HTC have been in the PDA smart phone business industry for quite a while now. Most people would not relate to the brand as their previous handset have always been rebranded and sold as O2’s or iMate’s. HTC have recently decided to cut out the middle man and provide handsets under their own brand name - HTC TyTN II is a recent offering that comes to mind.
Traditionally, PDA format smart phones have taken a Swiss army knife approach in providing all the connectivity options and bleeding edge technology under the sun. This has resulted in most handset being sold at around the $1000 mark which is out of most people’s prices range when shopping for a handset and hence, PDA smart phones have had the business market as the traditional target market.
HTC however have taken the hammer and crowbar and stripped out the fancy features (such as Wi-Fi, 3G internet support) out of its typical offerings to provide a more competitively priced Windows Mobile handset. It should be interesting how this leaner handset fairs so let’s continue on while we have a more in depth look at this phone.
The HTC P3470, compared to the Windows Mobile smart phone line up it sits with, seems to be quite lacking on the specifications. There simply are no new or outstanding features other than the standard set one can find in most non-Windows power phones today. It’s more important to discuss what has been stripped from P3470 to bring it down to a lower price bracket. First and foremost, Wi-Fi is non existent, there is no 3G capability, or video call capability and the processor is one of the slower versions running at 201MHz. If you can live without these features then you may be able to save yourself some cash as the P3470 has full multi-media playback, two megapixel camera and a GPS receiver built-in. Connectivity options only include USB and Bluetooth. The P3470 now runs Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional which as had a lot of improvements under the bonnet since version 5.0 and during the test period seemed to operate with increased stability.
Owners of Windows Mobile powered PDA phones will feel right at home in terms of the usability and standard features of the HTC P3470. The Window Mobile 6.0 operating system is a fully featured operating system allowing for multi-tasking, meaning that it is possible to have tunes playing on the music player while using Java applications or surfing the web. The handset’s media player is able to play CD tracks ripped and transferred in compressed formats from a computer via USB using the Microsoft Active Sync software. Windows Media player is included and is able to play a number of file formats to including MP3, AAC, WMA, H.263 video and MPEG4 video formats. The HTC P3470 features a reasonable loudspeaker and the sound quality on it is good. There is also a pair of wired stereo headphones included in the package and these are of reasonable quality allowing the user to listen to music through the proprietary universal USB port.
The 2.8 inch, 240 x 320 pixel, 65k colour main display is most prominent on the front of the phone and is great. It is adequately bright and clear and manages to do an excellent job of displaying images, photos and text even in direct sunlight. Taking into account smart phones’ multi media capabilities, HTC have also included a jog wheel together with the directional pad. It works in a similar fashion to the jog wheel found on an iPOD and the audio manager included in the P3470 resembles the iPOD interface.
The P3470 gets a low score as there are no outstanding features in this handset. Except for the GPS functionally, all the other features are standard and mediocre.
The HTC P3470 is available in a rubbery matte black finish. This is a welcome sight in terms of practicality as the handset chassis is now more ruggedized and less prone to scratches and smudge marks. The handset measures in at just 108 x 58.3 x 15.7 millimetres and weighs 122 grams. While it is one of the smaller smart phones available, it is rather is surprising that it is so heavy considering the lack of features. However, the only qualm about the chassis is that the screen can easily get scratched and attracts fingerprints so a protector is recommended. Also the shape of the handset is not very ergonomic and feels a little awkward to hold especially when taking a photo in horizontal mode in which case it is very easy to press other buttons by mistake. The antenna is internal; there are no protrusions sticking out from the handset.
As is expected from the PDA form factor, the front of the device is taken up by the large 2.8 inch, 65,000 colour, 240 x 320 pixel LCD screen. Above it is the phone speaker and three indicator lights, while situated below the screen is a small set of buttons to make using the P3470 easier. There is a four direction arrow pad with confirm key which also doubles up as a jog dial. Surrounding the directional pad are the dial and hang-up keys, along with two soft keys for easy operation of the menu system and a Start menu and “OK” button. On the left hand side are buttons for volume adjustment. The right side only features a button for loading the camera. The top section of the phone has the power button, while on the bottom has a proprietary ExtUSB™ connector for recharging and connecting the P3470 to a PC as well as doubling up as head phone jack. Curiously, the stylus is hidden on the bottom section of the handset as opposed to the top and its location makes it a little more awkward to remove. Finally on the back section there is the camera lens and a mirror for self portraits. The whole rear cover can be removed to reveal the large battery, and underneath this is the SIM card slot and microSD™ slot.
