When HTC first launched the HTC Touch, many people criticised it for not having a mechanical keypad or 3G. Several months later, HTC has solved that problem by adding both. We took the HTC Touch Dual out on the road to find out if this smart slider delivers a better experience than its predecessor.
It's currently available SIM-free from eXpansys for about £400 and it will soon be available on several networks, most likely for free on a monthly contract.
Held up against the original Touch, the Touch Dual looks very similar. Although it's slightly thicker and the touchscreen is smaller, it still looks very attractive for a Windows Mobile device. At the top of the Dual you'll notice a small VGA camera that lets you make video calls, something the original Touch couldn't do.
Having used the original Touch for quite some time, there's no doubt that when it came to dialling and texting, a mechanical keypad would have come in very handy -- enter the Dual's slide-out Qwerty keypad. It works well and is far easier to press with your fingers than any current Windows Mobile on-screen keypad.
That said there is a new finger-friendly text input system that allows you to use your fingers while texting. It's not perfect, but it's much easier than trying to press the standard Windows Mobile Qwerty keypad with your fingers. Our only niggle with it is that it uses a two-letter-per-key system instead of just one.
In addition to the on-screen keypad, HTC has also added a new shortcut interface that pops up when you slide open the Dual, giving you one-click access to composing a new email, text and many other things. This new menu works well alongside the TouchFlo flicking system, which gives you fast access to certain apps and options.
Software interface additions aside, the Dual packs double the processing power and RAM of the original Touch, which is noticeable. There's a Qualcomm MSM 7200, 400MHz processor and 128MB SDRAM, which means significantly less lag when accessing and using applications.
Having HSDPA instead of Wi-Fi might annoy some users who would prefer both but it's handy if you're on a flat rate data plan or you don't have a Wi-Fi hotspot nearby. Similar to the iPhone, the original Touch's lack of 3G really hampered it when it came to accessing data on the go but that isn't a problem on the Dual.Weaknesses
Although we like the slide-out keypad, the new shortcut menu and finger-friendly on-screen keypad, the TouchFlo interface is still only skin deep and defaults back to the Windows Mobile interface most of the time. This ultimately leads to the Dual's stylus needing to be used, a feature we would happily do without.
The Dual's slide-out Qwerty keypad does have good-sized keys and is easy to use, but it looks very cheap, in our opinion. Given that we think the Touch is one of the most attractive Windows Mobile handsets out there, the Dual's keypad really spoils the overall look. It might also have been better to put in a full Qwerty keypad instead.
Equally we're not keen on HTC's decision to take out Wi-Fi, especially given that the original Touch had it and most Touch users had gotten used to it. We do like HSDPA -- we're not complaining about that -- but it would have been nice to have the option of both.
Another connectivity-related issue is that HSDPA, if left on all the time, drains more battery power than a GSM phone. Most people leave 3G or HSDPA on without realising the consequences and in the Dual's case that will mean a two hours less of talk time. It's not necessarily a weakness but definitely something to look out for.
In many ways, the HTC Touch Dual delivers all the things we wanted in the original Touch. There's a mechanical keypad, more processing power, HSDPA and a few extra interface details that make it easier to use with just your fingers. Unfortunately, we think that HTC could have taken it even further by adding things such as Wi-Fi, a full Qwerty keypad and a better camera.
Of course, specs-wise, that handset already exists in the form of the HTC TyTN II but in terms of design, we really prefer the Touch. A combination of those two devices would be amazing, but for now you'll have to settle for either of the two. We're also hoping that with the possible introduction of Windows Mobile 7 soon, devices like these aren't just finger-friendly to a point but offer a complete stylus-free environment.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday