The HTC Touch Diamond Reviewed: Good Touch Gone Bad

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on September 14, 2008

What were they thinking?

touch_diamond.gifThe HTC Touch Diamond from Sprint ($250 after mail-in rebate, with two-year contract) is a richly featured smartphone, thin and light, with a big and gorgeous display. And one feature so bad that it renders the Touch Diamond all but unusable.

I think I have tried every data-entry technique ever offered on a handset, from 12-key dial pads to full qwerty keyboards of all styles and sizes. But I have never encountered any as bad as the Touch’s.

Putting an on-screen keyboard on a narrow display is a huge challenge. The Touch's solution is to adapt Research In Motion's Sure Type, the design used on the BlackBerry Pearl, which puts two letters on most keys and uses clever software to figure out what you meant to type. But the Touch, like the HTC Shadow sold in the U.S. by T-Mobile, uses software from Tegic that isn't nearly as good as RIM's.

Still, the physical keyboard on the Shadow sort of works. The on-screen version on the Touch doesn't. The keys are much smaller than those on an iPhone or Samsung Instinct (also Sprint). It is almost impossible to type accurately enough for the software to divine your intentions, making typing an agony.

But wait, there's more. In critical situations, the keyboard often covers the text box in which you are trying to enter data. In setting up a Gmail account, for example, did not have too much trouble entering my username. But the password box was covered by the keyboard. My password isn't a real word, of course, so Tegic didn't have a chance of getting it right. On about the sixth attempt at laboriously entering the password, I finally got it right, but I think if I had bought the phone, I would have returned it to the store before then.

Setting up Wi-Fi was awful in a slightly different way. This time I got a full qwerty keyboard with tiny keys, each about 2 mm square. And again, the entry box was hidden. I resorted to the stylus and was able, carefully, to enter the passphrase needed to connect.

The data entry problems were so severe that I will admit I didn't spend all that much time exploring it. HTC has layered its own user interface on top of windows Mobile 6.1, but I found the result more confusing than helpful. In effect, the Touch has two different ways of doing most things. And it's not helped by the fact that the touch screen is not terribly responsive. In particular, the effect of a horizontal swipe of the finger, which should produce horizontal scrolling,was wildly unpredictable. Sometime a big swipe produced big movement, something hardly any motion.

All in all, I just found the Touch Diamond too much trouble. For anyone who finds the phone's features appealing, I'd suggest waiting a few weeks, and coming up with an extra $50, for its big brother, the Touch Pro, which comes with a full slide-out physical keyboard.

Reader Comments

Bob

September 16, 2008 12:47 AM

Either you typed this on the keyboard you hate so much or you need to proofread before you publish.

will

September 16, 2008 7:35 AM

Are you kidding? why are you so bias against the Touch?
This is one of the most gorgeous, amazing phone and it's fully loaded and extremely easy to use. The internet is very fast and the gps with sprint nav (aka telenav) look amazing.
WiFi is extremely easy to setup and who is using WiFi now days, when you have the speedy solid sprint network.
I can't wait for the HTC HD

Steve Wildstrom

September 16, 2008 9:14 AM

@Bob--No, I typed it in a laptop balanced on my lap. but that's no excuse for the typos, which have been fixed.

Eric

September 16, 2008 4:35 PM

My understanding is that there is a simple way to turn off the predictive text on the Diamond's keyboards - unlike the iPhone. Therefore, when you are entering a url or a password, you simply turn off the predictive text and the entry is easy. The iPhone, on the other hand, doesn't allow you to turn off predictive text.

Also, I hear that there is a program on the xda developers site that allows you to use the keyboard in landscape mode in every program.

I tried the iPhone and returned it (dropped calls, buggy OS, trouble typing with the touchscreen keyboard, etc.). I'm thinking of trying the Diamond (30-day trial before the release of the Touch Pro), and am looking for legitimate reviews of the device.

You might want to try the phone again and do a real review of it, because your review above wasn't much help.

Steve Wildstrom

September 16, 2008 4:48 PM

@Eric--Yers, you can turn off the T9 prediction (it's actually tuned off by default for URLs, passwords, and such.) The problem is that then you are left with double-tapping, which I found far more difficult that double- or triple-tapping on a physical dialpad.

But the real killer was the fact that the keyboard covered the data entry, making it almost impossible to tell if your taps had been correctly interpreted. It's nice if the XDA developers have a solution, but it's not going to do the ordinary phone buyer any good. Getting a handset to a basic level of usability should not be a do-it-yourself project.

killer

September 16, 2008 11:54 PM

It just baffles me how much businessweek loves the iphone and find the smallest thing to dislike and trash another phone....wow

Kevin

September 17, 2008 3:39 AM

"The data entry problems were so severe that I will admit I didn't spend all that much time exploring it."

And yet you still finished this great article with some very strong opinions =).

