By November 21, 2009

Review: HTC HD2

DSCN0638 The world is pretty excited about the HTC HD2 and it’s easily the most notable Windows Mobile phone to hit the market in years. Bold, daring and huge but is the HTC HD2 worth looking at?

The HTC HD2 is worth it’s hype. It’s more than just being a phone with one hell of a big screen.  It’s a phone that runs Windows Mobile almost as a blank canvas to paint HTC Sense upon.

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Despite having the reputation of being massive the device is slender. This is far from a brick, actually it’s a flag stone if you like.

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Taking a minimalistic approach the phone has nothing in the way of buttons on either the top or the right hand side. Mainly due to the screen’s easy accessibility and also it allows for the interesting back plate.

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Honestly, I was quite confused when I first had to put the battery in. Opening it this way seemed logical however I was worried I would break it. The device is pretty darn tough and this became apparent when I wrenched it open. The back plate is a great idea, HTC will be able to sell coloured and textured plates, the GPS add-on and possibly even a Palm Pre style charging plate.

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The left hand side has a simple volume rocker.

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Down below is a 3.5mm headphone jack, HTC seem to be getting quite good at whacking these into their devices. A new one on me is the Mini USB port, first time I’ve seen this from HTC. Annoyingly having using HTC devices for a few years now I am left with several unusable cables and chargers. Still, nice to see a little more standardisation and these ports are more durable than HTC’s Ext USB.

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Above the screen is the ear speaker and a couple of rather faint sensors for proximity and the like. There is a notification LED invisible to the eye under the speaker grill. Call quality isn’t a terrific as you would expect for a £500 phone. In comparison this is something similar to the Acer s200, whilst not as tinny it does suffer from an almost staticy noise on the line, however the recipient will enjoy clear communication from the HTC HD2 microphone.
Do note, There is no front facing camera for video calls

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Beside the loudspeaker grill is a 5mp camera and that’s just great and all. The dual LED flash really amps up the picture quality in low light however I have one major gripe about the camera. As you can see from the picture to the right the camera juts out of the device a couple of millimetres. When you set the device down, you are setting down on the camera housing. There is a thin piece of plastic protecting the lens and this piece of plastic is likely to scratch, sorry, not likely, it will scratch. Once scratched the picture quality will nose dive. Also, this protrusion affects the stability of the device when set on a flat surface, the device wobbles. A real pet hate of mine.

Size wise the phone really isn’t off-puttingly huge, in fact it’s a nice size thanks to it’s supermodel slimness. Below I have taken some comparison shots with other recognised phones on the market.DSCN0635  DSCN0637 DSCN0622

The last shot there is particularly notable as Archos have always been hailed for their massive screens, the HTC HD2 screen is almost the same size, remarkable (Stop squinting, it’s Alec Baldwin and the lovely Tina Fey from 30 Rock!)

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Over the last two years HTC have built HTC Sense from experience and it is one of the most robust if inflexible today screen replacements. There has been a noticeable upgrade from the last major upgrade on the HTC Diamond2 and Touch Pro2. Actually a maddening upgrade as there are many features omitted from the Touch Pro2 and Diamond2 that were in development before the launch of those phones and HTC have waited until this device to implement.
Above on the Home screen you can see three additional shortcuts taking space that was left unoccupied on the Diamond2 and Touch Pro2. HTC have cleverly integrated the Programs screen onto the Home screen and a simple upwards swipe reveals a wealth of shortcut buttons ready for customising. This also extends to contact shortcuts also.

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The People tab has been modified, out with the Rolodex and in comes a much more finger friendly thumbnails affair. This also allows you to integrate Facebook information into your contacts.

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A big addiction is HTC Twitter client, Peep. Great to have! Not as advanced as many of the clients out there but given that there are no free clients in the Windows Mobile Marketplace this fills that gap well. There are also options I did not expect to see in a bundled Twitter client, like photo hosting, location and URL shortening. They are basic but it’s a little extra that HTC didn’t have to but have gone to the bother of adding, well done HTC !

