What's hot: Very high resolution touch screen, TouchFLO 3D user interface, 3G.
What's not: Large and heavy.
Reviewed August 12, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Ahhh, it's nice to see this old friend back. Back in June 2009 we reviewed the excellent unlocked GSM import version of the HTC Touch Pro2 and fell in love. And now, T-Mobile is the first to bring this smartphone to US shores complete with US 3G. And even better, T-Mobile doesn't muck with a good thing-- they don't radically change the design, alter the keyboard or load it with lots of trial software. Thank you, T-Mobile.
The Touch Pro2 is T-Mobile's flagship Windows Mobile Professional phone. It features a touch screen running at an impressive 800 x 480 resolution, a huge QWERTY slide-out keyboard, 3G HSDPA on T-Mobile's US bands, WiFi, Bluetooth, a 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera and HTC's enjoyable TouchFLO 3D on top of Windows Mobile 6.1. This is a large phone that measures 4.57 X 2.33 X 0.68 inches and weighs 6.6 ounces. If you're allergic to large and heavy phones, this isn't the model for you. That said, it's currently the only Windows Mobile Pro touch screen phone available for T-Mobile, and that might convince you to expand your pocket's girth. Even if you aren't a dedicated Windows Mobile user, the Touch Pro2 carries its weight thanks to excellent build quality, MS Exchange and other Microsoft product integration and a very good multimedia experience.
While RIM BlackBerry smartphones have upped the volume on their own multimedia experience, HTC has done the same with Windows Mobile. No, it's not an iPhone, which is still the best media consumption device on the market, but the Touch Pro2 has an even higher resolution display, can play high quality locally stored videos well, stream YouTube and play music in a variety of popular formats. It's not nearly all business, in other words. Microsoft's own free Facebook application (not pre-installed) and even HTC's own Facebook integration, a strong set of IM clients available out of the box and web-based access to all social networking sites help make the Touch Pro2 personal. Of course, there's the dependable and robust Windows Mobile behind the scenes for Exchange integration with over the air sync and push email, robust networking and MS Office work.
The full QWERTY keyboard slides out and can be used flat or tilted in laptop mode as seen above.
TouchFLO 3D, HTC's Cool User Interface for Windows Mobile
What Windows Mobile isn't is pretty and modern. But HTC has taken care of that with their latest iteration of TouchFLO 3D, a near-complete replacement for the Windows Mobile standard interface. We first saw it on the HTC Touch Diamond, then on the HTC Fuze, Touch Pro on Sprint and more. While the first iteration was a grand home screen replacement with sliding tabs for general status, contacts with visual speed dial, messaging, weather and settings, it left most of Windows Mobile underneath intact and ugly. The new version not only adds tabs for stocks and a month view calendar; it's faster, much more responsive and skins most of Windows Mobile, right down to a replacement Contacts UI, attractive and enlarged application menus and a variety of customized applications that act as front ends to the music player, SMS messaging, settings and more. These make the Touch Pro2 both more attractive and easy to use. You'll still run into the standard Windows Mobile apps with their tiny "x" close boxes now and again, but that's why the stylus is still included. It's also there for handwriting recognition (print and cursive) should you prefer that to the HTC on-screen keyboards and hardware QWERTY keyboard.
That said, if you're a purist and don't want any newfangled TouchFLO messing with your stock Windows Mobile experience, you can disable it by unchecking TouchFLO 3D from the items tab under the Today applet settings. Likewise you can put any theme changer or Today screen replacement on the phone you wish once you've disabled TouchFLO 3D.
Though the hardware isn't so different from other HTC TouchFLO 3D phones (528MHz Qualcomm CPU, 256 megs of RAM and 512 megs of flash memory), the user interface is much snappier. There are no strange pauses or lags when moving between home screen tabs or when scrolling through programs. Opera doesn't bring the phone to its knees, as it did on the first generation HTC Diamond phones. If you're coming from the aged T-Mobile Wing (also made by HTC), the Touch Pro2 is a truly significant upgrade: it's more luxurious, much faster, has a much better UI, stronger multimedia, 3G, a better camera, GPS and a significantly higher resolution display. If it's within your budget ($349 with a 2 year contract at launch), replace your Wing now!
