First weekend with the HTC Touch Pro

As soon as my beloved TyTN got into it’s third year, HTC seems to have pulled support for it.
There are no downloads on the support page anymore, or any links to FAQ or the like.
 
But, they released the German edition of the shiny Touch Pro, which is like the successor of the successor of the TyTN.
Back then I did have too many problems with the Hermes to give the Kaiser a try.
 
Now was the time for "Raphael". The most compelling reasons:
  • 3.5 G (UMTS/WCDMA + HSDPA/HSUPA), Quad-Band GSM/EDGE, WiFi 802.11 b/g
  • VGA display resolution (480×640) on a 2.8" touch screen
  • 512 MB of memory (idle free approx. 210MB data, 110MB programs)
  • 528MHz Qualcomm 7201A
  • 5-row QWERTY (QWERTZ in Germany) with both left and right shift keys

Additional advertised features

    • Improved Internet browsing with zoom
    • Touch screen navigation rivaling "other famous 3G smartphones"
    • 3.2 Megapixel camera with auto-focus
    • Built-in GPS
    • FM radio with RDS

 

I wanted to wait with a post about it until I have nice pictures and more technical specs, but then again, who cares?

 

It is a brilliant piece of contemporary mobile hardware and pushes the boundaries of today’s phones and PDAs, as much as did the TyTN when it came out two years ago.

 

Hardware design, including but not limited to the unpacking experience, is marvelous and worlds apart from the somewhat "technical" design of the TyTN. The metal body gives a feeling of value and high-quality.

The keyboard opens with a snap that conveys a notion of strong, reliable mechanics. All of it’s keys in the five rows are easily accessible, even for those with fleshy fingers. Key press feedback is firm and reliable.

Even the stylus is stylish, long enough to hold, in one piece and not a telescopic fiddle-stick as the TyTN’s.

SIM card, battery and microSDHC cards fit easily in their sockets under the back cover, which opens (and closes) easily, unlikely to fall of. (Take this, TyTN!)

Battery life is acceptable, even on the first days. About 6 hours WLAN straight, and the usual overnight recharge is sufficient.

 

So, use a Touch Pro if you want to impress folks with a shiny black smartphone with a crystal clear display and a complete keyboard.

 

But, and there’s got to be a but with all today’s hardware, don’t let them actually use it.

 

The upside is, so far I didn’t encounter hardware problems such as unreliable reception.

Well, the camera is still not living up to a year 2000 2 megapixel digicam, but hey, it’s a phone, right? Who’d use a PDA for landscape pictures anyway?

And the FM radio with RDS? Works well when you try only your neighborhood radio station. (You need the headset as an antenna. Don’t ask me how to use an AD2P headset in this case. And no, it doesn’t support RDS in the sense that it would sort stations by name or actually switch to the best frequency.)

 

But my major discomfort is the software, again. It fails to address a significant problem that results from the incredibly high resolution on such a small screen: navigation, in particular the difference between scrolling, zooming, selecting and activating items in the user interface, all with usually nothing more than your thumb.

The Touch Pro has "TouchFLO™ 3D", a Today screen replacement by HTC that should give you access to the most frequently used features and settings. It is also used to start Opera as the Internet browser of choice. But a touch screen lives and dies with instant feedback and this it doesn’t have.

Even more, as soon as you dig a little deeper, Windows Mobile get’s thru and breaks the TouchFLO navigation abstractions.

Mix-in Opera, with yet a different touch screen interface, which is in itself also changing with the definition of the rendered web page and depending on whether you are working in a new tab or not.

The major competitor for the Touch Pro has an easier game in this field as all software is from a single hand and 3rd-party software is more restricted and controlled in their capabilities, so scrolling, zooming, selecting and activating is more seamless between applications.

The real downside of the Touch Pro is it’s extended key set (or the lack thereof), i.e. the switches you want to use when you choose to get a more precise control of navigation.

The TyTN had a jog dial (with a poor «activate» function, however), six function keys, (Power, Communication Manager, Voice Control, Camera, Mail, Internet), four command keys (Left menu, Right menu, Talk, End) and the 4-way navigation with OK/Enter. Many of those keys were quite configurable regarding which functions they invoke on long or short press.

The Touch Pro has a Power button, Volume Up, Volume Down, and the front area with Home, Back, Talk and End as well as a touch sensitive navigation control, all of which are not really configurable, or wouldn’t make much sense to do so.

Unfortunately, the pressure points of the navigation keys are not clearly separated. I find it particularly difficult to press "Down" with the Touch Pro in landscape with the keyboard open, e.g. to enter text into a web form with several fields. In 7 of 10 tries I hit "Talk", which opens the telephone application. More often than not, Opera will not continue to run in the background and I can’t easily switch back to the previous page, zoom level and position I managed to achieve.

But this is something I’m sure my fingers will get used to and in no time will I not want to ever go back to the TyTN again, as I already do when looking at it’s "grainy" display. (I’ll keep using the TyTN as a navigation device with Bluetooth GPS and TomTom Navigator 6. It would be too much hassle to try and register Tom Tom on the Touch Pro, but that’s another story.)

So, the wish list for software updates for the Touch Pro is not huge, but nevertheless longer than none.

  1. Opera Mobile. Full zoom, please (in and out, regardless of page settings). More careful heuristics regarding touch. (If I move the page around with my thumb not leaving the display, I DON’T want to zoom nor open the context menu. I just want to read a page that didn’t wrap properly and couldn’t be zoomed out more.) And give me FEEDBACK when I actually activated something. And let me STOP what I activated accidentally. And let me move those scroll thumbs, like quickly to the end of the document. And piece on earth.
  2. For headphone operation, volume control needs more settings than Silent, Pretty Loud, Too Loud, Pain, Torture and Overkill. I know today’s kids have bad hearing but they won’t buy the Touch Pro anyway.
  3. WLAN needs ETS/TTLS. HTC, you want this to be a business phone, right? No, Secure2W and ValidateServerCert don’t work. At least not for me.
  4. Remote Desktop. Why this was pulled as soon as Windows Mobile supported VGA and memory larger than 64MB is beyond me. Now everybody downloads some crap from somewhere from the Internet with trust, hope and belief. Make it available on download.microsoft.com. If a gazillion time zone updates nobody needs live there, why can’t the RDP client?
  5. Windows Update. When did that thing actually update something? Isn’t there at least a Malicious Software Removal Tool or Windows Genuine Advantage of some kind?
  6. Windows Media Player. The developer responsible for this please go to channel9.msdn.com and download and watch a video (WMV normal/low bitrate). How can, after downloading the entire video, suddenly "system resources" be insufficient?

 

So what do I say about the Touch Pro?

Isn’t it nice! You should get one, too. No need to hurry, though.

And it’s so sweet, you gotta love it. Despite the bitchy touch screen navigation.

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One Response to First weekend with the HTC Touch Pro

  1. Henry says:

    To get rid of Opera or other applications not running in the background, or Windows Media Player reporting "insufficient system resources" on the HTC Touch Pro, change the registry value MemoryThreshold under key HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/HTC/Taskmanager to a lower value, preferrably somewhat around 33554432 (32MiB).
     
    After that, you’ll never want to give the TouchPro out of your hand. It actually almost works like a charm.
     
    Why this setting is initially at 115MiB, I don’t have the slightest idea.
     
    And those who do don’t talk about it.

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