What's hot: TouchFLO 3D, huge display and excellent keyboard.
What's not: Pricey, large and heavy.
Reviewed September 8, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
When we reviewed the first Touch Pro2 several months ago, we loved what we saw and couldn't wait to see US versions. T-Mobile was first to the US market with the T-Mobile Touch Pro2 and it proved as solid a device as the unlocked version of our first review. A month later, Sprint followed suit with their Touch Pro2, this time on their CDMA network (the first 2 are GSM-only) plus quad band GSM roaming for overseas use. The Sprint version is perhaps more compelling than the T-Mobile version since Sprint offers a variety of services that run on their EVDO (the CDMA equivalent of GSM networks' 3G HSDPA) network. These include Sprint TV and Sprint's music store. If you're not interested in passing away idle time watching streaming video and TV or downloading tunes, that difference obviously becomes less important. Update: AT&T has released their version as the HTC Tilt 2 and Verizon offers the Touch Pro2 as well, so there's no need to switch carriers to get this Windows Mobile phone.
If you're a Sprint customer, you're in luck; they have an awesome smartphone lineup. Your hardest decision will be deciding among the Palm Pre, BlackBerry Tour, HTC Hero running Android and also made by HTC and the high end feature phone Samsung Instinct. Though they don't have the iPhone, Sprint has the rest of the market well covered. The 6.3 ounce Touch Pro2 is the largest and heaviest smartphone among these, so be warned this guy will take up significant space in your (roomy) pants pocket.
Virtually all the hardware specs are the same as other Touch Pro2 smartphone variants and these include Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional with HTC's excellent TouchFLO 3D user interface, a 528MHz QUALCOMM CPU, 288 megs of RAM, 512 megs of flash storage, an SDHC microSD card slot (under the back cover), 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Sprint version adds a 3.5mm stereo headset jack unlike most HTC phones that use HTC's ExtUSB connector. Nice. And of course it adds a CDMA dual band digital phone radio and EVDO Rev. A since Sprint's network runs on these services.
Design and Display
The Touch Pro2 is the flagship Windows Mobile touch screen phone for the second half of 2009. If you're looking for the best in Windows Mobile, this is it in the US. Happily the "best" moniker isn't an empty self-proclamation from HTC, the Touch Pro2 is an excellent smartphone. The huge offset hardware QWERTY keyboard is a dream and the 3.6" 800x480 display makes finger operation easy and video playback dreamy. HTC's TouchFLO 3D has matured since the release of the original Diamond and last year's Touch Pro, and it's more responsive and adds new features like stock reports and a more complete do-over of the somewhat tired Windows Mobile interface. TouchFLO 3D replaces so much of the WinMo interface that the difference between Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 becomes moot since 6.5 offers mostly interface enhancements that you'll see little of when running TouchFLO 3D. For those of you who actually like WinMo's UI, you can turn off TouchFLO 3D if you wish. HTC has stated that Windows Mobile 6.5 will be a free upgrade for Touch Pro2 owners and we assume (hope) this includes the US carrier versions.
Like the old HTC Tilt or a notebook computer, the Touch Pro2's screen slides up into an upright position. As with other Touch Pro2 variants we noted some play when the display is in notebook mode which can be a bit annoying when tapping on the screen. It also works in flat mode for those who prefer holding it with two hands and don't mind glare from the sky or overhead lights. The screen is high gloss, so glare can be an issue and the display is readable outside but just barely. The keyboard is absolutely capacious and larger-fingered folk will find this the most amenable smartphone keyboard on the market. The BlackBerry Tour's keyboard looks tiny in comparison. We particularly like the offset keys that match a notebook or desktop's keyboard rather than being stacked one above the other in orderly but un-ergonomic columns. This reduces typing missteps and just feels right. The spacebar is oversized and there's a dedicated number row. A press of the Fn key turns the numbers into symbols and the keys are clearly masked.
The resistive touch screen is sharp, colorful and large-- we like. Though it lacks the super-light touch response of capacitive displays such as those on the Palm Pre and Android devices, it works with a stylus (still a necessary evil if you use legacy WinMo apps with tiny close boxes and small fields) and is more precise when tapping on links in the on-board Opera and IE 6 mobile web browsers. At 3.6", the display is large enough to make using all elements of TouchFLO 3D with a finger easy. The original Touch Pro's smaller display made it feel less responsive to finger touch. Photos and video look lovely on the phone and it can handle playback of locally stored video up to 650kbps well (not too bad for a business phone).
The phone has an accelerometer that works in many applications and you can also slide out the keyboard to switch to landscape mode in any application. There's haptic (vibration) feedback though it's used in only a few places, and on screen keyboards including HTC's with larger keys (the stock WinMo on-screen keyboard has laughably tiny keys).
The Touch Pro2 features a large offset keyboard.
