HTC HD2 - First Look

HTC isn't a company that's shy: over the past few years it has broken out from white label supplier to one of the most exciting and handset manufacturers in the smartphone sector. HTC is now synonymous smartphones, from Windows Mobile to Android and the company isn't afraid of making bold statements. The HTC HD2 can only be seen as that. We were fortunate enough to get our hands on the new model as it launched, and here are our first thoughts on it.

It stands up to Toshiba's TG01 handset, but puts into place a winning formula. Toshiba's handset is unwieldy, with a resistive screen which doesn't respond well to the touch and a software skin on Windows Mobile which offers little gloss and hardly enhances its performance.

The HTC HD2 is a stark contrast to this. The 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 pixel (WVGA) capacitive display puts a shine on even the blandest screen from Windows Mobile 6.5. The touch response is also incredible. You not only have acres of screen to play with, but it reacts with very little lag.

Yes, the HD2 is an enormous mobile phone, measuring 120.5 x 67 x 11mm and weighing in at 157g. But it has all the hallmarks of good design: it looks and feels luscious, with a brushed metal finish and stunning quality. Despite it's enormity, it actually feels comfortable in the hand.

Across the bottom of the screen are the regular complement of controls – the calling buttons, a Home button, the Windows and back buttons. By default the Home takes you to HTC's Sense UI and the Windows button opens the honeycomb Start menu.

On the bottom of the phone is a 3.5mm jack sitting alongside the Micro-USB connection. The only other external control you'll find is the volume rocker.

Sitting inside the HD2 is Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset giving you 1GHz or processing power. This is backed by 448MB RAM and 512MB ROM. Of course you get a full complement of connectivity too – HSDPA, GPRS, EDGE, GSM, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi b/g. There is even an FM radio.

The neat thing about Wi-Fi is that the HD2 can be used for Wi-Fi tethering, so can function as a Wi-Fi router whilst you are out and about, using your phone's data connection.

Around the back you have a 5-megapixel camera supported by a dual LED "flash". It's an autofocus camera, but beyond that we didn't have the chance to look at anything else it offers.

Peter Chou described to HTC HD2 as an "intelligent phone" and this is certainly true thanks to a number of sensors that it has on-board. It features an accelerometer so will switch from portrait to landscape when you need it to. A proximity sensor lets the phone know when it is next to your face, shutting off the backlight. Cleverly, mid-call when you take the phone away from your face, it lights up again, so you can refer to something you've been discussing with a caller.

An ambient light sensor will also adjust the brightness of the screen for you, dimming it for bedtime viewing and boosting it in daylight.

There is also a GPS and digital compass. HTC also make a car kit for the HD2 (sold separately), making a departure from the normal plastic monstrosity you have to stick to the dashboard of your BMW. By changing the back panel of the phone, you'll get a twist connector to fix it to the slick metal rod mount.

Attaching to the car kit will switch over to the NaviPanel, which optimises the phone for using in your car, giving big buttons for calling and navigation. It looks fantastic and you can check it out in our photo gallery.

Of course the HTC HD2 runs on Windows Mobile 6.5, an operating system which comes with inherent problems. HTC has sidestepped many of the most apparent problems as they have done in the past by including their own skin on the device. HTC are now pushing this as HTC Sense, which we first saw on the HTC Hero.

When it comes to the crunch, HTC Sense on the HTC HD2 is very close to the HTC TouchFLO offering on other HTC Windows Mobile devices such as the Touch2. It has been tweaked and enhanced however, with luscious high-resolution icons giving it a premium look and feel. It is also incredibly responsive thanks to the raw power available here.

We didn't get a chance to explore or test HTC Sense to any great extent in our hands on, so from a performance point of view, with real-world data and populated with hundreds of contacts, we'll have to wait until we have had a chance to give it a full review.

But you get smart features like the grouping of interactions with a particular contact, which is the very essence of what HTC Sense is all about – shifting the focus from applications to people. So when you make a call, you'll be able to touch through tabs to access messages you've received from that person and so on.

In a nod to social networking, you'll find HTC Peep the company's popular Twitter client is installed and easily accessed through HTC Sense's shortcut bar. Running a finger across the bar at the bottom of the screen moves you through to a different section so you can dive into your contacts, emails, photos or music to name a few.

HTC has always been fanatical about weather, with TouchFLO offering smart weather apps for some time. The HTC HD2 takes weather to a new level. As standard it is integrated as part of their homepage in Sense, sitting just under the clock. But now rather than being a static icon, it is supported by full background animation.

When you wake up your phone in the morning, you'll be able to glance at it and lose yourself in the 3D animated weather rolling around the background of your phone. It really uses the sharp screen to best effect and we had a look at cloudy, stormy (complete with lightening), sunny and windy screens (with leaves blowing around). It has to be seen to be believed, it's absolutely stunning.

As we mentioned, this is a capacitive device, so that brings with it multi-touch support. Using the Opera browser, you'll now have finger zooming when you are browsing the Internet. It's very smooth and a world away from what Internet Explorer Mobile is offering on other devices with boring double tap zooming. The text reflow is also very fast, and with the screen size available, it is easy to browse full internet pages. It's just a shame that we're all still waiting for Flash video support.

HTC are claiming 8 hours of video playback, 12 hours of audio playback or about 5 hours of talk time over a 3G network from the 1230mAh battery. 

Verdict

In the HTC HD2 you can see years of experience in dealing with Windows Mobile devices. The quality of the build and the construction, combined with HTC's Sense skin on Windows Mobile puts it a step ahead of rivals in this super screen size.

We were wowed by what we saw, with the multi-touch browsing really impressing. We've seen some sluggish Windows Mobile devices in our time and the HD2 cuts through it with sense and purpose. But we'll reserve judgement until we've lived with it for some time and given it a real world testing.

Will the HTC HD2 appeal to consumers? Perhaps not, but it may well find itself sitting in the hands of company CEOs all over the world. Peter Chou certainly looked comfortable with his.



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