Simply wonderful. It's large, it has good key spacing and a sensible desktop layout. It even has an offset key layout just as your notebook and desktop keyboards do. This makes typing feel more natural. There are 4 arrow keys (hold down the ALT key to transform two of them into page up/down), oversized spacebar and enter keys and a dedicated number row. There are quick launch buttons for SMS, web and the Comm Manager that controls the phone's many wireless radios. There are no tab, escape or Windows Mobile OK keys, so you'll need to reach for the touch screen to close apps or move from field to field in a form.
The keys are backlit in white and are easy to see in poor lighting. The slider and hinge mechanisms are secure and well made, though there's still a little wobble when the display is propped up in laptop mode. It doesn't actually lock into this position and thus if you tap the display very firmly it may slide back and move away from you rather than register the screen press. It is however tighter than our import Touch Pro2. It does lock into place when flat open and when closed. You can have the phone make sounds when the keyboard is opened and closed (4 sounds are available) or you can disable this. Sound effects don't slow screen orientation changes as they did on old HTC Windows Mobile phones.
Woe to gamers: there is no d-pad and there are no Windows Mobile soft keys (they're screen-based instead). Likewise woe to those who rely on the d-pad for one-handed operation.
T-Mobile includes a full set of accessories, not just a charger and CD. There's a compact world charger, USB cable, stereo HTC earbud headset (uses HTC's ExtUSB port), a dongle adapter with ports for charging, HTC headset, 2.5mm headset and 3.5mm stereo headset, black leather side-loading case (no belt clip), software CD and a printed manual. That's a lot of goodies and helps to justify the $349 contract price at launch. The case, stereo headset and dongle adapter would set you back $50 to $75, and America's two largest carriers would likely leave these out of the box (and perhaps thus sell the phone for less).
Here's our 10 minute video review of the HTC Touch Pro2 for T-Mobile:
Display and Zoom Bar
The HTC Touch Pro2 has a resistive touch screen, as do all other Windows Mobile phones to date (Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 don't support capacitive displays). That said, it's one of the most responsive, light touch displays we've used. Like Samsung's TouchWiz feature phones, it comes as close to capacitive responsiveness as is possible. Only capacitive displays can support multi-touch, so you won't be able to pinch-zoom here. HTC adds a hardware gizmo, the zoom slider bar (just below the display) to make up for this. But the zoom bar is a little balky and only works in certain applications like the Opera web browser and Office Mobile. The bar requires a firm touch, unlike the display, and responds best to constant stroking rather than one smooth slide when in Office Mobile.
The zoom bar just below the display and above the hardware buttons.
The display is sharp and colorful-- it's not as stunning as Samsung's AMOLED touch panel on the Samsung Impression, nor as vivid as the T-Mobile myTouch 3G (also made by HTC), but it's darned good. Even tiny text is readable and the resolution, 800 x 480, puts it at the top tier of smartphones. The Touch Pro2 works in both portrait and landscape modes-- even the tabbed home screen functions in both modes (older versions of TF3D didn't support full tabs in landscape). To switch to landscape mode, slide out the keyboard. The phone has an accelerometer but that works only in select applications (for example it works in Opera Mobile 9.7 but not IE 6 Mobile). The display has haptic feedback, still a relative rarity on Windows Mobile Pro phones, and this makes typing and tapping on the screen more intuitive. HTC's good QWERTY and t9 on-screen keyboards are here as well (they're much larger than the tiny stock WinMo keyboard). You can use these whenever you don't feel like sliding out the keyboard for quick text entry.
The Touch Pro2 has a proximity sensor (yes!) and an ambient light sensor that can automatically set display brightness.
Web and Email
TouchFLO 3D provides a pretty front-end for email in the email tab. It features subject lines with little envelopes you can flip through. Once you click on an email, you'll be greeted with the old-fashioned Windows Mobile interface which gets the job done just fine. Nothing's new here from other WinMo devices we've seen in the past few years: support for multiple email accounts, POP3/IMAP/Exchange email, MS Direct Push with Exchange servers that support it and HTML email with Exchange email. Though email isn't sexy looking, it's an IT geek's dream with separate settings for send vs. receive server, SSL and more. If you don't use an Exchange server with Direct Push, Messaging can check for new email messages on a user-specified schedule. Microsoft's email client works admirably with Exchange, well with POP3 and OK with IMAP email accounts.
