Reviewed April 23, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The original HTC Touch, released as a GSM phone last June, was one of my favorites and a top seller worldwide. It had incredible good looks, was very small for a PDA phone and it had HTC's then new TouchFLO UI with a screen optimized for a finger rather than a stylus. In November 2007, the Sprint Touch addressed three key issues by incorporating a 2x faster CPU, doubling RAM and adding 3G (in the form of EVDO) for faster Internet access. Verizon Wireless has finally joined the Touch party with their version, simply named the "XV6900". It's identical to the Sprint version in terms of features and specs, but the color is white. The XV6900 loses the usual HTC Touch soft-touch finish, which is a shame, though Verizon told us they had to forego it because the white soft touch finish quickly showed dirt. The mid-gloss white finish looks superb and the typical compact Verizon box matches in white (gone is the fancy black gift box packaging that accompanies the GSM and Sprint models).
The software theme is red (Verizon's color), white, gray and black which is also striking, though it makes one think "hasn't Valentine's Day passed?". As always with the Touch, the Verizon version feels perfect in the hand with its palm-friendly curves and slim design. The HTC Touch UI is exactly the same as previous Touch models, with a few icons changed to match Verizon-specific offerings. Since the XV6900 is basically the same as the now well-reviewed and discussed GSM and Sprint Touch models, we won't re-invent the wheel and describe the device in exacting detail. Please refer to our Sprint Touch review for in-depth coverage of the Touch UI and ergonomics.
Features at a Glance
The XV6900 is a Windows Mobile 6 Professional Pocket PC phone running on a 400MHz processor. It has a QVGA touch screen, 128 megs of RAM, 256 megs of flash ROM and a microSD card slot that supports SDHC. It has EVDO for data, no WiFi, no GPS and a 2 megapixel camera. Java fans: there's no Java VM included, so you'll have to dig one up on the Net.
Verizon includes a world charger, USB sync cable, neoprene slip case, splitter cable (splits the devices ExtUSB port to a mini USB and 2.5mm headset jack), software CD and printed material. A wired headset is not included in the box nor is a microSD card.
Display, Touch software and Text Entry
The XV6900 has a minimalist design, with few buttons and no hardware number pad or keyboard. Instead you'll use the on-screen keyboard or handwriting recognition to enter text. Windows Mobile does an excellent job of handwriting recognition, but if that's not your cup of tea, there's the usual WinMo keyboard with small keys that require a stylus or a very pointy fingernail and two HTC custom keyboards: a 20 key keyboard similar in layout to the HTC Touch Dual and the BlackBerry Pearl 20 key hardware keyboard and a 12 key number pad with letters that's similar to a regular phone's number pad. The two HTC keyboards use predictive text to figure out the words you're typing (and it works fairly well), and the on-screen keys are large enough to be pressed with a finger. If you spend your days texting and emailing, you'll probably miss a hardware keyboard. But if you're a light data entry person, the XV6900 Touch is just fine.
The QVGA 240 x 320 pixel, 2.8" LED backlit touch screen is flush with the casing unlike most PDA phones. This makes it easier to use fingertip control and it looks good too. The Touch runs only in portrait orientation unlike most Windows Mobile Professional devices that also support landscape (though a few applications like camera and the photo album run in landscape). The screen is bright, sharp and colorful, though like most Pocket PC phones with touch screens, it fades out in direct sunlight.
The XV6900 features HTC's Touch-friendly Today screen with the time in large characters, message and missed call indicators, and shortcuts to the phone, messaging, screen lock, software shopping on Handango.com and the camera album. There are tabs for weather (there's no fee required for weather beyond Verizon's data plan costs), an application launcher (you can specify the applications in the launcher) and profiles. Swipe your finger up in the Today screen or in any application to bring up HTC's rotating panels: one has shortcuts to email, SMS, IE, notes, the wireless manager and voice recorder (you can't change these). Another has three multimedia apps: music (Windows Media Player Mobile), Photos and Videos (both launch the camera album. The last one has a 3 x 3 grid for photo caller ID dialing. Switch between these panels by swiping your finger right or left across the display. Make it go away by sweeping your finger down across the display from top to bottom. It works quite well, though it takes a firmer touch than the iPhone since the display is resistive (pressure sensitive) rather than capacitive (electrically sensitive). You can also scroll in IE and the built-in applications by dragging your finger across the display.
