The Cruise is the latest in HTC’s flagship Touch portfolio of handsets that opt for full touch screen input rather than a physical keyboard. The original Touch and it’s successor, the Touch Dual, were well received on the market and seen as an alternative to those who wanted full touch screen interactivity without going down the line of the iPhone – and with more PDA-like functionality.
Going by the Cruise’s model number, P3650, the Cruise is the successor to the P3600i, but in terms of the Touch portfolio it is the next model up from the Touch Dual.
The Cruise has several new features when compared to the Touch Dual, including WiFi connectivity, inbuilt GPS chipset, and an upgraded (and auto-focusing!) camera. The usual array of features we look for in a PDA are also present: Windows Mobile 6 Professional, Qualcomm processor, large capacity battery and support for microSD memory cards.
Unlike the HTC Touch Dual, the Cruise is a touch-only handset. When removing the handset from it’s packaging I’d forgotten this fact and immediately tried to find some sort of slide-out keyboard. There isn’t one. All input with the Cruise is done via the 2.8” touch sensitive LCD display with either your finger or the included stylus.
The Cruise’s camera is a 3mpx auto-focusing camera with video recording support and a somewhat complete array of advanced features. An additional VGA camera is located on the front of the Cruise for video calling.
A Qualcomm MSM7200 processor powers the Cruise, clocked at 400MHz and feeding off 256MB of ROM and 128MB of DDR SDRAM.
The Cruise has a built-in GPS chipset with pre-installed CoPilot software, which can provide turn-by-turn navigation to any destination.
The Cruise is definitely not the slimmest PDA on the market, measuring in at 110 x 58 x 15.5mm and weighing a whopping 130grams. Considering there is no slide-out keypad on the size of the Cruise may be a limiting factor with some consumers.
Two colour variants (silver and black) are available, but depending on your region only one may be available. The colour only changes one aspect of the handset, which is the colouring of the casing around the 2.8” LC display on the front of the handset. All other elements remain the same.
The entire handset is made from a soft-touch material that is pleasant to touch and will prevent the handset from sliding around on any flat surfaces. The front panel that covers the LCD is completely flat and very suave, but unfortunately extremely prone to gathering greasy fingertips.
Below the LCD you will find the Cruise’s navigational strip. There’s pick-up and hang-up keys, a dedicated Internet Explorer Mobile key, a dedicated CoPilot key, and rotating navigational key. The stylus slides in and out of the bottom right hand corner of the Cruise.
HTC’ s proprietary ExtUSB port can be found at the bottom of the handset alongside the wrist-/hand-strap holes. On the left hand side is the dedicated Voice Commander key and volume up/down slider. On the right is the microSD memory card port and dedicated camera shutter key. The on/off button can be found on its lonesome at the top of the Cruise.
The back of the Cruise houses the 3mpx autofocus camera lens with chrome mirror, external antenna port, and speakerphone.
Two coloured LED’s sit sneakily behind the earpiece above the LCD display – a green and blue one. The green LED indicates that the handset is on and the blue indicates (surprise!) Bluetooth status.
Overall the HTC Touch Cruise is a fairly attractive handset but may be a little on the heavy side for some.
User interface & display
HTC’s standard touch screen spec’s can be found on the Cruise: a 2.8” TFT LCD capable of displaying up to 65,536 colours within its 240 x 320 pixel resolution. Windows Mobile allows you to adjust the backlight to any one of 10 different brightness settings and there are a range of battery timeout settings available enabling you to get the most out of your battery.
Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional is the OS of choice, powered by Qualcomm’s MSM7200 processor clocked at 400MHz. This is the same processor used in the HTC Touch Dual, and the handset also has the same amount of memory: 256MB of ROM and 128MB of SDRAM. The Cruise seems a little faster than the Touch Dual, but still not as fast as I wanted it to be.
Some applications are particularly laggy (like the Camera Album and the messaging application) and as Windows Mobile does not close applications fully unless you hold down the “x” button, after opening a few applications things start to lag, as numerous applications are running in the background.
Thankfully the issue I reported in my
Touch Dual review where the UI would lock-up after a voice call has been fixed.
The exact version of Windows Mobile 6 the Cruise I received for review was version CE OS 5.2.1623 (Build 1822.214.171.124). As with all Windows Mobile devices the handset has a built-in upgrade facility, which allows you to upgrade the firmware over-the-air. At time of writing, no upgrades were available.
Windows Mobile 6 is quite a pleasant mobile operating system to use, and any Windows user will have no trouble adapting to the layout and organisation of applications and settings. Many aspects of the UI are tabbed or in a gridded icon format, making it easy to find what you want in a flash. HTC’s standby screen application displays all the vital information about the state of the handset. There’s a large digital clock, a counter of unread e-mail messages, unread SMS/MMS messages, and missed calls. Below that are four tabs, which allow you to switch to the weather, the launcher, sound profiles, and back to the default display.
