due to the stunning vibrancy of the screen. The icons are both vivid and expertly animated, and the clock on the homescreen can be changed from digital to a retro-style clock that flips over as the minutes pass.
Following the success of HTC's patented TouchFLO technology, the Diamond is the first to sport the updated TouchFLO 3D user interface. Despite operating on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, it looks similar to the user interface found on the iPhone, with the ability to flip through your contacts or music collection with each name or album cover coming towards you from the screen. Unfortunately it doesn't work as well the iPhone. In fact we found ourselves bitterly disappointed with the touch-screen in general.
Firstly we found that using our fingers and thumbs resulted in numerous accidental key nudges, as many of the icons are in close proximity to one another. Thankfully HTC has included a stylus that neatly tucks away in the bottom right hand corner of the phone - magnets pull the stylus into place from your hand, which we thought was pretty cool - which helped to navigate the phone.
Secondly, when you slide your thumb across the menu list, moving from one function to another, we often found that our initial touch of the screen meant we tapped into a feature when we actually just wanted to scroll through them. If you mange to touch the screen with just the right amount of force then the gliding action does work and it looks excellent, but as one of the main ways of navigating around the Diamond, this is not something you want a 50-50 success rate. It also suffers from not having an actual keypad, with the virtual QWERTY keyboard resulting in sluggish texting and emailing.
The HTC Touch Diamond is packed with features and not forgetting its smartphone roots features HSDPA, Wi-Fi and HSUPA, meaning it's equally quick in uploading content as it is to download. We were particularly impressed with the Wi-Fi connectivity both in its speed and its ability to recognise potential servers. Using our office Wi-Fi network we found surfing the net proved just as fast as our own desktop.
HTC recently announced that all of its Diamonds would come with Opera 9.5, a purpose-built mobile internet browser, embedded on the device. Internet Explorer is also there, but Opera is so good that Internet Explorer is likely to remain redundant. The beauty of Opera is that it automatically resizes web content so that it fits neatly on the screen. Simply tap the screen twice on the area of the page that you want to read and you will zoom in. The Diamond is also fitted with accelerometers allowing you to view web pages (as well as photos) in portrait or landscape view.
A quick link to YouTube can also be found in the list of programs. The quality of video when being streamed is some of the best we've seen, though there is an ever so slight sound delay. It's a shame however, that when adjusting the volume you lose the picture for a couple of seconds. You can also record your own video or stills with the 3.2-megapixel camera. For a handset aimed at the prosumer, we were a tad disappointed by the lack of camera features, particularly the absence of a flash that resulted in some dimly lit pictures.
The weather application was a particular favourite of ours. Choose from a list of locations - you can be as specific as particular boroughs of London - and be greeted by a large weather symbol indicating whether there is sun, rain or snow, as well as the current temperature. It's updated automatically and regularly, and could prove particularly useful to the jet-setting businessman, for example.
The Diamond also features A-GPS, although the mapping software will need to be bought in addition to the device - T-Mobile's version, the MDA Compact IV, does come with the excellent CoPilot Live included. However, Google Maps is embedded in the device, and the accuracy of the results were excellent, pinpointing us to the exact road we were on.
While there's no expandable memory option, the Diamond does pack 4GB of internal memory, which is a generous offering - though someway short of the iPhone 3G's 8GB or 16GB. What's more unlike some other phones is that the Diamond allows you to use multiple programs at any one time, by minimising them as you would on a PC. For example, you could be surfing the web when you want to check your calendar. Simply bring up your diary, check your appointment and then return to where you were on the web. It's great in theory, but we found that the more programs we had open at any one time, the slower the phone's processor became.
Overall we can't help but feel let down by the HTC Touch Diamond. It looks wonderful and the touch-screen interface simply sparkles, but sadly the usability just isn't there, with the touch-screen proving more a hindrance than a blessing. In addition after using the phone for half an hour or so, the back of the handset started to get very hot.
Perhaps HTC was keen to get its touch-screen offering into the shops before the arrival of the new and improved iPhone. However, in hindsight perhaps it should have taken a little more time and ironed out a few fatal flaws.