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Opera Mobile is the browser of choice on here and HTC have increased the amount of push websites you can have, soon you’ll use up your data allowance without having to touch your device 🙂 However I found myself being drawn to Internet Explorer 6 on 6. I was very worried about this browser. I have stated in the past that I was quite fond of the previous version, it had nothing in the way of bells and whistles but if you needed fast access to the net for reference it was the browser to use and Opera was there for informed and well presented browsing. Now I feel that IE has improved it’s feature set and still runs at an impressive speed. It loads in half the time of Opera and achieves a similar level of result when browsing. The multi-touch works very nicely here too.

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The Calendar is simple and useful. Gone is the painful Appointment interface. Instead we have a lovely, thumb friendly screen that is simple and efficient. The display is the same as HTC have been using for a while now.

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Media is were Windows Mobile wins no medals and again there isn’t really anything the competition need worry about. It’s serviceable but it will take an application like Kinoma or Core Player to really make the most of things. For picture display we are treated to a little more multi-touch and it’s nice to see. The large display is lovely for viewing your photos, it will impress anyone looking on.

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The weather application is a lot more animated than before and this animation can also been seen on the Home screen. It’s a gimmick but a fun one at that. You can’t turn it off but then it’s hardly intrusive.

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The Footprint tab allows the user to keep a record of where the have been, what they did and if they liked it, combined with GPS, photos and contact details. If it becomes more widely used it will be very useful however I’ve found it to be a waste of time in the past having not been able to back it up before having to hard reset the device. There is an Export function, I have yet to find the Import alternative.

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There are a larger amount of settings available this time around for the user to interact with from the HTC Sense interface. You can also access the core settings under Windows Mobile 6.5 from here.

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Using the new fangled Windows Mobile 6.5 Start Menu is simple. To distinguish it from the Android and iPhone menus Microsoft has cleverly staggered the layout, this also increases the finger friendliness of the display. There is a nice level of bundled goodies in here, a lot of standard programs and a couple of puzzling additions.

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Puzzling additions you say? An example is the separate Camera and Camcorder application. Perhaps this is for shortcut purposes and it might seem logical but it will takes a while to get used to not opening the camera utility and switching it to camcorder function. Still, guess it’s nice to have.

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Major additions are the 15 day trial of CoPilot and a new Wi-fi Router function. I have yet to test the Wi-fi Router but it seems to be a nice addition that will gobble up battery as the same speed as you data connection. CoPilot is gorgeous on the big screen. It impressed the socks off me on the Touch Pro2 and the screen does it even more justice on the HD2. Having this mounted on your dashboard would provide an excellent solution to the ever going list of portable devices required.

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The on screen keyboards are normally a bit of a folly for me. I’m not a fan of touchscreen typing and only really use the on screen keyboard for the odd 2-3 digit entry. In Portrait it’s a good size to achieve minimal errors and with being an on screen keyboard novice I was fairly accurate most of the time. I did find it frustrating adapting to a capacitive screen and I use my nails on my Touch Pro2 but after a week I was starting to get the hang of it. Switching it over to landscape opens an ultra large keyboard. As you can see above the keys are roughly the same size as the comfy keys of the Touch Pro2 but it still obscures a decent portion of the screen and the Touch Pro2 has the entire screen available.

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Fiddling around with the system settings is something we love to do in the hope that something new and exciting will reveal itself. The HD2 has tonnes to play with under it’s skin.

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A new addition to the settings it the Uploader. This allow the user to keep track of the media shared with Facebook and Youtube. This is a separate utility that runs in the background once you have taken a picture or video and sent it to your Facebook page or Youtube account. It works well and I loved finally having the ability to do this straight from capturing the moment. I have always envied Android and the iPhone for this but finally it’s here on Windows Mobile

Whilst on the subject of the phone’s capture ability, I have taken a few shots and a little video. The video was uploaded directly from the phone, over the air to Youtube. I limited the video to 10 seconds and it took maybe 20 seconds to upload over an HSDPA connection, on the beach. The quality is very much VGA, this allows for quick and easy sharing but not much in the way of a clear video. The dog is called Suzi and … she eats seaweed.

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The camera results aren’t terrible however they are notably redder than they should be. For example, the rocks leading out to the sea look like the sun is setting when it is actually mid-morning. The depth of field is not great here for landscapes however when there is a focal object the picture can be quite clear as with the picture of the bush.

