What's hot: Huge high res screen, slim, Mobile TV.
What's not: Large, V Cast apps are a little laggy and buggy.
Reviewed October 6, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Verizon has taken a lot of flak for its weak smartphone lineup this year. Well, fall is here and things certainly are looking up. First we had the BlackBerry Tour and HTC Touch Pro2 and now the HTC Imagio, currently a unique smartphone among US and world carriers. This is one sexy device with a 480 x 800 pixel touch screen, HTC's very enjoyable TouchFLO 3D user interface, Mobile TV that's broadcast over the air and a 5 megapixel camera. Verizon and AT&T are first out the door with a Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional phone thanks to the Imagio on Verizon and the HTC Pure on AT&T. Windows Mobile 6.5's improvements are mostly cosmetic and you won't see much of them unless you disable TouchFLO 3D (trust us, you probably won't find it worth giving up TouchFLO 3D for the new WinMo UI). The Imagio has that special sauce, much like the overseas HTC Touch HD last year that starts a craving gnawing at gadget-loving hearts. It looks fantastic with a design that's reminiscent of the iPhone, and it boasts a better feature set including a higher resolution display, a better camera, an FM radio and Mobile TV. At $199 with a 2 year contract after rebates ($299 before rebate), it's enticing and at home in the world of fun and business.
Notice the weather embedded in the clock?
It's a new location-based feature in the Imagio's version of TouchFLO 3D that reminds us of that Sense UI feature on the HTC Hero.
Features at a Glance
The HTC Imagio runs on a 528MHz Qualcomm CPU with 288 megs of RAM and 512 megs of flash memory like other recent HTC smartphones. It has WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, a 3.6" 480 x 800 pixel resistive touch screen with accelerometer and haptic feedback, a digital TV receiver with an antenna that doubles as a kickstand, FM radio, HTC's YouTube player, the Opera Mobile web browser and IE mobile. The Imagio supports Verizon V Cast Video and V Cast music with Rhapsody.
The Imagio has an interesting front bezel that looks like a rugged case. The stippled surface looks cool, helps keep the phone in hand and hides the usual assortment of sensors and earpiece. The back is two-tone with a gloss black strip and a larger matte black surface. The two sections are joined together and form the large, removable back panel. A slit in the back cover accommodates the dual duty antenna and kick stand, which stays on the phone when you remove the back. The microSD card is under the back cover but you need not remove the battery to access it. The SIM card slot for GSM world roaming is under the battery and a Verizon/Vodafone card is supplied. Unlike most HTC phones, the back doesn't slide off, instead you'll pry it off starting at a groove molded into the top edge. Build quality is excellent.
The smartphone is a few millimeters thicker than the iPhone, and that's not a bad thing because it feels better in hand than does the naked iPhone. As with other recent HTC Windows Mobile Pro phones, there's no d-pad (allowing for a larger display while keeping the phone compact). There are call send and end buttons, a Windows Start Menu key dead center (odd that this isn't a home key), a back button and a Mobile TV launcher. Like the Touch Pro2 and HTC Touch Diamond2, it has a zoom bar just above the small front buttons. The buttons are flat and glossy, making it easy to run your thumb across them, but not so easy to press, especially since they're very close to the bottom edge. The volume buttons are on the left side, and those are the only side controls. The HTC mini USB port is at the bottom along with a 3.5mm stereo jack (excellent!) and the stylus silo.
Windows Mobile 6.5
Want to see what's new in Windows Mobile 6.5? Check out our video that highlights new features (TouchFLO 3D was turned off to demo most of this). We use the HTC Pure in our WinMo 6.5 video, but the features are exactly the same on the Imagio.
New feature summary:
- Staggered grid for applications and settings icons
- The Start Menu as a textual listing is gone and when you tap the Start Menu you'll see the programs group
- The busy cursor is comprised of 4 colored dots that animate (reminiscent of the Windows logo)
- The Windows Mobile Marketplace (or a link to download it) is pre-installed.
- A Today screen that's reminiscent of the Zune's text-based home screen.
- New Today themes, inspired by fashion designers
Here's our 15 minute video review of the HTC Imagio. It covers TouchFLO 3D, video playback (YouTube, V Cast Video and locally stored VGA video encoded at 900Kbps in MPEG4 format), the GPS, Mobile TV and much more.
Mobile TV, V Cast and Video Playback
The HTC Imagio is the first smartphone with Qualcomm's MediaFlo broadcast digital TV. This is not a data-based streaming video service, but rather broadcast TV similar to that which a regular TV uses (assuming you're not using cable TV). It's not free though, Verizon charges $15/month for the service and it includes approximately 10 channels (there's a $13/month option with fewer channels, but that's not very cost effective). TV quality is excellent and sharper than most streaming video content since it need not be as compressed to save bandwidth. We've reviewed many Verizon and AT&T Mobile TV phones and the Imagio does the best job in terms of reception, display size and quality. Just make sure you pop out that antenna to get good reception. Mobile TV is available in many metro areas; check Verizon's website to see if the service is available in your area.