There's also an enlarged Start Menu option, which makes it easier to select items with a finger. But TouchFLO and the enlarged start menu are the extent of the touch-centric customizations. As we've mentioned in prior Touch reviews, HTC can't re-write Microsoft's operating system or re-design WinMo's entire UI, and this means that there are still plenty of standard Windows Mobile items that are better dealt with using a stylus. For example, create a new appointment then try to change the time using the small pop-up selector-- not easy with a finger.
The Verizon "Touch" weighs just 4 ounces and isn't much larger than a Moto RAZR. The design is clean and simple: the front face has just the square d-pad and call send and end buttons. There's a camera button on the right side, a volume slider on the left and the power button up top-- that's it. The entire back cover slides off (with less reticence than other Touch versions) to reveal the battery and the microSD card slot. No, the slot isn't under the battery door, but rather under the right side's chrome trim. You can't open that section of the trim (use a fingernail) unless you first remove the battery door. Annoying.
The microSD card slot under the chrome trim panel on the XV6900's right side.
The smartphone has a single HTC ExtUSB port that works for charging, syncing and stereo headsets with that connector (not included with the Verizon version). A splitter (ExtUSB to min USB and 2.5mm headphone jack) is included so you can use the mini USB port for charging or syncing while a 2.5mm standard headset is connected. The XV6900 has a single LED under the earpiece grille above the display that flashes green when the phone has service (it's not annoyingly bright). The LED glows amber when the Touch is charging and green when charged.
Phone Features and Data
The XV6900 Touch is a dual band digital CDMA phone with 1xRTT and EV-DO rev. 0 for high speed data. As with the Sprint Touch, call quality is good, though not as good as the best Motorolas, and volume through the earpiece is adequate (you'll need the speakerphone or a headset when in very noisy locations). The speakerphone is decent: not impressively loud but it is clear with very little distortion at high volumes. The included stereo earbud headset's volume and sound quality are excellent. The XV6900 works well with most Bluetooth headsets, though range is average and not quite as good as the XV6800. Signal strength is just OK, and folks in poor coverage area might want to think twice about the Touch. Though even when the phone dropped to one bar or less, it didn't drop a call and call quality remained good. The ringer is clearly audible and the Vibrate feature is so violent it sounds like a small drill when on a hard surface like a desk.
Like the Sprint version, the XV6900 comes with Cyberon Voice Speed Dial which requires that you record voice tags for contacts and applications. The phone assigns the camera button (press and hold it until speed dial launches) to speed dial. Voice Speed Dial is accurate and reliable, and works with Bluetooth headsets as well. The Bluetooth headsets we tested worked well with the Touch, offering average range and good voice quality for incoming and outgoing calls. We tested the Jawbone and Samsung WEP-200 and each worked well with no static when within 15 feet of the smartphone.
The phone has the usual Windows Mobile Internet Explorer Mobile and Messaging which handles SMS text message and email. The Verizon XV6900 can send and receive MMS messages (Pix and Flix in Verizon lingo) using Messaging the application. The PDA phone supports POP3 and IMAP email along with Microsoft Direct Push mail and Exchange. There's a link to download Verizon's Wireless Sync, but given the phone's strong syncing capabilities, most folks probably won't need that pay-for service.
Performance and Multimedia
If the original GSM Touch was the PDA phone that said "I think I can", then the Verizon and Sprint versions are the ones that say "I know I can". The XV6900 is as powerful as the Verizon XV6800 and Sprint HTC Mogul in terms of horsepower, running on a 400MHz Qualcomm CPU with an ample 128 megs of RAM and 256 megs of flash memory. The RAM is used like RAM in your PC for running programs and with 128 megs and approximately 76 megs free at boot, the XV6900 can run several demanding applications simultaneously. The 256 megs of flash ROM are used for storage and there's 141 megs free out of the box-- plenty for a wide selection of 3rd party programs and a large PIM database. For music, videos and other large files, the XV6900 can use microSD cards and the device supports SDHC high capacity cards greater than 2 gigs in capacity.
Video playback is good on the XV6900 Touch, though this is a business more than a multimedia phone, we had no trouble with 450kbps Windows Media Player files. The phone feels responsive for a Windows Mobile device, with relatively little lag. Use a firm touch on the screen or you might think the device is slow to respond when in fact it needs more than the iPhone's feather-light gestures to register taps and swipes.
