Life with an HTC Touch: Week 2

To accompany Ian Wrigley’s Life with an iPhone article, we’ve decided to run a parallel piece about Life with an HTC Touch. Think of it as a blog-review, as Tim Danton, editor of PC Pro, provides a hands-on, personal, real-life view of using the Touch day to day.

In this second update, he takes the Touch to see the Tour de France and talks about the perennial problem of smartphones – volume. Look out for updates every Monday.

Week 2: Getting to know you

First off, I’ll answer Tablot_Avenger’s question in the Comments section of the original Life with an HTC Touch article – because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the volume of the ring tone.

It’s certainly superior to my old iPAQ; I hate to think just how many calls I’ve missed due to its less than vociferous volume. The vibrate is also strong – you won’t miss a call if the Touch is sitting in your pocket. It almost jumps off the table too.

In fact, as a “voice” phone I’ve got no complaints at all – so far at least. The main problem comes when you try and do that most common of tasks: texting. Over the course of this weekend, I sent precisely seven texts, and they were universally painful: choosing between the pain of poking at the tiny on-screen keyboard and trying to re-master Pocket PC’s writing recognition is very much a frying-pan-versus-fire decision. How I longed for T9 predictive text or, that holiest of grails, a built-in keyboard.

Things improved hugely when I decided to take the camera for a test drive. The headline spec of a 2-megapixel camera is suitably impressive for a device this size, but as ever you can forget taking photos in vaguely dark conditions: the amount of noise in pictures makes them unusable. Where it proved its worth was outdoors, especially in bright sunlight. It even coped well when capturing fast-moving objects – a fact I happen to know as the Touch joined me at the Tour de France Prolog this weekend (see an example photo below).

Of course, it doesn’t come close to a dedicated camera when it comes to response times: there’s a good half-second delay between pressing the capture button and the photo actually being taken. But because the screen acts as a viewfinder framing the shots is very easy, and once I worked out how long the delay will be it became quite an effective pocket camera.

A rider, and car, during the Tour de France Prolog

Considering how much I used the Touch over the weekend, I was also quite impressed by its battery life. Despite taking 40 photos and four videos (don’t get excited about this feature – think of it as being more a series of low-resolution stills) over the course of five hours, and browsing the web pretty much continuously for two hours, it still had enough charge to wake me up this morning when the alarm (suitably loud) kicked into action.

So far, I’ve also been reasonably impressed by the Touch’s talents as an MP3 player. After a few minutes of cursing, things improved once I’d worked out how HTC’s Audio Manager worked; you use this rather than Windows Media Player, which can only be a good thing. Essentially, it mimics the iPod: you browse the songs by album, genre, composers and artists, or create your own playlists.

Volume levels are okay. To hear music in noisy environments I had to push everything up to maximum, which isn’t ideal – I had to dive for the phone when it started ringing a little later, as it was incredibly loud. The other issue is that there’s no audio jack. Instead, you have to use the mini USB connector (which also, more handily, charges the phone). HTC bundles a pair of course, but personally I felt a bit self-conscious wearing them as they include a mic for making phone calls…

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