Editor's note, Sept. 2009: Read our review of the HTC Touch Pro2 for Sprint that replaces this model.
Reviewed November 4, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The HTC Touch Pro is undeniably one of the hottest PDA phones of 2008. And in the US, just as with the HTC Touch Diamond, Sprint customers get to sample it first. Previously available only as a GSM import with no US 3G, the Sprint version is the first carrier-branded Touch Pro. AT&T launched their version as the Fuze a few weeks after Sprint, and Verizon launched the Touch Pro at the start of November 2008. What is the Touch Pro? It's the keyboard-ed version of the Diamond, and it's light years ahead of the Mogul on Sprint or the Tilt on AT&T. It's smaller, more modern looking, has a flush VGA touch screen display and all the bells and whistles you'd expect on a flagship smartphone. Specs include Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, a 528MHz CPU, 288 megs of RAM and 512 megs of flash storage, an SDHC microSD card slot, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and a 3.2 megapixel camera. For messaging and content creation types, the most salient feature is the Touch Pro's slide--out QWERTY keyboard. Among the US HTC Touch Pro variants, the Sprint model is our favorite.
The phone is packed with features: GPS, Sprint TV, youtube player, the excellent Opera web browser, weather forecasts on the home screen, MS Direct Push /Exchange/POP/IMAP email, text and picture messaging. To make best use of these features, one of Sprint's "everything" plans like the $69 Everything Data 450 (GPS, data, Sprint TV Premier, Sprint Music Premier, NFL Mobile Live, unlimited messaging and 450 anytime minutes) or the $99 Simply Everything plan (everything including unlimited anytime minutes) make sense. That said, the Touch Pro DOES NOT require an everything plan and you can get it with just a voice plan if you wish to use your own GPS software and WiFi for data.
The phone is very attractive with a black gloss face, chrome sides and a smooth back (gone is the GSM version's Diamond- faceted back). The front controls are the same as the Diamond's: home and back buttons and call send and end buttons. The d-pad is also the same as the Diamond's: press the outer edges to move in the desired direction, press the center to select an item, and swirl your finger around the inner area to zoom in applications such as HTC's photo viewer and Opera. HTC's TouchFLO 3D is all about using your finger rather than a stylus or hardware controls. And thus we have the large, finger-friendly home screen icon strip, and an enlarged Start Menu but no hardware OK, Start Menu or camera buttons. Those of you who live and die by the QWERTY-bar smartphone and its supreme one-handed navigation via hardware keys and buttons (say the Treo 800w) may not take a liking to this way of doing things. Even those transitioning from the Mogul may miss some of those hardware buttons, though in most all other ways the Touch Pro makes the Mogul seem like a dinosaur.
There are hardware volume controls (upper left side), the power button up top (press and hold to turn the Touch Pro completely off), a USB port at the bottom and the stylus at the lower right hand corner. That's it for hardware controls and ports. The phone uses HTC's ExtUSB port for charging, syncing and stereo audio. A wired stereo headset is in the box along with a dongle adapter that allows you to charge the phone while listening to a wired headset. The dongle has ports for sync/charge and a bevy of audio ports: ExtUSB for the included headset, 2.5mm and 3.5mm stereo ports!
Like the Diamond on Sprint, the HTC Touch Pro has a gorgeous VGA display that's rich, saturated, bright and glossy. Even better, the Touch Pro supports landscape mode everywhere-- just open the keyboard to switch to landscape mode (with little delay). The Diamond had limited landscape support, which wasn't thrilling when using IE Mobile locked into portrait mode. If the phone is on the home screen when you slide open the keyboard, a quick launcher appears on screen with shortcuts for mail, messaging, web bookmarks and search, PIM apps and the phone. When the keyboard is out, there's no on-screen dialer, so you'll either use the keyboard to smart-dial or number dial, or the display for speed dial or dial from history. The accelerometer works to switch screen orientations with the slider closed in applications such as Opera, HTC's photo viewer and Sprint TV.
In the Box
Sprint believes that customers should get everything they need to use the phone's features immediately, and thus there's a hunk o' stuff in the Touch Pro's compact box. There's the audio dongle adapter, Diamond-style charger, USB cable, 1 gig microSD card, Diamond-style stereo earbud headset, 2 styli, manual, software CD and a surprisingly cheesy horizontal case with belt clip that's made of microfiber fabric and garter elastic.
For those who prefer seeing to merely reading, we've got a 7 minute video review of the HTC Touch Pro for Sprint here:
Unlike many WinMo touch screen phones, the Touch Pro's display is viewable outdoors in sunlight, though it does fade somewhat. The phone runs HTC's TouchFLO 3D user interface, an attractive and functional skin over Windows Mobile's tiredness. It's actually more than a skin: HTC wrote several applications to replace or re-vamp existing Windows Mobile applications. For traditionalists who prefer standard Windows Mobile or a 3rd party home screen enhancement, you can turn off TouchFLO 3D. Given the heavy lifting that TouchFLO 3D requires, the Touch Pro on Sprint is surprisingly responsive and is faster than our US unlocked 3G Touch Diamond and the overseas GSM Touch Pro. The interface isn't as fast as the iPhone or T-Mobile G1, but it's good by Windows Mobile standards.
