Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:56:27 PM
Great keyboard and emailing feature, flip-activated speakerphone, sync to Microsoft Outlook
Slow GPS, Windows Marketplace still in infancy
Pro-sumer handsets – that oxymoronic phone that’s meant to be as good for business as it is for actual fun stuff. Well, rejoice, purists – the HTC Touch Pro2 takes things back to basics with a full slide-out QWERTY, advanced speakerphone and so many business features you’ll feel like you just signed your life away, in triplicate.
Look and feel
Its black and silver chassis is stylish enough, but the Touch Pro2 is one chunky phone. Its weight is somehow reassuring, though looks-wise this is the equivalent of the 90s power banker – from its practical, smudge-free matt silver back and large 3.6-inch touch display to the embedded large speaker for speakerphone calls, complete with assertive ‘HTC Touch Pro2’ plate down the middle, This touch-screen has been improved since HTC’s last batch of touch phones. But though the pressure-sensitive resistive screen is more responsive and accurate than in previous models, it requires harder presses than we would have liked, and it wasn’t always clear whether our press had indeed been registered.
Like the original Touch Pro, the screen tilts for hands-free media viewing and glare-minimising typing, but you can also choose to have the keyboard slide flat out. The sliding mechanism is smooth and pleasantly heavy, and in general, the build quality of the phone is excellent.
HTC’s TouchFlo interface adds a finger-friendly touch to ol’ Windows Mobile, with a scrollable list of common functions, customisable. On first launch, you’re prompted to set up all your email accounts, and make phone settings. The phone supports push email for Microsoft Exchange accounts, as well as standalone Microsoft Outlook (i.e., those that aren’t on the Exchange server), and non-push support for most common webmail accounts.
The Touch Pro2 is also one of the first Windows phones to run on 6.5 (though originally launched on version 6.1, you can bring yours in for a free upgrade to 6.5), and one of the new features is the Windows key, which open the full programs menu. Unfortunately, it’s a rather confusing, long, eternally scrolling menu that you can’t customise, so you’re just going to have to remember where things are. There is some semblance of organisation, as text, phone, email, browser, contacts and calendar are all near the front, but then it all gets a little jumbled, with messenger near calculator, a file explorer next to games and Facebook all the way near the bottom. Why not have multiple screens, at least? Customisable ones? Luckily, you can use the Programs tab in TouchFlo to customise your own most-used programs screen.
A nice new feature is that if you have missed calls / texts / emails, each notification shows up on lock screen, which you can then swipe to be taken to the event. It's a useful addition, but we would have liked to see a preview of the event, e.g., caller ID, or subject line of email, like you get with the Palm Pre. And as with all future WinMo 6.5 handsets, there's an icon to the recently launched Windows Marketplace, though it isn't particularly well stocked - just 107 apps at the time of this review, and at £3 or more each, far more expensive than apps at the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace.
This is probably the best feature on the Touch Pro2. The keyboard is a proper, full QWERTY with a dedicated number key line. The large tablet keys are spacious, and laid out so that the full stop and comma keys are easily accessible, and there are also direction keys so you can skip around message for easy editing. It’s a little wide for small hands, but the keys depress easily, with a nice, laptop-like weight. There’s a dedicated message button which takes you directly to the email and text homepage from anywhere. So writing an email is as easy as sliding open the keyboard (you’ll be taken straight to landscape orientation), pressing the email button and typing. Our only quibble is the lack of auto-correct when using the hard keyboard, except for capitalising the first word in a sentence. Even lowercase ‘i’s aren’t automatically capitalised, nor contractions automatically punctuated. You can also use the on-screen keyboard which is useful if you need to type in a portrait-oriented menu, but it’s (expectedly) not quite as good. As it’s a resistive screen, you have to press quite hard, which impedes speed. And while the screen is accurate there’s sometimes a lag of half a second between press and input registered, especially when typing quickly. Typing at the speed we’re used to, the Pro2 often missed a letter, which with auto correct on can lead to a right old mess.
One of the most uniquely work-oriented features of the Touch Pro2 is its Straight Talk speakerphone – if you’re on a call, simply flipping the device on its activates the speakerphone, at which point two microphones will be used for noise cancellation, and two speakers to boost audio. While the call quality is slightly tinny and echoey as you’d expect from a phone loudspeaker, the noise cancellation tech worked well, and the clarity was great. Meanwhile, if the phone is simply ringing, flipping the devices mutes the ring without cutting the call off – a neat little trick if your phone rings during a meeting.
GPS and camera
There’s a token three-megapixel camera with autofocus but no flash. You can adjust white balance, brightness, and ISO up to 800, but the camera only really produces reasonable snaps in daylight. The autofocus is very good and was able to produce clear photos even when our hands were shaking in low-light conditions. However, zooming in on a photo revealed over-sharpening and in general, low light shots were very green and somewhat blurry. GPS was the surprise downfall of the phone. Though we were able to (eventually) get an accurate fix on our location, Google Maps took over two minutes to load. Zooming in again took about two minutes before a zoomed map view appeared.
The Touch Pro2 is an excellent email phone, with great, spacious keyboard and syncing to Microsoft Outlook. But though it boasts a much more responsive touch-screen than previous HTC Windows phones, it’s still some ways behind capacitive displays like that of the HTC Hero, and web browsing isn’t quite as fluid or intuitive. Its upgraded operating system in conjunction with HTC’s excellent TouchFlo skin means this is the most finger-friendly Windows touch-phone, and we didn’t often need the bundled stylus. As usual, HTC makes a Windows phone eminently usable and version 6.5 adds some new user-friendly features too.