It is a big mistake by HTC not to have landscape mode when messaging, and I will give Steve credit that he didn't drool over iPhone like too many other technology "journalists" do.

But this doesn't cover the fact that this is a very well-made WM6 phone with good balance between being nice & easy and being functional.

Ben

September 17, 2008 9:14 AM

Steve,
You also need to consider that since this is a Windows Mobile device, you have several 3rd party keyboard solutions to pick from. That's yet another advantage over an iphone or a device with a physical keyboard, where you only have the standard keyboard option.

macizbak420

September 17, 2008 6:05 PM

this review is so full of bullsh&t but hey it is this person opinion.. but i really doubt it's that bad i like it dont care for the iphone but they will probably trash the touch pro when that comes out too.. they should review there lovely iphone and stay out of winmobile bussiness but hey thats my theory

albowwow

September 17, 2008 6:59 PM

Still using my Palm Centro, easy to type, touch screen, fast and 1,000's of apps. Plus Office and the ability to MMS; oops sry Iphone I can't send you the excel document or the pictures of our trip with voice and or video! Plus all my programs don't stay open and slow down everything! oops Win 6.1, no platform is perfect.

j.dowland

September 17, 2008 9:16 PM

wow, this is probably the worst, most pissy- low-tech review of a technical device I have ever seen.

3rd party keyboards are not helpful for the average user...what old codger like you would buy this phone? i'm guessing you are old (over 60? by how you reacted to all the new fangled buttons).

anyone who buys this phone and has the intellect and technical understanding of a 12 year old- can DL programs, upload them to the phone, without much trouble.

maybe you should just stick to reviewing simple gadgets without many moving parts. i heard Bic just put out a new lighter you can use in the wind.

obv. you are just a MS hater who blindly chokes on Apple's junk like it's the best junk you ever choked on.

don't take the advice of others and do a real review of the phone. something like that is better left to your betters- or any 12 year old with a blog.

you might want to try and read other reviews of this phone- by real media professionals- who were less biased and more satisfied with the device.

Steve Wildstrom

September 17, 2008 10:54 PM

@J. Dowland & others--A question for all you WinMo/HTC fans: Have any of you tried the Sprint Touch Diamond? Do you have an answer for a keyboard that covers key data entry fields?

Gavin

September 17, 2008 11:06 PM

Dude... are you insane? Do you have fat fingers? What is your problem? The Diamond is freakin' awesome in all aspects, and kills the iPhone and especially the Instinct. I had the Instinct and it was so bad that I UPGRADED to the Diamond. Go get an Instinct for a month and see you many times you beat your head against the wall!

Jason

September 18, 2008 1:07 AM

Steve! Dude! There's a scroll bar on the right side of the phone to move the screen above the keyboard down so you can see what you're typing. or try touching the screen you can see above the keyboard you're using and drag it up...it IS a touchscreen...

Mike

September 18, 2008 3:17 AM

Wow, and people speak bad of "Apple fanboys"...

For what it's worth, Steve, I think you are absolutely right about the Touch Diamond. I bought it and returned it (it would my third Windows Mobile device). Yes, it does many things well, but few things easy.

Touch Flo 3D looks nice but adds little function, the touchscreen is excruciatingly unresponsive and text input is almost as bad as my old HTC P3300. UI-glitches such as the keyboard covering text-entry boxes were really frustrating to me. The Diamond is a nice looking phone in a very attractive form factor, but I really found it a huge hassle to use in everyday life. I think there are much more user-friendly Windows Mobile phones around (the Treos spring to mind - the new Treo Pro looks really nice).

Personally I exchanged the Diamond for an iPhone. It's not for everyone and far from perfect, but I find it much more usable and enjoyable than the Touch Diamond.

infuse7

September 18, 2008 5:17 AM

ummm...lol but i doubt a phone can be that bad or that hard to type on...
I personally have a blackberry curve and after testing the touch diamond i would say it is much better to use. I also think that it is one of the best designed phones. Clearly biased...

Bruce

September 18, 2008 8:13 AM

I have owned an old HTC 8125 for over 3 years and had Treo's for 8 years prior.

It's the software not the device.

HTC has been waiting for Google's Android mobile operating system, and after trying their new browser Chrome, you should too.

Steve Wildstrom

September 18, 2008 8:52 AM

@Bruce--Stay tuned. The first Android phone is going to be announced by T-Mobile on Tuesday. I'll have a preliminary assessment quickly and a full review as soon as I get my hands on a phone I can use for an extended period.

alan hsiao

September 18, 2008 11:57 AM

What is this, a blog post?!

Calvin

September 18, 2008 8:32 PM

@Mike, who "already returned the Touch Diamond".

I am happy for you that you were able to purchase a phone that just came out 2 days ago while no other average consumers could lay their hands on yet.