The physical aspects of the handset are for the most part positive and it’s good to see that HTC have tried to remove all external ports and only have one data and head-phone port. As mentioned previously, I found that the ergonomics let down what is a really well though out exterior.
User interface & display
The display used in the HTC P3470 is a 2.8 inch TFT LCD capable of displaying 65,000 colours and has a resolution of 240x320 pixels. The brightness of the screen can be adjusted across over four increments and the backlight timeout can also be varied. These options can even be different based on whether the device is operating on battery or powered mode. With the brightness set to maximum, the screen becomes legible in outdoor light. Everything is incredibly clear and vivid. Colour replication seems good and the high resolution accounts for the crisp lines around objects and text. However, the screen could be a tad brighter and just lacks the 480 x 640 resolution that is being seen in smart phones release today.
The Windows Mobile reasonably well thought out and intuitive to the typical Windows user. Anyone coming from a Windows background will feel right at home here. Version 6.0 has brought a host of upgrades to the backend of the operating system and it now is a lot more stable in operation. However, Windows Mobile still as a lot to go in terms of the user interface as menu options are scattered and at times illogical especially the “Settings” menu. Setting up networking and internet access is much more difficult than it should be. You will find that you can use most of the basic functions fairly quickly but it is possible to spend hours sitting though menus and discovering new options. I have found however that the most effective way to use the phone is through the stylus as improvements to the touch screen make it very usable and the jog wheel also helps. So you will find that you will be using a number of navigation methods dictated by which application is currently being used. Microsoft have still a lot of work to do in terms of polishing up the user interface to allow easy access to the most critical functions and making navigation more natural.
As with all Windows Mobile versions, it is possible to list and customise a number of lines of information to appear on the standby screen (Number of unread messages, today’s appointments etc.). HTC has also included a useful application in the standby screen that displays even more information, such large time/date, favourite people, weather forecast, program launcher and profiles. Full multitasking is available, meaning it’s possible to have the music player playing a tune and be working on a message. The standby desktop provides a whole host of feedback to the user from applications running in the background such as messages, calendar items, battery life, wireless connection etc.
As is typical from Windows, the main menu is accessible by pressing the Start menu button and this brings up a list of all available items. The Start menu keeps track of most commonly used programs so that they are easily accessible instead of having to navigate through to the programs window.
The HTC P3470 now sports a handy little jog wheel that doubles up as the directional pad. The jog wheel is a fantastic way to navigate though long lists of options specifically browsing though the file system or selecting songs to play in the audio manager application. The only draw back is that the Windows Mobile user interface is not designed to natively interact with the jog wheel so it won’t function in some places but for the most part it is a feature that you will get accustomed to use often.
Although at first glance the user interface is neat and tidy, however there are some significant flaws in the way Windows Mobile deals with settings (especially network connectivity). Despite this, the user interface is still functional and adequate for its purpose.
Making and receiving calls
Call quality on the HTC P3470 is good and it is possible to use the handset in conventional mode, as a speakerphone, plug in a wired headset or connect a Bluetooth headset. The loudspeaker is reasonable but is not quite loud enough for speakerphone voice calls. In order to dial out, the phone application is loaded by pressing the dial key. This will bring up a virtual number keypad to dial a number on screen. It is also possible to direct dial from the contact list. Talking through the P3740’s microphone was generally problem-free and worked well. Several times there was crackly call quality due to usage in the black spot where I live, but on the whole, reception is on par with other handsets available.
The included stereo handsfree can also be used for calls, and it provides slightly clearer audio quality than the P3470’s own speaker. The earphones themselves are comfortable to wear as they are encased in the same rubbery plastic used on the P3470 itself. Using a Bluetooth headset was tested with the HTC P3470 and worked without any dramas.
As with previous Windows Mobile PDAs, the phone book system in the P3470 emulates that of Microsoft Outlook on a PC, and will allow you to store as many entries as the PDA’s shared memory will allow. It supports a large amount of different fields within each entry, and these include standard things from name and address to particulars like birthday and office addresses. The contact list is one of the most comprehensive and convenient available on the market to date. Contacts can be sent to other phones via MMS, Bluetooth or e-mail and can also synchronised with Microsoft Outlook via Active Sync software.
