The HTC Touch Dual is the big brother to the original Touch, which debuted late last year. In a world where the world’s most wanted mobile phone, the iPhone, is available in very limited areas, manufacturers are pumping out touch screen devices with no near slow-down visible.
The original Touch relied completely on a touch-screen for user interaction – which many know can cause problems if the handset is unresponsive or does not provide adequate feedback. The Touch Dual pays homage to the original by keeping the large touch screen, and adds a physical slide-out keypad/keyboard for quick text and number input.
The keyboard is not the only upgrade to the Touch Dual, though. 3G network support has been added with support for HSDPA, the CPU has been beefed up, as has the internal memory and RAM.
Note: For review I received both an unbranded HTC Touch Dual and a Telstra-branded version. The Telstra branded version uses a special firmware which is only offered if the handset is purchased through Telstra. Handsets purchased without a provider will more than often have unbranded firmware.
The Touch Dual’s operating system is Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional, the latest version of Microsoft’s venture into mobile operating systems. Many users of the first Touch were unhappy with the long response times and generally laggy OS. To combat this, HTC have beefed up the CPU in the Touch Dual to a Qualcomm MSM 700 chip, clocked at 400MHz. The older Touch used a TI OMAP 850 which was clocked at just 201MHz.
Another qualm users of the original Touch had was the lack of 3G network support. HTC have once again listened to the consumer and addressed the issue, adding full support for the 3G 2100MHz network band. Adding to this they have also included support for the HSDPA protocol (sometimes known as 3.5G) – providing mobile broadband speeds up to 3.6Mbit/s.
A slide-out keypad/keyboard has been added to the HTC Touch Dual to make messaging and inputting numbers a breeze. The operator who sells the handset decides if it should have a regular 16-key numerical keypad or 20-key keyboard. The unbranded version of the Dual I received had the first selection, whereas the Telstra branded version used the 20-key configuration.
When it comes to just using the Touch Dual for basic tasks that don’t require the keypad/keyboard, the 2.6” TFT LCD touch-screen can be used. The LCD supports up to 65,536 colours and has a 240 x 320 pixel resolution. Some features can be accessed by using your thumb, others require the use of the included stylus.
If it wasn’t for the small lens on the front of the Touch Dual, the handset would be identical to the original Touch. The same soft black plastic finish has been used on the external surfaces, with a 5-way chrome navigational key, and dedicated pick-up & hang-up keys below the 2.6” LCD display.
That said, the Touch Dual has one major physical change from its younger brother: the slide-out keypad. As I mentioned last section, depending on the configuration the operator chooses the Dual may have a 16-key keypad or 20-key keyboard.
The sliding mechanism is smooth and locks into place well when opened and closed. A small part of the front cover, just above the numerical keypad, is raised – allowing your thumb to easily grip on and slide the face up and down.
On the back of the Dual is the 2mpx camera lens, chrome mirror, and speakerphone (hidden behind a circular grill). The HTC branding can also be found here, as well as any operator-specific branding.
The back cover on the unbranded Dual can be removed by flicking the whole thing up from the bottom. On the Telstra branded handset the cover must be slid upwards to remove. I preferred this method over other for several reasons, which can be found in the Build Quality and Problems/Issues section of this review.
Things underneath the back cover also differ based on the operator branding. The unbranded Dual had a much smaller battery, with the SIM card visible (but not accessible) when the back cover was off. On the Telstra version, the battery was larger and the SIM card was positioned underneath it.
The Dual has packed on some weight with the addition of the slide-out keyboard, and now weighs 120 grams (Dual: 112 grams). It is also slightly larger, at 107 x 55 x 15.8 compared to 99.9 x 58 x 13.9mm. The weigh and size are still average for Windows Mobile PDA’s and shouldn’t cause too much distress.
On both the unbranded and Telstra-branded versions of the Touch Dual there are four other external buttons. There’s the volume up/down keys, camera key, and on/off key. The locations of these buttons differ depending on the branding: the unbranded version has the on/off key on the very top, whereas the Telstra-branded version moves it to the right hand side.
The Telstra-branded version has a rubber flap at the bottom of the handset which protects the high-speed USB port. On the unbranded version there is no port at the bottom of the handset, instead it is located on the left hand side and is not protected by a flap.