The Touch Pro's build quality is good, with generally well-finished, tight fitting components. Some of the first batch out of Best Buy had an overly-large gap between the sliding halves, but ones on the market now have a good fit.
The 5 row keyboard is roomy and a pleasure to use. The keys are very lightly domed and have a non-skid surface that has the right balance (not too grippy, not too slippy). There are no Windows softkeys embedded into the hardware keyboard, so you'll use the on-screen ones. Surprisingly there are no Windows Start menu or OK keys (unfortunate). There are Fn shortcuts to launch the Opera web browser, Comm Manager and to switch to T9. Dedicated numbers populate the top row, and they double as symbol/punctuation keys with a press of the Fn key. You can double press the Fn or shift key to turn on symbol or num lock and tiny LED lights above the top row of keys remind you these are on. The Touch Pro wakes up when you slide out the keyboard and the keyboard backlighting turns on (pressing a key also turns on backlighting). The keys are backlit in white and have good contrast with the black background.
Phone, Data and Reception
The Sprint HTC Touch Pro is a dual band digital CDMA phone with EVDO rev. A for fast data and fallback to 1x. It's locked to Sprint's network and does not have a GSM SIM card slot for global roaming. There's been some talk on the Net about the first batch out the door having earpiece issues such as muffled volume and blown-sounding speakers. We have a retail Touch Pro and a review unit from Sprint, both with the same first day of manufacture build date. The retail unit's earpiece volume is good and incoming audio is quite clear, though it crackles just a bit at max and near max volumes. This isn't a problem when using the speakerphone (loud and clear) or a Bluetooth headset. The Sprint review unit has distorted audio and lower volume-- go figure. Whatever the issue is or was, we'll assume that HTC and Sprint will work it out. Outgoing audio is superb, and our land line call recipients commented on how great we sounded.
The back cover removed to reveal the battery and microSD card slot.
You need not remove the battery to insert a microSD card but you must remove the phone's back cover.
Bluetooth call quality is good with mono headsets. We tested the phone with the Plantronics Discovery 925 and the original Jawbone: both were loud and clear for incoming and outgoing voice with good range by these headsets' standards. The included wired headset is extremely loud, and is quite loud even on the lowest setting.
Data is a pleasure thanks to Sprint's EVDO Rev. A network. Web pages load quickly using the included Opera 9.5; in fact even more quickly than they do on the US 3G GSM Touch Diamond on AT&T. We averaged 800kbps on DSL Reports' mobile speed test when testing with Internet Explorer mobile and had no trouble streaming video with 50% signal using the YouTube mobile player included with the Touch Pro.
For a business-oriented smartphone, the Touch Pro has a strong dose of multimedia goodness. From Sprint TV to YouTube to strong playback of locally stored video content, there's enough to keep you busy on the commute or wherever else you'd like to kill time. Sprint TV plays in near full screen depending on the channel and content (some are 4:3 aspect ratio and have black side bars, for example) and playback is handled directly in the Sprint TV player rather than being handed off to Windows Media Player mobile as is done with CV on AT&T WinMo phones. The Touch Pro does a good job of playing content, even at 1/3rd bars signal, and very good when the signal is above 50%. Videos don't look as sharp as they do on a lower resolution, smaller screened feature phone since they're likely streaming at QVGA or lower resolution and stretched to fit the Pro's VGA display. As with the Sprint Diamond, we noticed the "It's them or us!"phenomenon: we sometimes (but not always) got an on-screen message that Sprint TV must be the only multimedia application running-- and the other multimedia app must be quit before you can use Sprint TV (this means you, camera, youtube player and etc).
The Touch Pro did a good job with QVGA video encoded at a fairly high (by mobile standards) 650kbps, and it played VGA 500kbps WMVs smoothly.
For music there's HTC's own music player, embedded in the Sprint Music tab. You can indeed purchase and download music from Sprint's online music store as well as play your own songs stored in internal memory or on a microSD card. The HTC player handles Windows Media, MP3 and AAC formats, while Windows Media Player mobile on the phone doesn't support AAC. We did encounter a bug in HTC's home screen music player (labeled Sprint Music) where the phone sometimes stopped displaying album thumbnails (only the current album cover shows), and at other times the flippable set of albums appeared, but flipping through them with the usual up/down finger gestures moved through songs of the current album rather than switching albums.
The GSM unlocked HTC Touch Diamond, the HTC Fuze for AT&T and the Touch Pro.
Sound quality through the speaker is surprisingly good and it's excellent through a good set of Bluetooth stereo headphones. We tested the Pro with the Samsung SBH-500 over-the-ear headphones and sound was rich, loud and full.
