It’s pretty hard choosing a new phone, especially if you’re trying to do it with a Carphone Warehouse salesman breathing down your back. Not nice. However, one of the things that should totally weigh upon your mind is if it’s made by HTC. The Taiwanese giant is responsible for some incredible bits of kit, from the Windows Mobile classics like the HTC Touch and Touch Pro, through to groundbreaking Android devices like the T-Mobile G1 and the HTC Desire. That greatness is defined by two things though, solid and sleek hardware, and slick, useable software. Their Windows Mobile efforts excel because of that marriage of form with function, custom skins running over an arguably dated operating system. Likewise their best Android efforts such as the Hero or Desire rely on their custom user interface, known as HTC Sense.
It’s deployed on the HD2 with pretty great aplomb. At first glance, the visual synergy between this and say the Android-based but HTC Sense-skinned Hero or Desire make them hard to tell apart. From an intuitive homescreen covered in clock and weather widgets, through to a series of tabbed information screens controled by a slider along the bottom of the screen, the Sense experience is as slick as ever. In fact, the Sense customisation of the HD2’s underlying Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system expands to the messaging, contact management, and calendar applications. If anything though, the fluidity and usability of the Sense UI just serves to show how dated the underlying Windows Mobile 6.5 system is. As soon as you delve deeper into the function of the phone, from settings menus to the bundled Office Mobile software, you’re met with an interface that seems to exist in a world where modern standards like gestures based navigation and simple user-friendly usability never happened. It becomes clear that the underlying OS was designed in an era of stylus’, long before touchscreen smartphones were designed for or expected to be used by people other than infinitely busy businessmen.
It’s a shame that the failings of the HD2 revolve around the OS that it’s based upon, as HTC have done an incredible job with both the hardware and their parts of the software, both of which you can see showcased in the video above. Encased in an almost obscenely thin shell, the expansive 4.3 inch screen is simply divine for viewing videos, images, and frankly anything. It’s sharp, crisp, and works really well when viewed from a range of different angles. When I was using the phone, I had the brightness on about 70%, leaving the display still bright and completely usable even in direct sunlight. However, don’t whip out an incredibly thin and sleek phone at the bar of a country pub unless you want to be treated to a mind numbing 10 minute missive from the barmaid on how here mate has a Samsung “that dus fings on like, bebo and stuff”. Testament to how good the HD2 looks? Probably. It’s slimmer than the barmaid, brighter than the barmaid, and probably takes better pictures than the barmaid. Sure, 5mp with dual LED flash isn’t particularly ground-breaking, but the daytime shots come out looking pretty swell and crisp. Try using the flash in a bar or something though and you’ll be left with over-saturated shots and blinded friends. A shame really, seeing as the rest of the hardware is really up to scratch.
It’s worth mentioning just how solid the HD2 feels, from the brushed aluminium backplate to the sharp edges and angles that make-up the body of the phone, it’s a remarkably polished product. But god does it need to be, that 4.3 inch screen makes the phone quite a stretch for even the most liberal skinny jeans – you’ll certainly want to be taking it out of your pocket everytime you sit down. Lets not beat around the bush, this is one of the best presented and most capable Windows Mobile 6.5 handsets available, and if it’s that OS that you’re looking to get on board with, then picking up the HD2 is a no-brainer. Put it next to Android handsets such as the HTC EVO 4G or the Droid Incredible though, and it seems like a far less sensible choice. Although the hardware is entirely desirable, it’s the OS that lets it down. Despite the polish that HTC have put on it, Windows Mobile 6.5 is still too many steps behind Android, BlackberryOS or WebOS to justify getting on board with. Plus, with the release of Windows Mobile 7 just around the corner, you’d risk missing out on Microsoft’s next evolution of its mobile platform.
The HTC HD2 is available on various tariffs from all the main carriers. For the best deal, check out Carphone Warehouse.