HTC Touch Diamond review
UPDATE: Since we first reviewed the Touch Diamond, HTC has released a ROM update designed to solve one of the big problems we highlighted – its lack of speed. And, to a large extent, it works: there are now no unbearable delays within the TouchFlo 3D interface, even if it isn’t quite as sprightly as we’d like. The irritation of the on-screen keyboard overlapping the field you’re trying to type into is another problem that has been fixed. We still hesitate to recommend it – entering text via the on-screen keyboard remains a chore, and it’s expensive. But it’s now a strong contender if you want a stylish, touch-driven Windows Mobile phone.
When weighing your decision whether or not to buy the HTC Touch Diamond, we’d suggest you keep one dominant image in your mind: a set of old-fashioned scales. In the left, we’ll put the Bad stuff. And in the right, we’ll throw in all the Good. Very little about this product falls in between.
Let’s start off with the Bad.
Failing to be the iPhone
Top of the list has to be: it isn’t the Apple iPhone. This wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t so very obvious that this is precisely what the Touch Diamond is trying to be. For starters, there’s the way it tries to mimic the “momentum” idea: so you drag down on the screen to browse through your contacts, and it keeps on going for a few cycles more.
On the iPhone, it works. On the Touch Diamond, it becomes an irritation: you drag and everything moves too fast, or it doesn’t move at all because you’ve got your finger in just slightly the wrong place.
The TouchFlo 3D interface – the touch-based layer HTC plasters over Windows Mobile so you don’t need to dip into the rapidly dating drop-down menu approach of Microsoft’s OS – owes more than a little to Apple’s vision as well.
Everything’s animated and whizzy and 3D and at cute angles, so music albums flip into view for instance. Which would be absolutely fine, if it weren’t for the Touch Diamond’s second biggest problem: it’s slow. So slow it almost makes you want to tear your hair out in frustration, fling the Diamond against the wall and whip out the old Nokia phone you put into retirement seven years ago.
Allow us to illustrate: to cycle between Internet and Mail within Touchflo, you swish your finger from left to right on the screen. And then… you wait. For some odd reason, HTC didn’t realise this would be frustrating. Has it worked? You don’t know until half a second later, when Touchflo decides to 3D animate the swish. If we swish a finger, goddamit, the program should swish. Instantly.
And then there are the bugs. Now credit to HTC: it’s designed an onscreen Qwerty keyboard so you don’t need to peck with quite so much accuracy compared to Microsoft’s default onscreen keyboard offering. And, once again in a strangely similar approach to the iPhone, if you press a key it becomes large so it’s obvious which one you’ve hit.
But – and we’re still a little stunned this problem made it all the way to release – once you start pecking in a search term, say, the field you’re pecking into disappears behind the keyboard! So you’ve just got to hope you get the word right. Genius.
We hesitated a little before placing battery life in the Bad section. At a stretch, you might be able to get three days’ use out of Touch Diamond, and for many people that’s enough. After all, it recharges over a standard mini-USB cable, and during the working week it’s not an issue just to plug it into your PC and let it charge up.