There is a small selection of ringtones available and these are of reasonable quality but nothing to get excited about. It is possible to assign sounds to all sorts of events as you would in the desktop version of Windows. HTC have included their own software to manage profiles. There are four profiles available – Normal, Silent, Vibrate and Automatic which selects a profile on the particular time of day. There does not seem to be any way to edit these profiles.
Owners of previous PDA’s without a keypad will know that messaging on this type of device is not the most intuitive experience in the world. Without a keypad or keyboard it is only possible to type letters from a virtual keyboard with the stylus or by handwriting on the screen directly. While both methods are more sluggish than using an actual keyboard the hand writing recognition very good and is able to decipher normally handwritten writing. For those inclined, the predictive text support is good and will attempt to complete words as they are typed, and this helps alleviate some of the slowness of text input without a keyboard. The HTC P3470 is responsive in terms of text messaging and won’t slow down if large amounts of words are present in a message.
There is full support for SMS, MMS and email. Long SMS can be composed so messages aren’t limited to just 160 characters. MMS support works with up to 300 kilobytes per message and can have pictures, sounds and videos attached. It is possible to create slides and add even more files this way. The messaging program also sports an incorporated email client which is able to handle POP3 and IMAP4 protocols. The HTC P3470 is capable of opening attachments in JPEG, 3GP, MP3, Powerpoint, Word, Excel and PDF formats. The email client allows notification and downloading of incoming emails on multiple accounts. All in all messaging on this device is comprehensive and an outstanding feature of the Windows Mobile operating system.
Also emails and contacts can be synchronised with Outlook which is a feature that will be enticing to a lot of business users.
For a PDA smart phone, the HTC P3470 is rather lacking in the connectivity department. While the ancient infra-red connection is not there, most notably, Wi-Fi and 3G support have been stripped out to cut costs. There is a quad-band GSM radio, able to connect through the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands. GPRS enables 48kbps download speed, while EDGE support increases the speed to 236.8kbps. In terms of cellular connectivity, the HTC P3470 supports a comprehensive array of frequency bands, meaning that there shouldn’t be a problem for using this handset anywhere around the world.
Over shorter ranges, USB 2.0, or Bluetooth 2.0 are available. The P3470 uses a proprietary ExtUSB™ connector socket to connect to a PC, recharge the phone and synchronise core applications and transfer data between the P3470 and a PC. Even though I am not a fan of proprietary connectors, HTC have made an honest effort at consolidating all connectors into one socket. What I like about the ExtUSB socket is that it is still possible to connect standard miniUSB plugs into the socket which only the headset requires the specific connection (this may be a problem is you want to connect a standard set of headphones to the phone). The USB 2.0 data transfer between the P3470 and the PC is fast. Bluetooth can be used for data transfer, wireless headsets and wireless headphones can be attached for stereo music playback.
The Bluetooth connectivity was tested to make phone calls with a Nokia wireless headset and with the stereo headphones provided. The transfer of data between the phone and a computer was also tested and no problems were encountered with either of these features. The Bluetooth support seems to be reliable and can also be used to send pictures or documents to Bluetooth enabled printers.
The P3470 gets a low score for connectivity as HTC have stripped out Wi-Fi and 3G out of the handset set which seams to be a standard feature in most PDA phones these days. The handset does get credit for the ExtUSB™ connector but HTC could have fitted a standard 2.5mm plug into the unit considering it is not a small handset.
Windows Media Player Mobile is the main application used for playback of video and audio files on the HTC P3470. It is similar to the Windows Media Player application for the PC, and has many of the same features, including a library for cataloguing music stored on the internal and external memory. Streaming video is also handled by Windows Media Player Mobile. HTC have also included an audio manager which acts as an iPOD type interface for managing your music collection and takes advantage of the inbuilt scroll wheel.
The Windows Mobile file manager provides an Explorer-like interface to the P3470 file system, including the memory card (if inserted). There’s a Pictures & Video viewer which as the name suggests, just displays pictures and videos. It displays images and video in a grid format with thumbnails of the image or video. The Picture & Video viewer is rather slow but HTC have included a “Camera Album” application which is much more elegant for displaying photos. There is a slide show feature in this application which flicks through the images in full screen.