The GSM Touch was marketed heavily as a music phone to compete with the iPhone that came out just after it. Verizon isn't marketing the XV6900's music capabilities heavily but as with all Windows Mobile devices, the device makes a good MP3 player. Windows Media Player mobile isn't exactly replete with advanced features, but all the basics are there including playlists, shuffle, skin support and syncing with Windows Media Player on the desktop (including PlaysForSure DRM files). And you can install a 3rd party music player to gain more features if you wish, but we'll give the Touch and Windows Media Player Mobile extra points for supporting AAC files (many Windows Mobile devices don't). The Touch family of phones have excellent audio quality through stereo wired headsets and Bluetooth stereo headphones and headsets using A2DP. We tested it with the Plantronics Pulsar 590 and got excellent sound quality by Bluetooth standards with decent bass and good separation.
The camera can take photos at two resolutions: 1200 x 1600 and pixels, with lower resolutions available that are suitable for Today Screen backgrounds, MMS and caller ID. There are 4 quality settings, center and average metering options, a shutter sound that can be turned off, a self-timer and more. There are two video modes: standard and MMS. Standard video resolutions are unambitious: 128 x 96 and 176 x 144, but they do look decent, albeit small. Standard video mode supports H.263, MPEG4 and Motion JPEG file formats. MMS video supports H.263 and MPEG4 and offers the same resolutions as standard video. The camera has a self-portrait mirror but no flash.
The camera quality is good by 2 megapixel, fixed-focus lens standards with fairly accurate colors and balanced exposure. Indoor shots aren't rife with noise nor do they lose color saturation as is typical of camera phones. But really dim shots taken in low light are noisy and details become indistinct.
Though the XV6900 has a relatively low capacity battery for a Pocket PC phone, battery life isn't bad. The phone's 1100 mAh Lithium Ion battery held up well under average use and we managed 1.5 days on a charge with moderate use and 3 days of light use. It's hard to refer to "average" use these days when a device has many features; but with 30 minutes of talk time each day, an hour of music playback with screen off each day, 30 minutes surfing the Net and checking email once/hour from 9-5, the XV6900 lasted just over 2 days. If you watch videos for an hour or more per day, or MS Direct Push email, expect to charge nightly. Verizon claims 3.5 hours of talk time and we managed 3.25 hours in our tests.
It's small, it's stunning looking and smart. Verizon's version of the Touch is a great choice if you want a touch screen and some serious PDA phone power. We like the fast processor, ample RAM and EVDO performance combined with unexpectedly decent battery life for a small battery. HTC's TouchFLO UI make common tasks easier to accomplish with a finger and more fun. But keep in mind that it's still Windows Mobile, so you can't escape the stylus forever when entering data or homing in on tiny hyperlinks in the web browser. If you don't need a QWERTY hardware keyboard but do need a smart phone, the Touch is definitely worth a long, hard look.
Price: $299 with a 2 year contract from Verizon Wireless
Display:65K color transflective
TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.8". Resolution:
240 x 320, supports both portrait and landscape modes.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
1100 mA. Claimed talk time: 210 minutes, claimed standby: 10.4 days.
Performance: Qualcomm MSM7500 400 MHz processor (dual core 400MHz ARM11 application processor and 133MHz ARM9). 128 MB built-in RAM
(76 megs free at boot). 256 MB Flash ROM with 151 megs available.
Size:4.0" x 2.35" x 0.56" inches. Weight: 4 ounces.
Phone: CDMA dual band digital with EVDO rev. 0 for data and 1xRTT.
Camera:2.0 megapixel with fixed-focus lens, self-portrait mirror and no flash.
in speaker, mic and HTC's proprietary ExtUSB combined stereo headphone
jack and sync/charge port. Splitter adapters included so you can charge while listening to music or use a 2.5mm headset. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included.
Mobile 6.0 Profession Edition operating system.
Microsoft Mobile Office 6.1 suite including Mobile versions
of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view only), Internet
Explorer, and Outlook. Also included: HTC's Today Screen and touch-aware "cube-launcher" application, HTC Task Manager, HTC Zip (un-zipping app), Adobe Reader LE, Cyberon Voice Speed Dial, Pictures and Videos, MSN
Instant Messenger, Windows Live, Windows Media Player
10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder
as well as handwriting recognition and standard as well as 2 enhanced on-screen keyboards. Additional applications:
Camera, Wireless Manager,
MS Bluetooth software, Zip utility, Verizon Wireless Sync, Clear Storage (wipes
out all data and resets unit to factory defaults). ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial edition for PCs included.