The new HTC HD2 smartphone is a stunning new addition to the HTC range, which seems to be getting better with each new model the Taiwanese manufacturer delivers. Having said that, this Smartphone is not without its problems, due in part to the fact that both Telstra and Microsoft are heavily involved in the release of this Windows Mobile-based phone in Australia.
The standout is the work done by HTC in designing and building this phone in particular, the effort the company has gone to to deliver new touchscreen capabilities with the inclusion of a new HTC Sense GUI.
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The letdown is the short battery life, which in part is caused by Telstra applications such as Foxtel, BigPond and WhereIS that seem to suck the life out of this phone as soon as they are activated. However, it appears that HTC was aware of battery problems, with the company last week releasing a new battery kit in Europe, with a very clever stand, that allows users to watch a video or TV news service using the stand to prop up the phone.
Another problem is that the HD2 doesn’t actually support HD-quality video playback, which is probably good due to the limited battery life.
The HD2 plays MP4, H.264 and WMV video files plus AAC, WMA, WAV and MP3 audio files, all of which look and sound great on this phone.
The 5-megapixel camera is brilliant and significantly better than most we have seen of late. Also good is the camcorder which is excellent for that quick video.
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|New bigger battery in newer model along with smart stand for viewing video’s or TV programs.
Overall, the HD2 is stunning handset that’s bigger than the iPhone with a brilliant 800X480, 4.5 inch touchscreen. While it lacks features such as those found in Apple’s application store, it does have a major advantage in the form of the 1 GHz QUALCOMM snapdragon processor, which delivers superior speed to the iPhone, which has an old Samsung processor.
I will address issues relating to application stores and the attitude of Microsoft when it comes to delivering a Microsoft consumer experience in Australia later in this story.
When I first saw the size of this phone I half expected it to be heavy. It’s not, as it weighs in at only 157 grams.
Minimalistic in its looks, the HD2 has a row of easy-to-access buttons at the bottom of the screen. One button takes you to the front page, which is dominated by Telstra applications such as BigPond, Foxtel and Sensis, while another Windows button takes you to Windows-based applications.
A volume button is located on the left-hand side, and a 3.5mm headphone socket on the bottom of the device. A big advantage over the iPhone is the inclusion of a removable 16GB micro SD card. This allows content to be easily shifted to another device.
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One of the most impressive features is the new capacitive touchscreen which is used to access all other applications other than those linked to the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
The HTCTouchFlo 3D user interface, which is now called HTC Sense, is overlaid over the top of the Windows Mobile operating system. This delivers additional usability and some extra functionality. More importantly, it is extremely touch-sensitive and responds immediately in the same way that the iPhone does.
However, in the case of the HD2, the touchscreen is larger and the icons bigger. This gives it a superior edge.
One thing that is annoying is that the phone is swamped by Telstra applications, which are in your face whether you like it or not. However, you can re-layout the applications, placing favourites such as YouTube or Twitter where you want it. I suspect that the majority of consumer who buy this phone will not use the Telstra applications as most are not needed.
One big thing that is noticeable since I last used a Windows Mobile phone is that one does not have to step down layer after layer to get to operating system information. The settings tab is easy to access and well laid out with easy access to
The big problem is that this is a Windows Mobile phone being sold in Australia by Microsoft, Telstra and HTC; however it appears that Microsoft has done nothing locally to enhance one’s experience with this device. This does not surprise me that there is little if any interest by Microsoft Australia in delivering consumer applications or providing a good consumer experience when using Microsoft software. Microsoft Media Centre is a classic example.
All you have to do is go to Windows Live and log in as a Live.com.au user to realise that Microsoft is blocking access to Australian registered users. Instead one has to obtain a Live.com registration to log on via this phone.
Then there is the Microsoft Marketplace application store. A visit to categories in the Marketplace store reveals not only a lack of Australian applications such as the hundreds found in the iPhone store, but several extremely expensive applications.
For example, Touch Contact is a simple touchscreen phone book application. The asking price is $23.39. A visit to the iPhone store reveals several similar applications which are priced between $1.95 and $8.95.
Then there are the Telstra applications that not only suck the battery life out of this phone but are constantly soliciting ways to hit your wallet with data download after data download. And if you are thinking of downloading Google and its applications forget it, I tried and all I got was problem after problem, which is not surprising on a Windows Mobile-based phone sold by Telstra.
What surprises me is that Telstra does not have sitting smack bang in the middle of this phone the wonderful Foxtel application that can be found for free in the Apple Application store. This application lets you remotely manage your Foxtel subscription from your iPhone, setting program record times as well as planning remotely activating a program to record.
Instead all you get from Telstra is a Foxtel application, which forces you to spend money on a subscription and bandwidth if you want to watch Sky New or CNN.
With the HD2 application you can watch the program in the top half of the screen while you scroll through the other channels on the bottom of the display.
From a business perspective, this is an excellent phone. You have easy access to Microsoft applications such as Office, Excel and PowerPoint. It’s also easy to configure your Exchange and Outlook settings for mail delivery. There’s also VPN access, high speed uploads for transferring files from the phone to clients or PCs.
The one brilliant benefit is that this phone is running on the Telstra Next G mobile data network, which is fast (with speeds up to 7.2Mbps). You have access to Windows Explorer and Opera web browsers. However, the touchscreen struggled at times to enlarge and shrink web pages.
Using Wi Fi is not as easy or as smooth as using Wi Fi on an iPhone or an Android-based phone and I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact that this is a Telstra-based phone and they want you to spend money on data downloads.
Another big benefit on this phone is the Wi-Fi Router mode, which turns your handset into a mobile hotspot. This allows up to seven users to share data using any other Wi-Fi-enabled device. It’s easy to use; however, it does slow down when seven people are connected.
The first thing you notice about this phone is the big screen. It is brilliant. The second thing is the speed of the QUALCOMM processor and the speed of the scrolling which is light years ahead of the iPhone.
Size is also a big benefit despite the large screen. It is light easy to carry and slips away nicely into a pocket or bag.
Battery life sucks in more ways than one. Running this phone side by side with an iPhone, the iPhone won hands down when accessing emails, the web and the occasional application. Ideally this phone needs a kill switch that turns applications off 60 seconds after you have left them. As for Microsoft, there appears to be a deliberate attempt to snub Australia consumers. It does this with Media Centre, Windows 7 and now with Windows Mobile.
While this is the best Windows Mobile smartphone ever built, it is no thanks to Microsoft. It is more to do with HTC and how the company has packaged the phone in a stylish case and with a big screen. Also helping is the inclusion of HTC software.
Personally I would love to see this phone devoid of any Telstra applications. An unlocked version that allows users to also access applications like Google Maps, etc., would be brilliant. Maybe HTC will release a Google Android version and then we are really talking Smartphone.