T-Mobile loves IM, and they've included OZ instant messaging clients for AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, MySpace IM and Yahoo. These work very well and can run at startup automatically and continue to run in the background if you wish. Also here are SMS and MMS messaging, as you'd expect from any modern or not so modern phone. HTC has added a Facebook field to their customized contacts application: it has login and password fields and you can update your status directly from your own contact record. This seems like an odd way to do things and there are no other Facebook features in Contacts such as feeds or viewing friends' status updates.
Phone and Reception
Like many HTC phones, the Touch Pro2 has very good voice quality and solid reception. It never registers a signal quite as high as Nokia S60 E and N series phones, but it holds onto a signal fiercely, including 3G HSDPA, and doesn't drop calls. On 3G, the signal is stronger than the T-Mobile G1, a wee bit stronger than the MyTouch 3G and similar to the Dash 3G. The Touch Pro2 features a speakerphone with one-touch control. When in a call, simply place the phone face-down and press the speakerphone button on the back. There's a large speakerphone grille on the back, though the drivers don't use all that much space. Sound quality is good through the speakerphone, though not incredibly loud. The smartphone worked nicely with a selection of Bluetooth headsets, both mono and stereo, including the Plantronics Discovery 925, Jawbone 2, Samsung WEP-200 and the Motorola S9 HD stereo headset. Microsoft Voice Command 1.6 is on board for speaker independent voice dialing (no need to record voice tags) and the phone has smart dialing, speed dial, last number redial and call history.
GPS, Multimedia and Camera
The Touch Pro2 has a GPS with aGPS (assisted GPS) to speed up satellite acquisition time. Google Maps is pre-installed and works with the on-board GPS. Maps look lovely and are easier to read thanks to the very high resolution display. T-Mobile includes TeleNav for spoken turn-by-turn directions. TeleNav costs $10/month (you can add and remove it from your plan at any time without affecting your contract). If you travel frequently to parts unknown, it's well worth it-- TeleNav givens clear spoken directions, chooses routes well, has traffic information and re-routing as well as a very complete POI database. The phone easily found a signal in our suburban location and maintained a fix at highway speeds with no lag.
HTC's own YouTube player handles playback well with good frame rates and a full-screen view. Windows Media Player Mobile can handle WMV, AVI and some MPEG4 format videos stored locally on microSD cards or internal memory and you can purchase 3rd party video players like Core Player Mobile for wider format support. The phone managed VGA video encoded at 600kbps well with no discernable frame drops. Very high bitrate files will show frame drops and stuttering. Media Player Mobile also handles music playback for MP3, AAC and WMA files (including copy-protected WMA files) but its interface is tired and lacking. My goodness, you still have to tell Windows Media Player Mobile to examine your storage card and add files-- even feature phones do this automatically when launched! But it does support the usual sorts, playlists and syncing to desktop Windows Media Player, and there are capable 3rd party alternatives with better user interfaces. HTC provides their own player that ties into the music home screen tab of TouchFLO 3D, but it has only basic features: track info, add to playlist, forward, back and pause.
For you power uses who had older HTC QWERTY WinMo phones like the Tilt and weren't happy with the lack of accelerated graphics for video playback, things are looking up. HTC still bills their WinMo phones as business devices, with less emphasis on video and the like, but they know in today's world, every high end smartphone needs to handle entertainment. TF3D itself requires graphics acceleration, and that helps matters. The very high resolution display is taxing on the graphics subsystems however, so don't expect absolute miracles.
Here are some CorePlayer Mobile benchmarks to give you and idea what the Touch Pro2 can do with video playback:
- At default settings (QTv Display/high video quality), full screen, Core Player benchmarked an MPEG4 video (H.264, 48kHz AAC stereo-- basically iPhone optimal settings) 480 x 368 resolution, 856kbps at 87.26%. As you can see, the phone likes it if you keep it at 600kbps or under, hence the 87% figure. Ideally the benchmark number should be 100% or higher.
- A QVGA WMV file encoded at 406kbps played at 255%.
- "The Chosen", our old standby MPEG WinMo benchmark file of old played at 254%. It's QVGA and encoded at 311kbit/s.
The 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens is plagued by lens flare and ghosting that's likely caused or exacerbated by the protective plastic clear window over the lens. For some reason it's worse on the our T-Mobile version than the unlocked version we reviewed in June. This can cause white haze in outdoor shots and large light aberrations around lamps and other light sources in indoor shots. When we escaped those, photo quality was average for an autofocus camera phone of this resolution (which is better than most camera phones on the US market). The camera can also shoot video with audio up to VGA resolution at 15 fps. Video quality is just OK and can't compete with the iPhone 3GS or Nokia N97.