Underneath this area is a section that will display any upcoming appointments stored in the calendar. Below this is a direct link to the CoPilot GPS software. By default the left touch soft-key jumps to the calendar, with the right jumping to the contact book.
A fair few of these areas are made customisable and a range of items can be added or removed from the bottom section. Additionally, themes can be applied to the UI to change the look and feel of the handset. By default HTC’s own silver & black theme is selected but three others are pre-installed: Guava Bubbles, Windows Default, and Windows Mobile Green.
As always, the Start menu is displayed in the top left hand corner of the display with indicators such as reception, battery, 2G/3G data connection, and sound profile status.
HTC’s TouchFlo technology is built-in to the Cruise, which brings up a cube of three sides (yes, I know this doesn’t make sense!) that has links to many popular areas of the handset. The TouchFlo ‘cube’ is activated by sliding your thumb from the bottom of the LCD towards the top. From here you slide your finger to the left or right to access different sides of the cube.
One side of the cube has links to e-mail, SMS/MMS, Internet Explorer, Tasks, Communication Manager, and the Calendar. The next side is a visual speed dial menu with nine customisable contacts, and the last side is used to access music, photos, and video.
I’m happy to report that the TouchFlo interface does not suffer any lag.
Making and receiving calls
The HTC Touch Cruise supports voice and video calls. The handset has a built-in loudspeaker and earpiece, Bluetooth technology, and in the sales package you will find a wired headset. A VGA digital camera can be found on the front of the handset for face-to-face video calls.
In terms of 2G connectivity, the Cruise supports GSM 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz networks – worldwide connectivity. The handset is capable of communicating with 3G networks in the 850, 1900, and 2100MHz bands. If international roaming is activated on your handset and you’re using the Cruise, you should be able to pick up a network in any city in the world (where reception is available, of course).
The earpiece on the Cruise is fine for calls although a little increase in the volume wouldn’t have gone astray. On the other hand, the speakerphone is absolutely shocking. It is clear that HTC have included a cheap speakerphone in order to cut costs as the sound is tinny, extremely difficult to hear and will break up if the volume is lifted above about 60%. It’s practically impossible to hear the person on the other end of the line and you might as well avoid using the feature.
The wired headset connects to the ExtUSB port at the bottom of the handset and is perfect if you don’t want to go down the Bluetooth headset road. If you do, you’ll be happy to know that the Cruise has built-in Bluetooth 2.0 and supports common profiles including A2DP, Headset, and Hands free.
The Cruise utilises the Windows Mobile Phone application for all calls. It’s easy to use (but quite laggy) and its main screen displays a numerical keypad with a small section of the top left hand side displaying the provider name and last call made.
If you know the number you wish to dial you can enter it using the on-screen keys and then pressing the physical green pick-up key. If you wish to lookup a contact in the phone book, simply enter the characters of the name (as you would if you were using a T9 dictionary). Any matches will be displayed on-screen.
The video call application is a separate section of the Phone application. In order to make a video call you need to select / enter the number you wish to dial and then hit the second button down on the right hand side of screen. This will display the current outgoing video in a small box in the bottom left hand corner, with the larger box to the left reserved for the incoming video.
During a video call the outgoing audio and/or video can be muted at any time, you can switch the outgoing video to that from the backward facing camera, or even switch the video boxes so that your outgoing video is larger than the incoming video.
If it wasn’t for the hideous loudspeaker and somewhat laggy Phone application, this section of the review would have received top marks!
Messaging with the Cruise, on paper, is exciting. However, in practice, the on-screen keyboard becomes very hard to use very quickly and the impressive extent of the messaging capabilities may be lost behind complaints and difficulty in typing simple text messages.
That said; let’s start with what the Cruise does support. SMS/EMS/MMS messages are supported as well as e-mail messaging including Exchange push e-mail support. All messaging is handled by the Windows Mobile Messaging application, which is a cut-down version of the popular Outlook messaging suite.
There are six input methods offered for messaging (and any other area of the UI that required user input). They are:
Block recogniser: This method uses the stylus to recognise single strokes and may be familiar to those who used first generation Palm devices.
Keyboard: A full QWERTY keyboard is displayed on screen. The stylus needs to be used as the keys are tiny.
Letter recogniser: Use the stylus to write a single character at a time, which will be converted to text.
Touch keyboard: A keyboard with 20 keys is displayed on-screen. Each key has two alphabetical characters on it, with the left over keys used for formatting and additional characters. Keys are large enough to be pressed with fingers.
Touch keypad: An on-screen numerical keypad with a similar layout to a physical numerical keypad. Keys are large enough to be pressed with fingers.
