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Friday, 16 May 2008

Can HTC's touchscreen Diamond outshine the iPhone?

Just unveiled at a lavish event in London, HTC—maker of the sleek Touch for Sprint—has a new touchscreen gem on its hands, although the aptly-named Touch Diamond arrives in the rough that we call Windows Mobile.
But before I get all grumpy about Microsoft's tricky mobile OS, let's behold the Diamond's sparkling design and touch UI—and from this standpoint, there's a lot to like.

First off, the Diamond comes in a sleek, and relatively light (according to the specs, at least) jet-black shell. Measuring 4 by 2 by 0.45 inches, the Diamond is a little shorter, narrower, and a hair thinner than the iPhone, and at 3.9 ounces, it's almost a full ounce lighter.

Then there's the touchscreen: 2.8 inches diagonally and at full VGA resolution, easily beating the iPhone's 480 by 320-pixel resolution. Whether one can appreciate VGA resolution on a 2.8-inch screen is an open question, although initial reports indicate that the Diamond's display is, indeed, dazzling.

And that brings us to the Diamond's TouchFlo interface—a sleek, easy-to-use touch UI that runs on top of Windows Mobile.

On the Touch for Sprint, TouchFlo looked like a 3D cube that you spun around with your finger. On the Diamond, TouchFlo boasts a row of icons at the bottom of the screen (for functions such as messaging, music, weather, photos, and Web browsing)—tap an icon, and the display spins and twirls to the appropriate application. Nice.

The Diamond also looks good in the spec department: HSDPA for 3.5G Web browsing and downloads, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 4GB of internal memory, a 3.2MP camera, and an accelerometer that turns the display to landscape mode when you turn the Diamond on its side.

For Web browsing, you get Opera for full HTML rendering and zooming in to Web pages, along with a separate YouTube app.

All very enticing, but lurking underneath it all is the professional version of Windows Mobile—and undeniably powerful OS, but tough to use when you're out and about. Indeed, with its intricate menus, the pro version of Windows Mobile is almost impossible to use without a stylus, so let's hope the Diamond has one
Still, Windows Mobile Professional (the new version 6.1) means full compatibility with corporate Exchange servers, along with Microsoft's mobile Office suite (good for composing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents).

So, can the Diamond take on the iPhone? On paper, it certainly wins out thanks to its HSDPA and GPS abilities (although the upcoming 3G iPhone will probably draw even come June). And I like the size and weight of the Diamond, plus the sheer capabilities of Windows Mobile (the iPhone has yet to get a true office suite).

But while the TouchFlo interface looks like a pleasure to use, Windows Mobile itself is a bear without a stylus—and with all its tweakable features and options, it's a tough nut to crack for a novice.

In any event, I'll hold off on any final judgments until I see one in person—which may not be for awhile. The Diamond is set to arrive next month in Europe and Asia, but it won't land here in the U.S. until the second half of the year. No word on pricing yet.

So, what do you think? Is the Diamond looking like an iPhone killer? Fire away!

Posted by: aroeltsm, Updated at: 11:51 pm

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