Battery life is generally the big hurt with HTC's 3G Pro phones- the HTC Tilt, the Fuze and the Touch Pro on Sprint all shared a fondness for the charger. In fact the Sprint Touch Pro couldn't make it through a day of serious use. How shocking that the Touch Pro2 easily lasted us through a day of moderate to more-than-moderate use without signaling the low battery warning. In fact, Sprint's own Touch Pro2, released in September 2009, also has much improved battery life. If those last generation HTC flagship phones were Escalades, the Touch Pro2 is a hybrid Escalade or dare we say a Camry hybrid? The phone has a 1500 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable and in our tests under 3G coverage (3G uses more power), the phone lasted a full day with heavy use and 3 days with light use. The GPS will use up battery power quickly, and the YouTube player is power hungry. If you plan on using those heavily, you'll need to charge more often.
Like Windows Mobile or need a serious business phone? Have an ancient and underpowered T-Mobile Wing? Then run to your nearest T-Mobile dealer and get this phone! That is, if you can afford it. The economy has put a crimp in everyone's wallet and $349 with a 2 year contract is serious money, but the phone is worth it if you need or crave this kind of smartphone power. What about the competitors? The T-Mobile G1 is a lot cheaper, runs a brand new OS that's hot (Android by Google), and also has a hardware QWERTY keyboard, GPS and 3G HSDPA. But it lacks the Touch Pro2's much higher resolution display (though the G1 gets points for having a capacitive display), full Microsoft Exchange integration, direct Outlook syncing via USB cable and a built-in MS Office suite. The touch screen + QWERTY Nokia N97 could be a tempting competitor for those who aren't wedded to WinMo, but it lacks US 3G on T-Mobile's bands and is considerably more expensive since it's unsubsidized ($699 list). The Touch Pro2 is one of the top business-minded phones for 2009, and it packs plenty of entertainment value and eye candy thanks to TouchFLO 3D. There's nothing quite like it among competing platforms and brands, and once it's out on all US carriers, your biggest decision may well be which carrier to choose.
Pro: Attractive, well-made and looks like a quality piece. Large, high resolution touch screen is wonderful. TouchFLO 3D brings fun and expedience to Windows Mobile (and it looks lovely too). Fast 3G, Opera Mobile on-board along with the new IE 6 Mobile, excellent integration with Microsoft services and desktop apps, no bloatware, fantastic large keyboard with offset keys. Good GPS, has WiFi and a decent camera. Very customizable. All the goodies are in the box: stereo headset, headset/charger dongle adapter for 2.5 and 3.5mm stereo headsets and a case-- not just a charger and USB cable.
Con: Heavy, large and not cheap. The Opera web browser is very good, but needs a few tweaks to compete with Safari on the iPhone and Android's web browser. Not as easy to find and get apps as with Android and the iPhone and apps tend to cost considerably more.
Price: $349 with a 2 year contract and $549 retail without a contract
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.
Performance:528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200A processor. 256 megs RAM, 512 megs flash ROM with 285 megs free for storage.
Size:4.57 X 2.33 X 0.68 inches. 6.61 ounces (187.5g).
Phone: GSM quad band world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with EDGE. HSDPA 3G on T-Mobile's US bands 1700/2100MHz bands.
Camera:3.2 megapixel with autofocus lens. 2048 x 1536 max photo resolution. Up to VGA resolution at 15fps for video. Video capture formats: H.263, 3GPP2 and MPEG4.
in speaker, mic and HTC ExtUSB 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. TeleNav navigation service (subscription service) and Google Maps included.
Mobile 6.1 Professional. TouchFLO 3D user interface. Opera 9.7 mobile web browser, Internet Explorer 6 mobile, MS Voice Command 1.6, HTC's photo viewer, YouTube player, Adobe Reader, Comm Manager, JBlend Java VM, Jetcet Presenter 5, MS Live Search, Remote Desktop, Internet Sharing, Windows Media Player Mobile, HTC Voice Notes, SIM Manager, 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.
Expansion slot:SDHC microSD card slot.
In the box:World charger, USB cable, stereo headset, software CD and carrying case.