Transcriber: Use the stylus to fill the screen with printed/handwritten text, which will be converted to text.
All bases should be covered for those who enjoy using the stylus to write or prefer using a touch-keypad. All input methods work well, although the two Touch methods (keyboard and keypad) suffer from lag and are very frustrating to use. The keypad version is also awkward as some keys are large enough to be pushed with a thumb but others (such as space) are tiny and cramped so you will often hit a key next to it and get an undesired result.
As there is no feedback from any of the input methods that can be operated by your finger, and coupled with the lag, messaging is not the Cruise’s best feature. For those making the move from a dedicated keyboard the learning curve is not huge but having to look at the screen and ensure each key you have pressed is recognised makes texting a much more tedious process than before.
HTC need to take a leaf out of LG’s book and provide vibration feedback with their touch-only devices!
None the less, T9 Predictive text dictionaries are included so texting can be sped up a little. That said, it’s difficult to add new words to the dictionary and if the word that comes up is not the word you desire, finding the correct one will require you to reach down to the navigational strip or pull out the stylus and tap the correct word – the listings are much too small to be tapped with your finger.
Business users will appreciate the synchronisation support for Outlook, enabling you to duplicate your e-mails onto the Cruise even if your e-mail server is not Exchange enabled.
The HTC Touch Cruise is the perfect travelling partner, supporting GSM 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz frequencies, with UMTS 850, 900, and 2100MHz frequencies for 3G connectivity. You’ll be able to browse the web wherever you are thanks to support for HSDPA, UMTS, EDGE, and GPRS data protocols.
The Cruise has HSDPA support up to 3.6Mbit/s, with UMTS maxing out at around 384kbp/s. EDGE Class 10 supports speeds up to 236kbp/s, with GPRS up to 48kbp/s.
Reception on the Cruise was great, especially in areas where other handsets fail to receive a workable signal.
Bluetooth version 2.0 is built-in to the Cruise, with support for profiles including the stereo Bluetooth profile A2DP.
For wired connectivity there’s USB version 2.0, via HTC’s proprietary ExtUSB port at the bottom of the handset. The sales package includes a USB data-cable and ActiveSync software CD which can be used to transfer files and synchronize data with a compatible PC. The included stereo headset also plugs into the ExtUSB port.
Although the ExtUSB port is proprietary, it is possible to connect regular miniUSB cables to the port if you forget to carry around the one in the sales package.
Connect to your home or work wireless network using the built-in WiFi 802.11b/g chip. Security protocols including WEP, WPA, and WPA2. The built-in Communications Manager application provides a simple step-by-step wizard for adding and connecting to available WiFi networks. Most applications on the Cruise can make use of a WiFi network for their data needs when a connection is established.
The Cruise has built-in gpsOne GPS chipset, with support for a-GPS (Assisted GPS). The chipset is similar to that used in the TyTN II, and is able to plot your current location on pre-installed maps as well as offer turn-by-turn directions to a destination of your choosing. More on the GPS functionality and applications can be found in the Other Applications section of this review.
These benchmarks are quite good and most users will have no troubles playing their favourite Java games on the Cruise… just as long as they’re not 3D! JBenchmark 3D, which among other things tests for 3D compatibility, would not launch on the Cruise.
Windows Media Player Mobile comes standard with Windows Mobile Phones, and for most will be the one-stop shop for all things multimedia on the Cruise. The application supports a range of video and audio file formats including the ever-popular MP3, WMA, and WMV formats.
The Windows Media Player Mobile library contains a sorted list of all music, videos, TV, and playlists stored on the internal and external (if inserted) memory. Each time the player is started the application searches for any updated files – this can also be done manually if things go hay-wire!
Streaming video is also handled by Windows Media Player Mobile, and with high speed HSDPA support you can watch mobile TV and other video clips in amazing quality.
HTC have loaded the Cruise with the JBlend Java environment for all your add-on application and gaming needs. Unfortunately no games or applications are pre-installed – but you can grab them via your service provider’s online portal or by downloading the appropriate files to the handset from the Internet.
The following scores were achieved using the JBenchmark testing suite:
Using the JBenchmark Java testing suite, the RAZR2 V9 scored the following:
It’s interesting to note that the benchmark results were less than what the Touch Dual scored, even though they have the same processor and memory capabilities. The branded version of the Touch Dual that I received (which used the JBlend Java environment) scored 23235 in JBenchmark 1.0, 1199 in JBenchmark 2.0 and 341/312 (LQ/HQ) in JBenchmark 3D. The Touch Dual did have a slightly newer version of the Windows Mobile 6 OS, which could explain the abnormality in results.
Two Windows Mobile games are pre-installed: Bubble Breaker and Solitaire.