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Connection wise the phone has everything you can throw at it on release today. Well, aside from the old Infrared and the newer Wireless N.

Everything concerning the HD2’s operation is terrific and if it wasn’t for one tainted aspect I would happily sit back and hail this as one of the best phones on the market.

The problem with the HD2, and it isn’t a deal breaker, is that the device just doesn’t run smoothly. Having witnessed how well Windows Mobile 6.5 can run of the Acer s200 Neotouch I was shocked that the HD2 has a certain degree of lag to it from time to time. A lot of the time the device runs well and will please most however, when you notice just how bogged down it can get you will be asking questions.
An example. Yesterday, in work I thought I’d check Twitter randomly. I picked up the device, hit the power button, slide the slider across to the right of the screen and waited. The slider stayed there. After 15 seconds or so I set it back down and the screen turned black. I pressed the power button again, the screen turned on and the slider was still positioned to the right. I went about my business and pressed the power button every time the screen turned off. About the third time it worked and the home screen appeared. I checked the task manager to see if I have left something memory intensive running but there was nothing. My only thought is that HTC Sense has problems.
That said this was the only time I experienced a slow down during the day, it’s has happened a few times in the last week.

I have heard reports that the battery life can be pretty terrible however I’ve not had any problems. Using it quite heavily in work results in a required daily charge, but it has always gotten me through the day.

To my mind this is the first Windows Mobile smartphone with a touchscreen to arrive without a stylus. Who would have thought the day would come that this would be said. Without a stylus Windows Mobile does work however it’s taken time and some real work from HTC to make it so.

The HTC HD2 does it’s best to disguise the operating system it is built on and brings the phone closer to the HTC cousins running the Android operating system. It’s fast and stable when it wants to be. Interaction is fluid and the device will blow people away when in use. As with all devices it has it’s faults however there are far fewer than the bigger names on the market. The HTC HD2 is a complete success marred only by faults that will hopefully be ironed out in the future. Most of what we have come to expect from Windows Mobile has been painted over with an attractive shade that many will find appealing.

I have mentioned on various podcasts that I would prefer the Acer s200 over this device and I stand by that decision. Windows Mobiles 6.5 is not the upgrade Windows Mobile is due, it’s a stop gap thrown out to shut negative people up for five minutes. Manufactures like Samsung, HTC and Acer have worked hard to turn the OS into something presentable and sellable. My hat is off to HTC who have dressed this up well.
There has been no announcement at this time of writing that the HTC HD2 will have an upgrade to Windows Mobile 7 when it is release this time next year and for that reason I would urge anyone wanting to buy a large 6.5 device to entertain the Acer’s £320 price tag instead and keep your money for the main event. If an announcement is made then you will have a very happy year with the HD2 and the upgrade will bring only more cheer.

Thanks go out to Clove who have supplied us this review device

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Specs:

Networks – GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 900 / 2100

Size – 120.5 x 67 x 11 mm
Weight -157 g
Display – TFT capacitive touchscreen, 65K colors, 480 x 800 pixels, 4.3 inches
Memory – 448 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM, microSD (TransFlash)
CPU – Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1 GHz processor
Data– GPRS Class 12 (4+1/3+2/2+3/1+4 slots), 32 – 48 kbps, HSCSD, EDGE Class 12, 3G
HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 2 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Wi-Fi router
Bluetooth – v2.1 with A2DP
Camera – 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, dual LED flash, Video [email protected]
GPS – with A-GPS support; NaviPanel

– Sense UI
– Multi-touch input method
– Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
– Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
– Ambient light sensor
– Pick-to-mute
– Digital compass
– MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+ player
– MP4/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
– Facebook and Twitter integration
– YouTube client
– Pocket Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, PDF viewer)
– HTC Peep, HTC Footprints
– Voice memo
– T9

Battery – Li-Ion 1230 mAh
Stand-by – Up to 490 h (2G) / Up to 390 h (3G)
Talk time – Up to 6 h 20 min (2G) / Up to 5 h 40 min (3G)
Music play – Up to 12 h

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Posted in: Phones

About the Author:

Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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