As the Touch Dual has a touch-screen, it comes with a slot-loading stylus for precise interfacing with the operating system. The stylus on the unbranded version loads into the top right hand corner of the handset, and on the Telstra version it loads into the bottom right hand corner.
User interface & display (Unbranded:
When I attempted to upgrade the firmware on the unbranded version using the built-in application, it informed me that there were no updates available. Manually searching on the HTC website returned the same result.
The HTC Touch Dual runs Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional with a 2.6” TFT LCD display. The display is capable of displaying up to 65,536 colours and is a full touch-screen. Most functions on the Touch Dual can be accessed without having to pull out the stylus, but some menus are too small and will require its use.
The original Touch suffered some lag issues, and struggled with intensive applications – even HTC’s own TouchFLO application was laggy. This was mainly due to the slow 201MHz CPU and 64MB of RAM, which for Windows Mobile 6.0 was probably a little under optimum specifications. HTC have responded to complaints and given the Touch Dual a beefy 400MHz Qualcomm MSM 7200 processor, and lifted the RAM to 128MB.
I’m happy to report that the Touch Dual is very responsive and the lag issue has practically been removed entirely. CPU-intensive applications may be somewhat slow to open but once they are going things are fairly speedy.
Unfortunately, I did have a few issues with the unbranded Touch Dual. Firstly, when I hung up from a voice call the entire OS would freeze – the status LED’s would still flash but the OS was completely unresponsive, even to the on/off button. The only way to reset the handset was to manually remove the battery and then turn it back on again. This became extremely annoying very quickly.
Using the Telstra-branded Touch Dual I could not replicate this issue and calls would finish without incident. Checking the firmware and operating system versions of both handsets, I did notice that the Telstra version was a slightly more recent update:
Windows Mobile version
|Unbranded Touch Dual
M 03 / B 04
|CS OS 5.2.1622
|Telstra-branded Touch Dual
M 04 / B 04
|CE OS 5.2.1941
As a side note, the unbranded Dual did display in large red letters when it was being turned on that it was a “TEST VERSION ONLY”, so here’s to hoping that this issue will not remain in the final version of the handset.
For the most part the Touch Dual’s UI was lag-free. There was the occasional slow down, but nothing like the lag experienced on the Dual’s predecessor. The CPU and memory jump has definitely paid off. Being able to switch between using on-screen buttons and the physical navigation keys (the essence of the Dual name-tag) increases productivity and is perfect for simple tasks that need not require removing the stylus from its holster.
Making and receiving calls
HTC’s Touch Dual supports regular voice calls and video calling. An earpiece and speakerphone are built-in to the handset, as well as a forward-facing digital camera for face-to-face video calls. Inside the sales package is a wired stereo headset for handsfree communication.
The Windows Mobile Phone application handles voice and video calling. On the front of the Dual are two soft keys – a green pick-up button and red hang-up button for starting and active calls. If you launch the Phone application while the handset is in standby, it displays an on-screen numerical keypad with an input section at the top. Here, you can tap in your number using the screen or slide out the keypad/keyboard and use it.
From the Phone application you can jump to the contacts and select a number to dial. By default the Phone application makes voice calls, however an on-screen icon can be pressed to jump to the video call section.
The contacts application is really easy to use and includes a feature named Smart Dialing which speeds up the time it takes to find contacts. If you start entering symbols using the keypad/keyboard the handset will filter contacts based on the input – but converts it to both text and numbers. For example, entering “332”at the search box will display contacts whose number contains 332, as well as contacts that contain “DEA” (3 = D, 2 = E, 2 = A).
Earpiece volume was fairly decent, but the speakerphone volume could have definitely been louder. At maximum volume I still had to hold the handset to my ear to hear properly when using the speakerphone and driving – my personal benchmark for speakerphones.
The Dual offers a plethora of text input methods for messaging and supports SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging.
Messaging is handled by a built-in Windows Mobile application, which is somewhat similar to Microsoft Outlook.
As I have already mentioned, some versions of the handset will come with a regular 16-key numerical keypad, and others will ship with a 20-key QWERTY keyboard (like the Telstra variation available in Australia). Touch-based input methods include an on-screen keyboard, on-screen keypad, and handwriting recognition.
