Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
HTC Touch Diamond 2 smartphone
HTC's Touch Diamond 2 is a faster and far more pleasing smartphone to use than its predecessor.
- Fast and visually appealing TouchFLO 3D interface, Windows Mobile interface has been pushed into the background, responsive touch screen, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, GPS, 5-megapixel camera
- Text input is tedious, no flash on camera, no 3.5mm headphone jack
HTC's Touch Diamond 2 is a far better smartphone than its predecessor. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack is annoying, but a larger display, a professional design and a much improved user interface make this one of the best Windows Mobile smartphones we've reviewed.
Price$ 879.00 (AUD)
A successor to the original HTC Touch Diamond, HTC's Touch Diamond 2 offers a larger display and an all-new design. Most importantly, it's faster and far more pleasant to use than its predecessor.
The biggest change with the design of the Touch Diamond 2 smartphone comes in the form of a larger display: the 3.2in touch screen dwarfs the original Touch Diamond's 2.8in display, though the specifications are the same aside from the size. Gone is the Diamond-etched rear casing, replaced by a flat glossy black battery cover that is just as prone to fingerprints as the original. The HTC Touch Diamond 2 has a more professional look than the original Diamond; it's slightly larger and thicker and the silver edging gives it more of a business feel than the glossy black casing of its predecessor.
The other main difference is the absence of a navigational pad. HTC has replaced this with what it calls a "touch zoom bar" below the screen. Sliding your finger across the bar zooms in and out of a number of applications including the preloaded Opera Web browser and Google Maps. Answer and end call keys, as well as a Start button and back key sit below the zoom bar, while side-mounted volume controls and a power key on top round out the controls.
The TouchFLO 3D interface again features on the Touch Diamond 2 smartphone and this time it's zippy and functional as well as being visually superb. This is one of the first Windows Mobile smartphones we've used that almost completely negates the need to enter the Start menu. On the Home tab, a large flip-style clock displays the time, while swiping your finger upwards allows you to view calendar appointments.
For access to the rest of the Touch Diamond 2's functions, a row of icons sit in a tabbed interface across the bottom of the screen. You press down on the active tab and slide your finger left or right across the tabs to cycle through menu selections, including a comprehensive settings menu. If you do need to use the Start menu, HTC allows you to customise 24 shortcut boxes that offer quick access to commonly used programs; gone is the regular Windows Mobile Start menu that required the use of the stylus.
The new contacts screen is excellent. It centralises all conversations with a particular contact on one screen, including calls, e-mails and text messages. There is no way to integrate social networking profiles into this contact screen like there is with Palm Pre's synergy feature, but it remains a nifty inclusion.
Despite HTC's attempt to provide as many options for messaging as possible, text input remains the Touch Diamond 2's biggest weakness. There are multiple touch-screen text entry options available, including a full QWERTY keyboard, the regular Windows Mobile keyboard and a keypad with T9 predictive text input. However the keys are too close together, so you'll need to use the stylus to achieve any sort of accuracy. Strangely we found it easier to type on the keyboard when it was in portrait mode and not in landscape mode (the phone's built-in accelerometer rotates the screen orientation).
The HTC Touch Diamond 2 is a 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable smartphone that also features Wi-Fi, GPS and A2DP stereo Bluetooth. A2DP Bluetooth is a standard feature on most smartphones, but it's an important inclusion here considering HTC's reluctance to provide a regular 3.5mm headphone jack on its handsets, instead using a mini-USB connection. The fact that this port is also used to charge the phone means that you can't listen to music and charge the Touch Diamond 2 simultaneously — a pet hate we've had with nearly all of HTC's recent smartphones.
For Web browsing, the preinstalled Opera Mobile browser offers a much better experience than the normal Internet Explorer. The built-in accelerometer automatically rotates a Web page, and users can zoom and pan using finger gestures and the zoom bar.
The Touch Diamond 2's camera has been upgraded from 3.2 megapixels on the original Diamond to 5 megapixels. Unfortunately there is still no flash, though the camera does feature autofocus and a front-mounted VGA camera allows video calling. Photos captured are quite good for a camera phone, but, more importantly, the camera application is quite fast and exhibits minimal shutter lag (an issue synonymous with camera phones). A minor complaint is the lack of a physical shutter button, sometimes making it hard to keep the phone steady when taking a photo.
The HTC Touch Diamond 2 includes a microSD card slot for extra storage. Our review unit didn't come with a microSD card, though its likely one will be included on carrier-specific versions of the smartphone when it is released in Australia.
Battery life is slightly improved over the original Touch Diamond, thanks to the use of an 1100mAh battery instead of a 900mAh, though the increased screen size means this will probably have little real world effect on battery life. Despite moderate use, we found ourselves having to charge the HTC Touch Diamond 2 every night, a similar situation to the iPhone 3G.
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