The HTC Touch2 was the first phone to hit our desk that runs the latest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5. And then it hit the wall, the floor and wherever else we could throw it, because Windows Mobile is still frustrating to use. But HTC has done a good job of covering it up with the TouchFlo interface, and the Touch2 is packed full of features, including free access to Microsoft's new My Phone online syncing service.
The Touch2 is available online for around £310 SIM-free. We'll update this review with pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go prices as soon as they're announced.
Resistive is futile
The Touch2 is a compact little creature, packing all its smart-phone prowess into a body measuring 55 by 104 by 13mm. It's very pocket-friendly, but, with a 71mm (2.8-inch) touchscreen, it feels more crowded than some of its competitors. It doesn't help that the touchscreen is of the resistive variety, so you have to exert some pressure to get it to respond. Resistive screens have been improving -- hello, Samsung Tocco Lite -- but the Touch2's isn't a good example. It feels squishy, it's not bright or vivid, and it sits below the surrounding bezel, which might make you feel like you're staring into a well.
The touchscreen is still usable, particularly if you use a fingernail or the included stylus. But it's not fun or pleasurable to whizz around the user interface, especially since the Touch2 isn't all that fast. Also, with Windows Mobile 6.5 and TouchFlo both on the device, we felt like we were stuck in the middle of a battle to the death between two user interfaces.
Go with the TouchFlo
Much of the hard work that Microsoft has put into its latest mobile OS isn't immediately apparent, because Windows Mobile 6.5's home screen, lock screen and 'honeycomb' grid of main applications have been replaced by TouchFlo versions (the TouchFlo home screen has a ribbon running along the bottom, offering shortcuts to the main apps, such as email and contacts). Also, the revamped Internet Explorer isn't the default browser -- Opera has this honour -- although this situation can be changed in the settings.
Straight out of the box, TouchFlo does a good job of offering up the main functions of the phone. But, when you dig deeper, you'll meet more closely with Windows Mobile 6.5, and that's where things can become confusing.
Visit the settings menu through TouchFlo, and you'll see five options for settings you can change. Go to the settings menu via the Windows Mobile start button, and there's a different group of nine options. Both routes have advantages -- the TouchFlo settings menu makes it quicker to access common settings, like Wi-Fi, while the Windows Mobile menu offers more in-depth options -- but having both routes available is confusing, and this kind of duplication is everywhere. For example, we managed to change the wallpaper in both menus to two different images that showed at different times.
Typing in tiny town
TouchFlo does a great job of perking up the virtual keyboard, using some of the tricks that we saw on the HTC Hero. For example, you can hold down a key to choose a number or symbol instead of a letter. That's especially helpful when typing passwords, which are often a mix of all three.
As well as the Qwerty on-screen keyboard, there's the choice of an alphanumeric keyboard or a compact keyboard, with two letters to each key. We prefer the Qwerty version, but the keys are very tiny and there's no landscape option, so, if your fingernails have been bitten to the quick, you're sure to struggle.