I found that text input was much easier on the 16-key Dual, as the 20-key option places two alphabet characters on the one key, so 50% of the time you will need to push the button once to get the desired letter. For me this defeats the purpose of having a QWERTY keyboard in the first place, but some users may find it easier than using a numerical keypad and T9 predictive text.
I had problems with the T9 predictive text, often recommending non-English or completely nonsense words in favor of commonly used English words. It does however remember if you input a new word, no your own personal nonsense words and swearwords will be remembered after first input.
If you prefer using the touch-screen for text input, the HTC offers several options. The first is an on-screen virtual keyboard, which strangely enough looks exactly like the 20-key slide-out version (on the 20-key physical model). On the 16-key variation a proper QWERTY keyboard is displayed on-screen.
The third-party Transcriber method allows you to write full sentences (or as much text as you can fit on the screen), with the system decoding the handwriting in batches instead of letter by letter. Both printing and cursive can be picked up by the system that is surprisingly accurate. This feature works hand-in-hand with the stylus due to its size – using it with your finger doesn’t quite work.
The lack of 3G on the original Touch was one of the otherwise-great handset’s main downfalls. Thankfully, HTC have implemented 3G support on the Touch Dual in the form of UMTS 2100MHz network compatibility. The 2100MHz band is mainly used in Asian-regions for 3G connectivity, including Australia. Adding to this they have also included support for HSDPA, the high-speed data protocol also known as “3.5G” technology. The HSDPA support on the Touch Dual can reach speeds of up to 3.6Mbit/s.
When a 3G network is unavailable the Dual can automatically switch to roam on a 2G network (when available). GSM 900, 1800, and 1900MHz networks are supported, with GPRS and EDGE protocols for data communications.
The Dual comes with an easy to use set-up application which can automatically configure the handset with the correct operator settings for MMS and Internet access. After running through the wizard and selecting the Australian Vodafone configuration I was unable to access the Internet but was able to send and receive MMS messages. Either Vodafone have changed their settings since the Dual shipped, or the settings in the application are wrong.
The Telstra-branded version of the Dual I received was pre-configured with the correct settings for Telstra WAP, Internet, MMS, and e-mail; all of which worked without difficulty.
WiFi support has not been included in the Dual – a feature found in the original Touch. I’m confused as to why HTC would take this move, considering the increasing popularity of wireless networking support in mobile phones, including PDA-devices which are the Dual’s direct competition.
The integrated Internet Explorer Mobile browser supports full HTML web pages along with the usual mobile standards such as WAP and xHTML. The browser is fairly easy to use and includes features like a bookmark manager, password storage, and more. It is best to use the stylus with Internet Explorer Mobile as the text size is often quite small as is the navigational bar on the right of screen.
When it comes to local connectivity, the Touch Dual offers Bluetooth and USB. The Bluetooth chip is version 2.0 compliant and includes the A2DP stereo audio profile. Files can be transferred from the Dual to another Bluetooth device fairly easily (although multiple files cannot be sent in a batch), but transferring files to the Dual is a little troublesome.
The Dual blocks access to all folders in the memory except for one, located under My Documents. All files that you wish to be visible to other Bluetooth devices browsing the Dual need to be moved or copied to the one specific folder. The file sharing feature of Bluetooth also needs to be manually enabled for every paired device, and some configurations will require you to manually set up a serial port.
A proprietary USB port known as HTC ExtUSB is used on the Dual. As well as providing USB version 2.0 connectivity the port also doubles as an audio port and is used with any wired audio devices.
The sales package includes a USB data-cable and Microsoft’s ActiveSync software used for synchronization and file transfer. ActiveSync is a lightweight application that’s easy to install and even easier to use. Computers using Windows Vista will not require the ActiveSync software to be installed – it’s a core component of Vista.
As you can see from the scores above, the JBlend Java environment outperforms the Esmertec environment significantly. 3D applications are also unsupported by the unbranded HTC Touch Dual, whereas the Telstra version can run such applications straight out of the box.
The HTC Touch Dual comes with a pre-installed version of Windows Media Player 10 Mobile for Pocket PC, which handles both video and audio playback. Streaming and locally stored media can be played back.
By default the player supports MP3, WMA, WMV, MPEG-4, MIDI, and several other audio and video formats. Other file formats may be supported with operator-variations of the HTC Touch Dual (such as the Telstra-branded version), but these differ from operator to operator.