TouchFLO 3D has a multi-screen user interface and most screens are the same as on the Touch Pro: today view with the time, carrier info, appointments and call info; weather for multiple cities (the prettiest weather we've ever seen on a phone), photo caller ID, email with highly graphical elements like flick-able envelopes; SMS; web (Opera plus shortcuts like YouTube); settings and stocks (that's new). It's fun, it's very attractive and most important, TouchFLO 3D is responsive. We still found ourselves occasionally missing finger actions on the first try once in a while, but after a day of use (or less) accuracy is very good for a non-capacitive display. Being Windows Mobile, the phone does lag a second or two once in a while but it's by no means consistently slow.
Here's our 10 minute video review of the Sprint Touch Pro2 showing general design, web browsing, Sprint TV and more.
Internet, email and Battery
Battery life was a sore point for the original Touch Pro on Sprint, which runs on much the same hardware. HTC did something right because the Touch Pro2 easily lasted us through a day of moderate use while the first gen smartphone couldn't make it through the day. The usual suspects drain battery more quickly: GPS, Sprint TV and WiFi, but these are no longer deal-breakers that kill the battery in a few hours. Even with a 30 minute GPS navigation session, the phone made it through the day. The Touch Pro2's Achilles heel is MS Direct Push email which does drain the battery and make it hard to get through a full day. When we instead set the phone to check mail on a 15 minute interval, battery life wasn't decimated as it was with Direct Push on. Push email on WinMo is generally hard on battery life and if push email and instant notifications are your bread and butter, the BlackBerry still wins since its battery life isn't so negatively impacted by push.
Windows Mobile, as you'd expect, excels at all things Microsoft. This means you get a decent Office Mobile suite that can view, edit and create MS Office documents; the mobile equivalent of Outlook (messaging, contacts, tasks, calendar and notes); MS Live application support and very good syncing with Outlook on the desktop and Exchange servers. As a business tool, Windows Mobile makes up for its lack of a flashy, modern UI and it's extremely powerful. Of course, HTC has taken care of the UI-- even better.
Since this is a business phone, you might not expect much in the way of multimedia. The usual Windows Media Player mobile is on board for music (MP3, WMA and AAC formats) and video (WMV, MPEG4 and others). Its user interface is lacking but HTC does offer their own front end for music and video playback that helps, though it's not very full-featured. For serious music types, there are a variety of good music playback apps available from 3rd party developers. Video playback, not always a strong point on HTC's business phones, is good, though it won't woo you away from the iPhone. The huge screen looks great for video playback and QVGA video up to 650kbps plays very smoothly. VGA video encoded at 450kbps likewise plays well. Video plays in landscape mode if you wish (who wouldn't?) and it fills the screen (there's a full screen mode for videos smaller than native screen resolution).
An FM radio, a sometimes-HTC feature, isn't on board and the FM Radio CAB installer from XDA-Developers installs but it gave an error and quits when we tried to run it. Music playback through the 3.5mm stereo jack (a rare feature on an HTC phone) sounds full and rich with a decent set of earbuds. The smartphone also supports Bluetooth stereo A2DP for those of you who detest wires.
Sprint TV plays well by Sprint TV standards-- we're accustomed to buffering pauses and some digital breakup of video with Sprint TV. It plays more smoothly on the TP2 than several other Sprint phones and actually looks quite nice in full screen landscape mode on the smartphone's large and sharp display. If you're into Sprint TV, the 3.6" high resolution display is as good as it gets.
For those who prefer their video more homebrew, HTC's excellent YouTube player is on board along with their streaming media player for MPEG4 video. YouTube video plays back full screen and smoothly over EVDO and it looks as good as on the iPhone. What you won't get is Flash playback directly in the Opera web browser, though IE Mobile does handle it (at about 5 frames/second).
Phone: Sprint CDMA and GSM
The Touch Pro2 for Sprint runs on Sprint's CDMA digital voice network and it has EVDO Rev. A for fast (very fast) data. Just in case you're not in an EVDO coverage area, the phone can fall back to 1xRTT. And if you're not in any coverage area you can always use WiFi 802.11b/g. In addition, the Sprint TP2 has a GSM SIM card slot for international roaming. The phone isn't SIM locked (that means you can use any GSM carrier's SIM) but using US carriers while in the US is a no-go. We tested the phone with AT&T and T-Mobile US SIM cards and it wouldn't find any networks. We assume Sprint has blocked US carriers so that folks don't buy their phone to use on AT&T and T-Mobile US. The phone has settings for CDMA (Sprint network) only, GSM only and automatic (it will switch to GSM when you're abroad in a GSM coverage area).
Voice quality on Sprint's network in the Dallas area was excellent, even with a modest signal. Voice is clear and full and volume is good. Our call recipients said we sounded near landline-clear. Like all HTC Touch Pro2 models, the phone features HTC's Straight Talk speaker phone. While in a call, turn the phone over and press the speakerphone button on the back to switch to the loudspeaker. Thanks to the very large grille area (larger than the unlocked and T-Mobile versions), the speaker is louder than ever. Though there are two small drivers near the top rear section, the added holes allow more sound to exit. The TP2 has MS Voice Command 1.6 for voice commands and dialing, though there's no dedicated button to launch it: instead press and hold the call send button until you hear the beep.
