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Aug 13, 2009

Review: HTC Touch Pro2 (T-Mobile)

Very Good

The HTC Touch Pro2 for T-Mobile is the best Windows Mobile 6.1 phone on the market. It could even be the best possible Windows Mobile 6.1 phone. But while its address book is a work of art and it would make a great addition to any Microsoft Exchange-based business, its cobbled-together interface and media playback problems hold us back from giving it an Editors' Choice.
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Design and Calling Features

The Touch Pro2 is a boat. At 4.6 by 2.3 by 0.7 (HWD) inches and 6.3 ounces, it's a big phone. But it's very solidly built and handsome, and you get a lot for the size. The phone's main screen is a vast 3.6-inch, 800-by-480-pixel resistive touch panel, and it slides to the side and tilts up so the Touch Pro2 can sit on your desk like a little laptop. With the screen opened, you can type on a huge five-row QWERTY keyboard, one of the best I've ever used on a handheld—it's roomy, spacious, and clicky.

The Touch Pro2 is a very good voice phone. It makes calls on T-Mobile's and foreign 3G or EDGE networks, and calls sound loud and sharp through the earpiece. RF reception isn't fabulous, but it's good enough. Very intense noise cancellation can make transmissions sound computery on the other side of a call, but it does a good job at blocking background noise. The speakerphone is loud enough, and there's a well-placed mute button on the top of the phone, because you're supposed to put the Touch Pro2 face down on a table when you're using the speakerphone.

Ringtones are moderately loud, and the vibrating alert is also surprisingly robust. The phone worked fine with a Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset. You can trigger the built-in voice dialing using the Bluetooth headset, but I found the voice dialing to be frustratingly inaccurate.

Unfortunately, we couldn't complete our battery tests because our battery-testing computers crashed several times—no fault of the Touch Pro2's. HTC advertises six and a half hours of 3G talk time, which seems in line with the partial results we got.

HTC's TouchFLO 3D

Windows Mobile 6.1 is old and creaky, so HTC has rewritten as much of the user interface as they could. The Touch Pro2 doesn't just have a cool set of animated home screens that you swipe across to quickly access your contact book, e-mail, music and YouTube. The program menu, address book, camera app, calendar, e-mail setup, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi setup all look nicer and work much more easily than their standard Windows Mobile brethren. If you stick to HTC's home-screen apps—SMS, e-mail, calendar, Web browser, stocks, camera, music, and weather—you'll never have to pull out the little stylus tucked into the corner of the device.

It's amazing what HTC has done to dress up every aspect of Windows Mobile, but the Touch Pro2 works best as a business communicator. It's full of useful little advances. When you receive an email, you can tap a button to quickly call the person who sent it. You can create conference calls on the fly, straight from the address book. From contact cards, you can quickly flip to see all the phone calls or messages you sent to a particular person. The Touch Pro2 also integrates Facebook details right into your address book.

To enter data on the Touch Pro2, you can use a nice-looking portrait-style on-screen QWERTY keyboard or the roomy physical keyboard; the screen doesn't rotate automatically when you turn the phone, but it rotates when you pop the keyboard out.

Web browsing and GPS on the Touch Pro2 aren't bad. The phone comes with the Opera Mobile 9.7 Web browser, which delivers desktop-formatted pages (albeit without Flash). I found T-Mobile 3G speeds to be good, with Web pages coming down at about 750 kbps. The phone comes with TeleNav's GPS program, which locked into my location quickly and offered spoken driving directions, even in midtown Manhattan.

The Touch Pro2 also comes with the usual Office Mobile apps (Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word), a PDF reader, Google Maps, and IM clients for AIM, Google Talk, Microsoft Messenger, MySpace IM, and Yahoo. It's fully set up to handle HTML e-mail with attachments, and any other kind of messaging you want to throw at it. The device has a 528 MHz processor, 225 MB of available memory, and a microSD card slot that takes 16GB cards, so there's plenty of room to add software.

Touch Pro2 Troubles

On the other hand, the Touch Pro2 is an embarrassing disaster as a media player. To plug in standard headphones, you must attach a stiff, four-inch long dongle that for some reason has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a non-standard 2.5mm jack, and two USB ports on it. I took one look at that thing, gave up, and hooked up my Altec Lansing BackBeat 903/906 Bluetooth stereo headphones instead—I suggest you do the same.

The TP2 has two built-in media players: a music player you can trigger directly from the TouchFLO 3D home screen, and the standard, confusing Windows Media Player, which you need to use to play videos. The phone played MP3, AAC, and WMA music files fine, but 640-by-480 videos played jerkily. Smaller-format, 480-by-320 videos played fine in full screen mode. I got hideously low frame rates with SlingPlayer Mobile over Wi-Fi, often down to the single digits. HTC's custom-built YouTube application is gorgeous and easy to use, but a three-minute music video had to buffer twice during playback over Wi-Fi. That's not a smooth experience.

The Touch Pro2's 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera took surprisingly pixelated photos with way too many JPEG artifacts, especially in low light. The video mode recorded compressed-looking, washed-out 640-by-480 videos at 20 frames per second. That's a terrific resolution for video recording, but the videos weren't very high quality.

Underlying Windows Mobile issues can make using the Touch Pro2 a hassle at times. The touch screen sometimes didn't register my presses or swipes. If you leave the cozy confines of HTC's apps, you're presented with the tiny little stylus-centric interface elements that have given Windows Mobile a bad name. If you open too many apps, you'll run out of memory just as you can on all Windows Mobile phones, though HTC puts a task manager right up on the home screen to let you easily quit apps.

And the whole thing feels a bit cobbled together; there are two media players on board, two Web browsers, two calendar apps, and two sets of settings screens. In an era where clear, unified interfaces rule, it's difficult to cheer for a split personality.


The Touch Pro2 is the pinnacle of Windows Mobile phones, and it makes a marvelous business communicator. But we still recommend the BlackBerry 8900 as our Editors' Choice on T-Mobile, even though it has a lower-resolution screen and no 3G. Why? Consistency is one big reason: although HTC has done great work dressing up Windows Mobile, you still end up looking at an old, stylus-centric interface if you dig too deeply. The Touch Pro2's media troubles didn't help, either. The Touch Pro2 is an excellent way to stay in touch with people, but it's a new OS away from being a world-beating smart phone.

The Touch Pro2 will be available on August 12th at T-Mobile, and I expect to see other versions of the phone appear on other major carriers throughout the summer. T-Mobile has not announced a price yet.
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