Bluetooth A2DP is included for stereo communication with compatible devices.
JBenchmark performance is good however the performance of the other profiles is poor or non existent. 3D Java is not supported so don’t expect this handset to be a serious gaming machine.
Windows Mobile 6.0 offers its fair share of PIM and productivity applications straight out of the box. The Calendar, Alarm Clock, To-do List and Notes are all included but have been scattered in various menus and will take hours to find. The Calendar is fully featured and supports entries as reminders, meetings, calls, birthdays and memos and editable fields include title/subject, start and end time/date, location and an alarm can be set. Three alarms can be set and detailed settings for the alarm allowing setting repeatability, on which day it should go off and the tone.
The other PIM application such as Notes are capable of storing large notes and these are saved directly to the file system and the To-Do List can have title, priority (high/medium/low), due time/date and reminder. Takes can be shown in the standby screen. A voice recorder application is included and recordings are limited only to the size of the memory.
Most importantly, Microsoft Office Mobile comes pre-installed. The Microsoft Office Mobile suite consists of Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile applications. Word Mobile and Excel Mobile support viewing and editing of compatible file formats. PDF viewing is provided by the Adobe Reader LE PDF viewer, which can rotate pages, display pages full screen, and more.
Microsoft Active Sync software is used with conjunction with the P3470 and a compatible PC to transfer files and synchronize the handset. It can sync notes, calendar entries, to-do/task entries, the contacts database, e-mails, and more. ActiveSync is also used to synchronize with a Microsoft Exchange 2003/2007 server over the air. Active Sync display the phones file system and memory card in Windows Explorer as though it was a mass storage device and this makes for quick and easy transfer of data. The Active Sync software is simple yet effective without any fancy frills. Under Windows Vista, no software needs to be installed as Active Sync is supported out of the box.
The P3470 also has a built in modem, which can be used with a PC over Bluetooth or USB cable to provide a PC with internet access. Windows Mobile has an internet connection sharing option in the settings menu to manage this. However there is no 3G support so the computer will only be able to connect at GPRS or EDGE speeds.
The most outstanding feature of the phone is the dedicated SiRFstar III GPS chip. This is coupled with CoPilot GPS navigation software which is intuitive and well thought out. It is possible to search for locations and addresses using the software which will connect to the internet if it doesn’t find something in its extensive database. CoPilot is then able to give you directions and perform all the functions you would expect from a conventional GPS navigator. The GPS does take a while to acquire a signal but once acquired, the unit does a good job of tracking position. The unit does have a bit more trouble with acquiring a GPS signal when inside a car but this is expected due to the built in antenna.
Java is also supported on the HTC P3470 and all the Java programs are managed using the JBlend application. Installing applications is simple: transfer the file(s) to the memory, browse to them using JBlend and open them. There are no Java applications preloaded on the P3470. The following benchmarks were achieved with the P3470 using the JBenchmark application suite:
|JBenchmark 3D Low Quality
|JBenchmark 3D High Quality
The build quality of the HTC P3470 is excellent. There are no moving or loose parts, nor did the PDA creak or groan when bent or twisted. The battery cover comes off nicely however feels like it may become loose after a lot of reattachment. The black finishing and the unit’s weight give a good solid feel to the handset. Although it doesn’t give the phone a look of elegance, the P3470 is encased in a rubbery type of plastic which is practical as it is not susceptible to smudge marks and scratches like glossy materials.
Also, of note is the fact that HTC have made an effort to minimize the amount of connectors around the handset and have only included the ExtUSB™ connector socket. This is a welcome approach as this means that there is less clutter around the handset. The only thing that the P3470 lacks is a port protector for the connector to keep the contacts as clean as possible.
The HTC P3470 ships with a large 1100mAh battery and the official claim is that the handset is able to stand-by for 240 hours and provide close to 6 hours of talk time. While these figures are a little exaggerated the battery life is very good but does drop significantly with the use of the MP3 player and wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth. So with heavy phone usage expect to get about several days worth of charge before you make a grab for the charger again. The phone takes several hours to fully recharge but HTC have thoughtfully included ExtUSB™ (which support a standard miniUSB plug) into the P3470 and it is possible to recharge the handset via a USB port.
The battery life for the HTC P3470 is excellent.