We've seen several Windows Mobile smartphones in the last couple of weeks, the i-mate Ultimate 6150 and 8150, the 3G update to Palm's Treo 500M, as well as the HTC TyTN II. All of these handsets are larger than average mobile phones ranging from the slightly wider Treo 500 to the almost-enormous i-mates. With the Touch Dual, HTC has managed to trim the design down to a pocket-friendly 107mm long, 55mm wide and a 17mm depth. Also, at a total weight of 120 grams including the battery, the Touch Dual feels noticeably lighter than the competition.
On first impressions, the Touch Dual is really quite an attractive, if unassuming, handset. The large 2.6-inch QVGA touchscreen is framed by a muted black rubber body, with the five-way nav button, side trimming and back-facing camera set in stainless steel. Under the slide the keypad lays flush and consists of well spaced plastic keys. A rather short stainless steel stylus lives in the top right hand corner of the Touch Dual -- and for the sake of nitpicking, we'd love to have seen the stylus extend to twice its size; currently it's only slightly longer than a toothpick.
All inputs, be it for charging, data transfers or headphones, go into the micro USB port on the side of the phone. And while this single input is becoming a standard feature on PDAs, this means you'll have to plan ahead for when you want to charge the phone or use your hands-free because you won't be able to do both at once. On the opposite side of the Dual is a Micro SD card slot for expanding the shared 256MB of internal flash memory. All in all it's a compact and streamlined unit.
Those familiar with HTC's modified Windows Mobile 6 interface will be immediately in their element with the Touch Dual. Similar to the interface seen in the Touch and the TyTN II, the modifications to the standard WM6 include a series of shortcuts on the main standby screen for quick access to messaging, call log, current weather details and a customisable launcher for adding application shortcuts, as well as an overhaul of the visual aesthetic.
Of coarse, these modifications don't affect the usual array of pre-loaded business apps included with Windows Mobile. There's the standard Mobile Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), calendars, contacts, a world clock, a voice recorder, MSN messenger, and the list goes on. In regards to e-mail the Touch Dual supports all common e-mail protocols and push e-mail for Outlook clients.
Making WM6 cool in any way is a feat of titanic proportions and HTC have managed this, to an extent, with the funky TouchFlo interactive menu system that we first encountered on the HTC Touch. A swipe of your finger from the bottom of the screen to the top launches the "spinning cube" style menu. Once launched a similar sweeping motion across the screen rotates the menu "cube" for access to quick contacts, multimedia galleries, and more applications. Prepare for your colleagues to be begging with you to have a play.
The Touch Dual is a world roaming quad-band 3G GSM device, which is handy for the travelling business-person. Data connections are made with HSDPA compatibility with a 3.6Mbps maximum download speed. Unlike the TyTN II there's no Wi-Fi or GPS built into the Touch Dual but the compensation is, of coarse, its slim profile.
On the back of the handset you'll find the lens of the onboard 2-megapixel CMOS camera that features auto-focus but no flash. The photos we took looked pretty good, bright and colourful, but predictably soft-focused. However, if you reading this review we're guessing an amazing camera is probably not as high on your list of priorities as the Dual's business sensibilities.
The Touch Dual has double the processing power of the original Touch, with a 400MHz processor and 128MB RAM. Even still, Windows Mobile is a power-hungry resource, and we found the interface to be a little bit laggy in responding to our inputs. This isn't to say we had difficulty using the Touch Dual, just that the processing and rendering performance is slower than we saw in the zippy i-mate Ultimate 6150, another Windows Mobile smartphone.
Web browsing is a joy with HSDPA speed behind it, although, Internet Explorer Mobile is far from the best or fastest Mobile Web browser. Of course, the beauty of Windows Mobile is the ability to hunt down useful applications online and install them as you would on a PC. Once we had Opera Mobile installed we were much happier, and we grabbed Google Maps while we were at it.
HTC has employed an impressive 1,350 mAh battery in the Touch Dual and have estimate 4.5 hours continuous talk time and approximately 13 days standby. During our tests we saw just over four days during charge cycles with moderate use of calls, messaging and Web browsing.
While the Touch Dual looks and feels like a consumer handset, the strengths and weaknesses of its various features points it directly at the business sector. The Dual can take pictures and play media but the current incarnation of Windows Mobile is way too dull to attract a wider market, even with TouchFlo to spice it up.
The Touch Dual is the perfect smartphone for a business person who can do without features like GPS and Wi-Fi but still wants the strong business functionality of Windows Mobile. It makes a great alternative for people looking at the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 but who were turned off by the less-than-ideal 2.5G data speeds.