An FM radio is built-in to the Touch Cruise, however in order for it to work correctly you must plug in the included stereo headset as it acts as the antenna for the tuner. The FM Radio application has an automatic scan feature and is capable of storing all your favourite stations for easy access.
The standard Windows Mobile Pictures & Video application is one of two multimedia-browsing applications. This one is pretty boring and simply displays a grid of 3 x 4 thumbnails that can be tapped to open full-screen. A slide show function is included as well as the ability to sort the content via file date, size, or name.
The second browser is the Camera Album application, which unlike the name suggests, will list all image files stored in memory, not just those taken by the built-in 3mpx digital camera. The application is horizontally aligned and offers a 4 x 3 thumbnail view of images in a full-screen format. There are some snazzy fade-in and fade-out effects and you can slide through images by running your finger across the screen.
For Internet browsing the Cruise comes with Internet Explorer Mobile, the lightweight version of Internet Explorer. It’s easy to use and quite speedy. If you’re not interested in using Internet Explorer Mobile, HTC have also included Opera 8.65 for Windows Mobile. Opera supports many features that you won’t find in Internet Explorer Mobile including tabbed browsing.
Syndicate your news easily with the Cruise’s built in RSS reader, RSS Hub. RSS Hub has an easy to use setup wizard, which allows you to select from a range of popular RSS news services or add your own from a URL or import from OPML file.
Windows Live Search is built-in to the Cruise as well as the popular Windows Live Messenger application. These applications require an active Internet connection for optimum functionality, which can be achieved via 2G or 3G data, or via the built-in WiFi chipset.
A zip archiving utility makes it easy to uncompress zip archives that you may have received via e-mail attachment or transferred to the handset in order to save memory. The application also supports creation of zip files on-the-go.
Adobe Reader LE is also installed with full PDF viewing functionality including full-screen view and zooming.
The Cruise I received for review had two GPS applications pre-installed: CoPilot and QuickGPS. CoPilot was the mapping application and QuickGPS was the software that downloads a small file from the Internet that contains information on the satellites necessary to lock in a GPS location, technology known as aGPS. Variations of the Cruise will come with TomTom mapping software, but as I did not receive it I will be focusing on CoPilot’s features.
CoPilot 7 Live came pre-installed with Australian map data. Regional variations of the Cruise should come with local maps, and if you need maps for other countries you can purchase them and download them to the Cruise.
The software is quite easy to use and after simple activation was ready to go. Picking up a GPS signal usually took less than a minute, but after using the QuickGPS application to download the latest data it only took a few seconds.
The CoPilot software has the usual sorts of features including turn-by-turn directions to a specified location or point of interest, and tracking of your current location, and many advanced features like point of interest notification and traffic monitoring.
When mapping a location to navigate to you can also define detours, including automatic ones such as an alternative route and avoiding busy traffic. The traffic-monitoring feature requires an active Internet connection and unfortunately I could not get it to work with the Australian maps.
In the settings menu you can define what type of route is selected: the quickest, shortest, or the one that avoids motorways. You can also define whether or not to use tolls and even define if you wish to cross international borders – however this doesn’t really apply for the Australian maps!
There are several driving views offered including 2D and 3D views. There’s also a itinerary view, day map, and night map option. Based on the phone clock the mode will automatically be changed to day or night – but using the driving view setting you can manually override it.
US English, UK English, German, French, Spanish, and seven other languages with several voices in each language are pre-installed. Pretty impressive!
Favourite locations such as work and home can be saved for easy routing later don the track. A trip planner even allows you to add multiple destinations before you even leave the house so you know exactly where to go and will never take a wrong turn on a driving holiday again!
Other applications on the Cruise include a calculator, file explorer, Audio Booster application, Bluetooth explorer, note taker, search application, voice recorder, task manager, voice recorder and voice commander.
As I mentioned in the Physical Aspects section of this review, the Cruise is quite bulky – the advantage of this however is that the handset is very solid and feels great in hand. The soft touch plastic outer is pleasant to touch and will not collect fingerprints.
That can’t be said about the front of the handset, as most of it is covered by a sheet of plastic that is very prone to fingerprints. The buttons below the display are tactile and solidly built, however I feel as though the scroll wheel feels a little flimsy and perhaps some indentations or giving it a clicking sensation would have made it that little bit nicer.
A 1350mAh lithium-ion battery pack powers the HTC Touch Cruise, and should provide it with up to 400/450 hours (3G/2G) of standby time or up to 4/7/2.3 hours (2G/3G/video call) hors of call time.
The battery life estimates are fairly good for a handset of the Cruise’s stature, although the 3G talk time is a little disheartening considering three 3G bands are supported, so more often than not, you will be connected to a 3G network.