T-Mobile MDA Compact IV mobile phone

Before HTC made phones for itself it made unbranded phones for the operators. So should you opt for the HTC Diamond, or the T-Mobile variant - the MDA Compact IV? We look at the differences to find out.

Looking at the tech sheet virtually everything here is the same as the HTC Diamond so if you’ve read our review of the Diamond, you’ll find much the same in this review.

Most of the differences you'll find are on the design front. Gone is the square angular design replaced with one with slightly more rounded edges and a flat back. Strangely it's slightly lighter than the Diamond, 12g lighter. Another strange move in this spot the difference puzzle is that the shortcut keys beneath the screen have been swapped around.

On the software front, the MDA Compact IV is again virtually the same, although the TouchFLO interface has been changed from black to a T-Mobile white and pink and where the browser logo used to be is now a T-Mobile Web'n'walk icon.

The hardware front remains unchanged meaning you get HSDPA and wireless connectivity, GPS and a 3.2-megapixel camera built-in; you also get that stunning VGA capable screen, even if the colour scheme is pink.

The screen is a 2.8-inch VGA touchscreen (compared to 3.5-inches on the iPhone) but you do get a series of hard keys under the screen to help you out. A home button, d-pad, back button and answer and hang-up are responsive and HTC has added an extra light notification element that flashes when you've got a new message or when the handset is charging. Additionally, tucked out of the way to the side, is a stylus. The back sports a 3.2-megapixel camera although there is no flash.

Inside and you get HSDPA 7.2 as well as HSUPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 4GB of storage to store music and images on although no external storage option via microSD and no 3.5mm jack.

Like the Diamond, the MDA Compact IV runs Windows Mobile 6.1 although from the customisation HTC has done to the operating system you wouldn't know it. Sitting on top of Windows Mobile is HTC's 3D TouchFlo software, which is incredibly graphical. Using your finger you can quickly scroll through the available applications via a carousel at the bottom of the screen, although not available at all times, when it is on screen you can access virtually all the phone's main features like the picture viewer, music player, contacts book or browser.

Email is easy to set-up and you can have the email automatically send and receive every 5 minutes to give you near BlackBerry-like experience.

Ditching Internet Explorer for the Opera Mobile browser makes the browsing experience on both Wi-Fi and HSDPA, to put it plainly, beautiful. It is the first device we've seen that gets anywhere close to Apple's iPhone browsing experience and the increased speed capabilities if you are in coverage make surfing very quick.

Web pages are loaded and resized to fit the screen automatically, but still retain their design and ratio. A double tap allows you to zoom in and out, while a move of your finger across the screen shifts the web page around. There is of course support for multiple pages like tabs and overall the experience is a pleasant one.

When it comes to viewing text, HTC has somehow magically made it possible for the text to re-position itself to display on the screen to save you scrolling, regardless of the CSS or style on the original site.

A quick rotate sideways and thanks to the inbuilt accelerometer you can view images and web pages in landscape mode with the on-screen keyboard also benefiting from the extra space. Images also get a zoom feature although rather than using a pinch movement you swirl your finger in or out. It means you can do it one handed if you like and use your other hand for eating foie gras or quaffing champagne.

Addressing the problems experienced on the iPhone, and hoping to appeal to users who actually want to type on the device, HTC seems to have gone out of its way to help you get text into the unit. The on-screen keyboard can be displayed in full QWERTY which, unless you are a 5-year-old with tiny fingers, is a bit tough to type with. Getting around this, the device also offers 20 key or even 12 key configurations with the 20 key emulating a two letter per key offering as found on the company's Touch Dual model. It's something that is likely to appeal to BlackBerry Pearl users ready to switch, and on the whole a good experience (it's the keyboard we found ourselves using most) with the software learning your most often used words to try and help you along.

Elsewhere the graphical interface doesn't stop. Weather, a popular feature on the company's Touch device, is back once again this time in glorious Technicolor. Everything from contacts, that offer photos as if it was in a Rolodex, to the image browser that sees photos cascading down the screen like the photo screensaver on the PS3 gives this phone a very, very, consumer focus.

As for battery life it's not great and the more you use the features the more you use up that juice. On a full charge using the phone to play games, surf the web, collect email, check the weather and make phone calls the phone didn't last the weekend without charge. It will be a charge every day handset.

Verdict

Rather like a colour change, the T-Mobile version of the HTC Diamond doesn't really change much from the Diamond offering. In fact the only reason to opt for this variant over the original would be a preference in the casing.

HTC has created a device that is a great iPhone alternative and offers those not keen to switch to Apple or O2 the chance to get touchy feely with their phone, although the new BlackBerry Storm from Vodafone might also appeal.

Against the iPhone the tech specs are better but that stylus inclusion is an admittance that the icons on the screen are just a little bit fiddly from time to time. Overall though, HTC has somehow managed to take the Microsoft OS and make it everything but - a good thing in our mind.

It's a thumbs-up from us.