V Cast Videos, a rarity on Verizon smartphones, is here too. Video streaming quality is good (watch our video review to see it in action), but the application often bogged down and was buggy. We're sure that Verizon will issue updates that improve the speed and stability of V Cast Video and V Cast Music with Rhapsody. That said, they're by no means unusable.
We tested the Imagio with movies encoded at VGA wide screen resolution in MPEG4 format (the same H.264 format that's compatible with the iPhone) and were impressed with the results. This is no multimedia weakling: the Imagio, like the HTC Pure, did an excellent job of playing back 900Kbps video with no discernable dropped frames or loss of audio sync. Nice.
Phone and Internet
The Imagio is a dual band digital CDMA phone with EV-DO Rev. A 3G for fast data and fallback to 1xRTT. It's also a quad band GSM world phone with 3G HSDPA for Europe and Asia, but the phone is SIM locked to Verizon (their SIM is included). That means you won't be able to use it on AT&T and T-Mobile in the US unless you get it unlocked. The phone has better than average reception for a Verizon phone and very good voice quality for both incoming and outgoing calls.
The phone can be used as a wireless modem for PCs (drivers are included on the companion CD). We tested this with a Sony Vaio Z550 running Windows Vista and it worked flawlessly over Bluetooth. We simply installed the driver, paired the phone to the notebook and entered our dial up networking settings on the notebook.
Opera Mobile and IE Mobile 6 are both on board for web browsing and Opera is the default web browser. Opera does an excellent job of rendering desktop-oriented full HTML sites, though there's no pinch zoom since the Imagio lacks a capacitive display. The zoom bar works well though, and the browser scrolls smoothly and quickly.
Email support is the usual Outlook Mobile Messaging that handles SMS, MMS, POP3, IMAP and MS Exchange email. It supports MS Direct Push and can sync with Exchange ActiveSync services like Google contacts, calendar and email. If you use MS Exchange you can sync email, contacts, calendar, notes and tasks (Exchange ActiveSync services don't always support all these services). There's also support for meeting requests and company directory access. As a business phone, the HTC Imagio gets top marks thanks to its Exchange support, Direct Push and MS Office suite that can view, edit and create MS Office documents.
That 5 megapixel camera with autofocus lens sounds hot, doesn't it? Alas, as with many HTC phones, it's not going to make Nokia or Sony Ericsson lose any sleep. Outdoor shots are pretty decent, though there's some digital artifacting and colors aren't vivid. Indoor shots aren't good at all since there's no flash-- they're noisy and overly warm. Still, it's better than most US camera phones, at least for well lit indoor and outdoor shots.
The camera can shoot VGA video which is a rarity here in the US. Video quality is quite good, though the iPhone 3GS's video is a bit sharper and better as are Nokia NSeries 5 megapixel camera phone videos. The Imagio's VGA videos are 18 to 20 fps vs. dedicated camcorders, the iPhone 3GS and Nokia phones which shoot at 30fps.
The HTC Imagio has made it to the top of our smartphone list-- we love it. The super-sized touch screen is attractive, clear and easy to use for touch, and TouchFLO 3D performs well and vastly improves the Windows Mobile experience. The Imagio is a strong business smartphone with a surprising dose of multimedia-- Verizon is the first carrier to realize that even business folks like to watch TV, enjoy videos and the like. The phone is hip and attractive looking and feels good in the hand. The 5 megapixel camera with autofocus lens sounds great on paper but it takes just OK shots indoors since there's no flash.
resistive touch screen. Screen size diagonally: 3.6". Resolution:
480 x 800, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Performance:Qualcomm MSM7600 528 MHz processor. 288 MB built-in RAM. 512 MB Flash ROM with 245 megs
x 2.43 x 0.55 inches. Weight: 5.26 ounces.
Phone: CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz with EV-DO Rev. A and fallback to 1xRTT. GSM quad band GSM world phone (850/900/1800/1900MHz) with 2100MHz 3G HSDPA for Europe and Asia. GSM is SIM locked, so you'll need to get it unlocked if you wish to use another carrier's SIM card.
Camera:5 MP with autofocus lens. Can shoot video up to VGA resolution at 20fps and take photos in normal and wide screen aspect ratios.
GPS: Has GPS with aGPS. VZ Navigator included. Other location and mapping applications can access the GPS as well.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.
Mobile 6.5 Professional. Windows Mobile Office suite, Messaging (Outlook mobile with calendar, contacts, tasks and notes), HTC Album, HTC Streaming Media Player, HTC YouTube player, Visual Voice Mail, Opera Mobile web browser, V Cast Mobile TV, V Cast Videos, V Cast Music with Rhapsody, RSS Hub, FM Radio, Windows Mobile Marketplace, Mobile IM, Internet Explorer Mobile 6, Quick GPS, VZ Navigator, Teeter and other games.
SDHC microSD card slot.
In the box: Phone, stylus, world charger with a variety of prong adapters, USB cable, printed manuals and software CD with full PDF device manual.