The move to a Windows Mobile device has been a very pleasant transition for me. I had the original iPhone and then upgraded to the iPhone 3G, whilst I enjoyed both devices I still felt bogged down by the fact that I had to install Apple’s horrible iTunes. Now I know everyone has their opinions and I have mine. I hated iTunes because it really bogged down my system. I also found it a little crafty of the iTunes installation making itself dependent on Quicktime Player. I hate that too. I had all sorts of processes running and iTunes just didn’t really cut the mustard for me. I liked the ability to drag and drop mp3 files to my old mp3 player but with the iPhone I had to sync through iTunes and end up with hundreds of cryptic folders with numbers that didn’t mean much to me. Anyway I use Winamp, small, powerful and plenty more features compared to iTunes and I like to organise my files the way I want, not some software dictating how it wants to. I have plenty more reasons as to why I made the switch but this isn’t a thread to bash the iPhone so I will end my little rant here.
I am a Windows user and have been since my first PC so buying a device based on WinMo 6 sounded interesting.
Note: Some of the photos in this post do not reflect what you will see on a ‘straight-outta-the-box’ HD2 as I have modified mine with custom ROMS and tweaks thanks to the clever guys at xda-forums. For those of you familiar with Windows Mobile you will find some of the features I mention below aren’t exclusive to this device but are inherent of the operating system. Hopefully this will help those who have never seen or used a Windows Mobile device before (like me).
The first thing I noticed when switching the phone on for the first time was the incredible screen resolution due to its large size. Graphics are razor and the screen is vibrant. The buttons you see along the bottom don’t get much use with the exception of the home button. The lock screen displays missed calls, text messages, emails, voicemails etc and you can slide to unlock straight to that particular event which is neat if you’re in a hurry and just wanted to find out who or what caused the notification event.
This is a capacitive touchscreen device and supports multitouch.
The home screen or ‘today’ shows a massive flip clock, weather with cool smooth animations, date, calendar events (if any), program icons and HTC’s TouchFlo3D along the bottom. This really is a rich eye candy user interface and HTC have done a good job ensuring it runs smooth. It’s called HTC Sense or Sense UI. Tapping on the small weather symbol on the screen takes you to the weather app which gives you the full week’s forecast, again with awesome animations. There is also the option of previewing these animations for demo purposes (to win your mates over). You can have more than 3 quicklaunch app icons on your home screen. This can be accessed by sliding upwards to reveal the extra place holders.
The HD2 comes with Opera 9.7 installed and configured as the default web browser however, Internet Explorer is available. Opera supports multitouch so you can pinch to zoom etc and double tap as well but Internet Explorer does not support the multitouch feature. This is obviously planned for Windows Mobile 7 later this year?
The great thing about the large screen on this device is that I can now load full web pages without having to zoom in (as often) to read what was unreadable on the iPhone screens. Browsing the neowin forums for example proved to be a cakewalk on this device.
Just like the home screen you can also have quicklaunch icons for some of your favourite bookmarks. You get nice thumbnail previews of the website generated on first launch of that particular bookmark.
Overall I find the internet browsing experience to be great. Pages also render very quickly.
When you want access to additional programs or advanced settings you can always use the good old start menu. In this case the menu is arranged in a honeycomb grid layout. Installing applications is quick and easy. Whilst HTC have done a good job of covering up the not so pretty WM GUI it still shows up as you delve deeper into the OS. For certain applications this is useful though if you want speed and functionality over eye-candy. The standard windows file explorer provides a generous amount of features but lacks in other areas, this is where third-party applications come in handy. I use Resco File Explorer which is very robust as well as Resco’s registry editor too. Because the HD2 has impressive specs the CPU allows the phone to multitask brilliantly. Loading and closing apps is very snappy.
As mentioned before, because this device has a larger screen, using the on-screen keyboard is easy for me. Tapping keys gives you tactile feedback as the phone vibrates quickly but this can be toggled on/off. The automatic spell checker can be both useful and annoying. Most of the time I leave it off as the automatic word suggestion ends up choosing the wrong words and so you end up with GRAMMAR FAIL!
If you’ve been waiting to get this phone then you’ve no doubt been reading up on it as much as possible. Many people reported that early versions of the HD2 had a camera fault. This was seen as a very noticeable pink blob smack bang in the middle of the screen. Needless to say it ruined images and videos. The good news is, this wasn’t a hardware fault but a software issue and HTC has since provided a hotfix for this. After applying the hotfix – it did not only eliminate the pink blob but also improve the camera’s white balance correction.
Like the iPhone 3Gs, the HD2 uses an autofocus camera system and you can touch any portion of the screen to lock focus on that particular area. This is where the HD2 has more to offer. You get to play with white balance, ISO, brightness, image effects, panorama stitching as well as panorama direction, timestamps and more.
There are hidden camera modes which can be unlocked and registry tweaks available to significantly boost the detail level of the images. Everyone who’s applied these tweaks has noticed a major increase in image quality.
Making videos on the HD2 is easy and frame rates are decent. Out of the box you can record at VGA 640 x 480 being the maximum in H.263 or MPEG4. Being a Windows based device you can rest assured there is always a tweak or hack available which allows you to do more. A quick registry edit later and I was able to record in H.264, motion jpeg and also 3ggp with additional camera options such as the ability to record a video clip specifically designed to be sent over the airwaves to a friend (lower res and bit rate but optimal settings).
Here is a sample video I recorded not long ago:
640×480 MPEG4 – Direct upload to YouTube
Music playback is good and the sound quality of the built-in speaker is very impressive. Of course you’d be using earphones instead. With the supplied earphones the sound is great. The earphones are of pretty decent quality too. There are skip back and forward buttons of the earphone cable as well as a call and hangup button which doubles up as the pause button. Pressing and holding either skip buttons seeks through your mp3 file whilst a single tap skips tracks. You have the option of allowing the device to update the album art automatically when connected to the internet and like the iPhone you can browse your albums in a ‘Cover Flow’ like style.
The earphones also double up as an FM antenna and this allows you to load up the FM radio app to tune into your favourite station. Pretty neat!
Watching videos on a screen of this size is pure joy. Whilst the device comes with Windows Media Player I use CorePlayer which handles H.264 (AVC), AVCHD, MKV, MPEG-1, MPEG-4 part 2 (ASP), DivX, XviD, WMV*, Theora*, Dirac*, MJPEG, MSVIDEO1.
What the developers don’t tell you is that there is a limit on the video resolution being 1080 x XXXX. So 720p videos will not play in this application but that’s not to say the HD2 can’t handle 720p videos as I am sure it can, limited only by the read speeds of the device and quality of the SD/MMC storage card you decide to use (again there is also a Tune Up tweak available for this too through xda-devs).
Overall I am quite pleased with my purchase although at almost 500 Great British smackers it left a gaping hole in my wallet. Before you buy one please do keep in mind that the device is based on Windows Mobile 6.5 and originally Windows Mobile has always been designed for use with a stylus of some sort with resistive touchscreens so the fact that you can still navigate your way around the OS with your finger is damn impressive. There are leaked beta ROMS available to test of WinMo 6.5.3.