The HTC Touch Dual can be synchronized with Windows Media Player 11 on a compatible Windows computer, allowing you to easily synchronize full libraries of tracks in a breeze. Album art is supported by Windows Media Player 10 Mobile so you can view the track you’re listening to in a new way.
Media libraries with music that has been purchased online and is protected by DRM can be transferred to the HTC Touch Dual (if the license supports it), thanks to support for the Windows DRM 10 protection algorithm.
The application itself is very easy to use and quite similar to the full-fledged player found on Windows machines. The “library” of music lists all supported tracks on the handset, organized into several groups based on artist, track, and album. Shuffle and repeat functions are supported as well as the ability to utilize playlists.
HTC have also pre-installed the Adobe Flash Lite 2.1 player on the Touch Dual, which can playback SWF movies and games.
Although Windows Media Player 10 Mobile supports streaming media, HTC have included their proprietary application, Streaming Media, for media using the RTSP protocol.
Java applications are supported by the HTC Touch Dual, but the actual Java environment used depends on the operator branding (if any) of the handset. The unbranded HTC Touch Dual that I received used the Esmertec Jbed environment, while the Telstra-branded version used JBlend (version 3.3.5).
Using the JBenchmark testing suite, I achieved the following surprising results:
||LQ: 341, HQ:
The figures for both version of the Touch Dual for Java MIDP 1.0 applications (indicated by JBenchmark 1.0) are impressive. The MIDP 2.0 score (JBenchmark 2.0) is also impressive, especially on the Telstra version, which is more than double that of the unbranded HTC Touch Dual.
As for 3D applications the Telstra branded version does well, outperforming several other HTC devices such as the TyTN II (based on JBenchmark.com score of HQ: 295).
Users can choose to install a separate Java environment on the unbranded HTC Touch Dual to gain 3D application support. There are several freeware environments out there for Windows Mobile devices that will provide such functionality.
No Java games or applications come pre-installed on the HTC Touch Dual, but two Windows Mobile games are: Bubble Breaker and Solitaire.
Being a Windows Mobile-based device, the HTC Touch Dual comes with a range of productivity and PIM applications as standard.
The Microsoft Office Mobile suite includes Word Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile and Excel Mobile. The applications can open, edit, and save either respective file types, making it simple to get things done with Office documents while out and about. Coupled with the e-mail and high-speed 3G functionality of the Touch Dual, it really is a mobile office.
A calendar, contact manager, task manager, a note taker, and an unzipping utility are also included.
The custom Telstra Touch Dual comes with Telstra-only applications such as MyPlace built into the Today application. Other operators have the opportunity to customize the handset with their own similar functions, or may choose to leave the UI as unbranded.
The build quality of the HTC Touch Dual is disappointing.
My biggest concern with the two handsets was the extent that the top and the bottom of the slider could be separated when the handset was closed. Although the two sections sit quite flush, it is possible to lift up both sections and create quite a wide opening between the two.
I wasn’t prepared to see how far the two would come apart, but it does raise concerns about the possibility of completely ruining the handset if it was dropped at the wrong angle.
The unbranded version of the Dual suffered from an issue not present in the Telstra-branded version, due to the different ways the back cover is attached. On the unbranded version the back cover is removed by flicking it upwards from the bottom; on the branded version it slides upwards to remove – a much more secure method. On the unbranded Dual the cover came off much too easily and did not feel secure when it was on.
Another issue I had was with the material used to craft the keypad on the Dual. A thin mirror-like plastic is used on both the 16-key and 20-key configurations and it is quite flimsy and cheap-looking. I also found that the keys weren’t straight and did not sit flush against one another. A small issue but evident none the less.
While using the Dual I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a lot of “dead air” between the components of the handset. At 120 grams it’s not one of the lightest handsets on the market but it just didn’t feel very solid.
HTC say the Touch Dual’s 1120mAh lithium-ion battery pack should provide the handset enough juice for 180/250 hours (2G/3G) of standby time or up to 5/3 hours (2G/3G) of voice talk time and 1.78 hours for video calling.
During testing I found the battery life to be fairly close to these averages and was able to achieve around 3 hours of talk time from a full charge. The handset would last me around 5 days with a fair amount of SMS/MMS messaging and web browsing.