Reception is good and better than average, and we rarely saw the signal drop below 50%, while other Sprint phones we've tested often manage only 33% signal strength in our tough test areas.
GPS and Camera
The HTC Touch Pro2 has an integrated GPS with aGPS and Sprint Navigation. Once we ran HTC's QuickGPS application to download satellite data the GPS behaved well in our suburban location. It managed to get a fix on 10 satellites indoors near a window and never lost a fix when driving at highway speeds. Sprint Navigation kept up with us on the highway with only occasional short-lived lags of a few hundred feet and at city street speeds it stayed right on target. Sprint Navigation is a monthly subscription service that costs $10/month unless you have one of Sprint's Simply Everything plans since those plans include Sprint Navigation. The GPS is not locked to Sprint's Navigation and it works with the pre-loaded Windows Live Search as well as Google Maps.
The 3.2 megapixel camera failed to wow us, same as with the T-Mobile version. Though we noticed less haze and color fringing (likely due to the plastic window over the lens on the T-Mobile version), outdoor images suffered from a baffling combination of oversharpening and softness. It seems that the image processing goes to town sharpening some details while it smooths over less sharp areas, making for spots that look like they were touched up by an Impressionist painter while other areas are jaggy. Indoor shots are noisy since there's no flash but colors are good. Video tops out at CIF 352 x 288 resolution (lower than the T-Mobile version) and it looks fairly good in terms of sharpness and colors, even at an average of 15 to 18fps.
The HTC Touch Pro2 continues to impress us, this time on Sprint and all the better for their Sprint TV service and fast EVDO Rev. A data connection. We appreciate the addition of a 3.5mm stereo jack and the wider array of speakerphone holes for louder, clearer sound. If you want a business phone that can be your office on the road, it's hard to beat Windows Mobile. And HTC has dressed up Windows Mobile with their TouchFLO 3D so you don't feel like you're using old and dull technology. The phone has a stunning display, a fantastic QWERTY keyboard and fast data speeds. MS Exchange support is very good and Microsoft's mobile Office suite gets the job done. While IE mobile isn't our favorite web browser, Opera does an excellent job of rendering the "real" Internet as Steve Jobs put it. Drawbacks? The Touch Pro2 by design is a large and heavy phone-- how else to get that huge display and super-sized keyboard on board along with a host of other features. Those of you who own the first gen Touch Pro on Sprint may be strongly tempted by the new model's larger, higher resolution display, much better battery life and super keyboard.
Price: $349 with 2 year contract after rebate. $599 with no contract extension.
TFT color touch screen with haptic feedback and accelerometer. Screen size diagonally: 3.6". Resolution:
800 x 480, portrait mode with support for landscape mode. Supports TV out with optional cable.
Battery:1500 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 4 hours.
Performance:528MHz Qualcomm MSM7600 processor. 288 megs RAM with 87 megs free at boot. 512 megs flash ROM with approx. 200 megs free for storage.
Size:4.56 X 2.33 X 0.68 inches. 6.63 ounces.
Phone: CDMA dual band digital phone with EVDO Rev. A and 1xRTT for data. Also has a SIM card slot for GSM quad band world roaming 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with EDGE and 2100MHz 3G HSDPA for Europe and Asia. The SIM slot is unlocked for use with any GSM carrier but the phone doesn't work in the US with American GSM carriers (e.g. T-Mobile and AT&T).
Camera:3.2 megapixel with autofocus lens. 2048 x 1536 max photo resolution. Video resolution up to CIF 352 x 288 resolution. Video capture formats: H.263, 3GPP2 and MPEG4, length limited only by available storage.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm stereo headphone
jack (stereo headset included). Voice Recorder and Windows Mobile Media Player 10 included. Supported audio formats: AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, QCP, MP3, WMA, WAV, MIDI, M4A. Straight Talk speaker phone.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR with headset, handsfree, serial port, FTP, PAN, phone book access, A2DP and AVRC profiles.
GPS:Yes. Sprint Navigation service pre-installed (subscription service) and Windows Live Search. Works with Google Maps and other GPS and mapping applications.
Mobile 6.1 Professional. TouchFLO 3D user interface. Opera 9.5 mobile web browser, Internet Explorer 6 mobile, MS Voice Command, HTC's photo viewer, YouTube player, Adobe Reader, Comm Manage, WorldCard Mobile, RSS Hub, HTC Streaming Media, Sprint Titan (Java VM), Jetcet Presenter 5, MS Live Search, Remote Desktop, Internet Sharing, Windows Media Player Mobile, Voice Notes, Teeter. Standard MS mobile software suite: Office Mobile (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Mobile), Internet Explorer Mobile 6, Email (POP3/IMAP/MS Exchange), File Manager, PIM suite (contacts, calendar, notes and tasks), SMS/MMS client, BubbleBreaker and Solitaire. Sprint applications: Sprint TV, Sprint Music, Nascar Mobile, NFL Mobile Live, Sprint Navigation and Sprint Software Store.
Expansion slot:SDHC microSD card slot under back cover (no need to remove the battery).
In the box:World charger, USB cable and printed manual.