The Touch Pro has an integrated GPS with aGPS. It has the usual HTC QuickGPS application that downloads satellite data to speed up acquisition times. The phone comes with Sprint Navigation, powered by TeleNav and this service offers the usual turn-by-turn spoken and visual directions (moving map, text-based route summary and map summary). There's POIs so you can look for businesses nearby as well as addresses (entered on-screen or spoken by call-in number but no contacts lookup), traffic information and more. Our two phones got a fix quickly, even indoors near a window, and there was no lag when driving. Sprint Navigation is included with their various Everything plans, and otherwise costs $10/month. The included Windows Live Search works fine with the GPS as does Google Maps.
Battery life isn't the Touch Pro's strong point. Feature-packed Windows Mobile Pro phones don't generally have very good battery life and the Touch Pro barely makes it through the day with moderate to heavy use. Very heavy users will either need to charge during the day or purchase a second battery. It lasts about 1.5 days with light to moderate use. Sprint TV drains the battery more quickly than any other activity. The battery meter reminds us of those gas gauges on 50s American cars: it drops quickly from full to 1/4, but that last quarter of a charge seems to last forever. Clearly, it could use a calibration tweak.
Like the HTC Diamond models on the market, the HTC Touch Pro has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens. What's new is the flash, which was nowhere to be found on the Diamond. This LED flash helps when taking low light photos when the subject is close, but won't work for a wide angle bar shot in the near-dark. The camera's photos are sharp and detailed, and image quality has improved from the first GSM Diamond models. The camera oversharpens images, and we suggest turning down sharpening from the default +3 in advanced settings.
The camera can shoot video with audio in H.263, 3GPP2 and MPEG4 formats at 52 x 288, 176 x 144, 128 x 96 resolutions. You can send these via Sprint Picture Mail (download the Picture Mail application from the Sprint home page in the Opera browser). This app sends video and photos for viewing on Sprint's Picture Mail web site. It worked fine sending to other Sprint phones, but not when sending to AT&T phones (the message never arrived).
One of our favorite PDA and smartphones of 2008, the Touch Pro adds those things we missed on the Diamond: landscape display support everywhere and the QWERTY keyboard. It's a feature-rich phone with GPS, WiFi, fast EVDO Rev. A, Bluetooth with A2DP and a good autofocus camera. Beyond that, it's small, sexy and has a wonderful VGA touch screen. It's so far ahead of the Mogul in terms of look and UI, it's hard to the call the Touch Pro an update to the Mogul, but if you've got a Mogul the Touch Pro will likely impress unless you're dedicated to the old school Windows Mobile UI and hardware button controls. As to which you should pick, Diamond or Touch Pro, that depends on whether you want a hardware keyboard. They're both great phones.
Pro:Fantastic VGA touch screen display. As always TouchFLO 3D is pure eye candy and makes using the phone with a finger much simpler. Great looks, compact size and solid build. GPS is quick and accurate, EVDO Rev. A makes data zip along and WiFi is there for those who don't want a data plan or aren't in EVDO coverage areas. Lots of memory and the versatility of the microSD card slot mean never having to say you've run out of space. Sprint TV and YouTube are great cures for boredom and perform well. In conjunction with a Sprint Everything plan, the phone offers a wealth of useful features and entertainment.
Con: Battery life is poor. No hardware OK and Start Menu keys may make for a hard transition if you're a veteran Windows Mobile user.
Price: $399 ($299 after $100 rebate with selected plans like Simply Everything or a PDA data plan) with 2 year contract
TFT color touch screen LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.8". Resolution:
VGA 480 x 640, portrait mode with support for landscape mode.Supports TV out with optional cable.
Battery:1340 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 4.2 hours claimed talk time.
Performance:528MHz Qualcomm MSM7501A processor. 288 megs RAM, 512 megs flash ROM with ~ 270 megs free after HTC and Sprint's customizations have loaded on first boot.
Size:4.17 (L) x 2.05(W) x 0.70 (D) inches. 5.3 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz. EVDO Rev. A for fast data with fallback to 1xRTT.
Camera:3.2 megapixel with autofocus lens. LED flash. 2048 x 1536 max photo resolution. CIF 352 x 288, 176 x 144, 128 x 96 resolutions for video. Video capture formats: H.263, 3GPP2 and MPEG4.
in speaker, mic and HTC ExtUSB stereo headphone
jack (stereo headset with matching "Diamond" design included). Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 and video playback pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR with headset, handsfree, serial port, PAN, A2DP and AVRC profiles.
GPS:Yes. Works with Sprint Navigation and other mapping and navigation applications.
Mobile 6.1 Professional. TouchFLO 3D user interface. MS Office Mobile suite (mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), Outlook mobile (Messaging, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes), Windows Media Player mobile, Internet Connection Sharing, MS Messenger, Live Search, Pictures and Videos. Opera 9.5 mobile web browser, HTC's photo viewer, YouTube player, Zip manager, Streaming Media Player, RSS reader, IM client. Sprint TV, Sprint Music Store, Sprint Radio, Sprint Navigation, OZ Instant Messaging and Handmark Pocket Express.