Assuming your super-fast FedEx delivers it to you in one day, it's amazing that in 24 hours, you have already got frustrated with Diamond, returned it, went to At&t to buy an iPhone, activated it, decided that you loved it and found time to leave a comment here.

Efficiency! =)

Steve Wildstrom

September 18, 2008 8:57 PM

@Calvin--In fairness to Mike, a GSM/HSPA version of the Diamond has been shipping in a bunch of non-U.S. markets for some time. In fact, given the extreme variance of opinion, I'm beginning to wonder just how different the Sprint version may be from some of the others. As a number of commenters have noted, it's all about software, and different software loads can make a tremendous difference in usability.

Mike

September 19, 2008 6:04 AM

Calvin, I live in Europe. The same phone has been available here for several months (albeit the GSM version, which is identical in all respects except for the antenna). So, yes, I was able to purchase it and return it.

John

September 20, 2008 12:27 AM

You're absolotlly right,

I got HTC Touch few months ago, I like the rich features (email, WiFi, Windows Apps, etc....)

But when it comes to typing, it's nightmare, I had to disable that feature for auto complete words, so I can enter passwords, text boxes are hidden, most of the time I can't get the correct words.

As Phone...it SUCKS...it's very slow to load the Phone and deal with it, since from Windows point of view it's just application.

Now, I ended up buying another phone, actual phone :-), but still I use HTC for emails and as MP3, and I try some windows mobile development on it.

Guess what..I had trouble using this HTC Touch and I'm Software Engineer, What about other people...

Glynn

September 20, 2008 5:09 AM

I must agree with Mike's original comments. I have intensively studied reviews of the touch diamond, so am very familiar with it's capabilities, and deemed it my next device after my current XDA mini S. After a lengthy time of testing the device instore, I found it utterly unusable in day to day activities - which for me is calendar and contact entries, etc. The thought of wrestling with the cramped windows mobile interface everytime i needed to enter anything was beyond consideration. I am very, very disappointed as I thought this would be the phone for me - and I have years of experience with windows mobile touch screen devices. I have to say it, but although the iphone 3G has limitations compared to the touch diamond, it just performed the tasks i needed effortlessly. Again, I tested that device for a lengthy period instore. I hope my comments are useful to those considering touch diamond/iphone. However, I would urge anyone to actually test these devices themselves and make up their own mind.

David UK

September 23, 2008 6:48 AM

I've been using the Touch Diamond in the UK for a few weeks now and I can say the most frustrating thing for me has been the predictive text. I use the standard phone keypad as I find the QWERTY buttons too small. But there's an annoying little bug where if you put in any punctuation it will repeat the last word you typed.

But at the end of the day, if you're gonna get a phone with a MS OS then expect bugs.

Omar US

October 3, 2008 4:38 PM

I bought the Diamond and after using it for 3 weeks, I thoroughly enjoy it. I don't use the keyboard, I use the transcribe feature and simply "write" on the screen for texts etc. Obviously you didn't take the time to try all of the 8 or 9 input options.

The phone responds fast and if you would take the time to read the USER MANUAL, you would realize that you are supposed to place your fingertip on the icon for the window you are in and then scroll left or right.

You obviously did not seriously try the phone BEFORE you typed a review. Piss poor journalism if you ask me. I've seen better from a middle school newspaper.

angie aus

October 10, 2008 1:34 PM

I hate this phone, I have owned it for two months in that time it has frozen over 20 times reboots itself and now I have no Sound I must have got a lemon...

R

December 16, 2008 1:29 PM

I absolutely hate this expensive brick! I wanted a better phone than the iphone but i keep going back to it because this piece of crap is so hard use and it keeps bringing up Wifi connections in the middle of writing an sms, etc.

Hello

December 29, 2008 10:39 PM

if u turn it horizontal(txting) well a keyboard come up?

Mark4strom

March 17, 2009 11:58 PM

I've had my diamond for three months and I find it moderately frustrating. I have to reset it several times a day due to freeze-ups and when the phone rings in another application it's almost impossible to answer.

Jason

July 16, 2009 4:35 AM

It's slow phone, it bugs up, it hangs, and the incoming calls are dropped.
Scrolling is misrecognized as a "tap".
Battery life is awful -I had to buy 3 extra-.
Touchscreen needs a FAIR bit of force to get it recognized, AND it fails quite often. Sometimes it won't work for a day or two, sometimes for a week, then comes back to work normally.
My touchscreen is recognizing any position on screen as far-left bias, so I can't do anything- I can't send SMS, can't browse, can't type number except 1,4,7. Can't open menu's to save number or copy/edit. Literally it's broken, except i can call/receive calls using the send button and directional buttons around the circle.
It's a terrible phone. Shame that I was a HTC fan.

sams

August 28, 2009 5:24 PM

I have had a diamond for 2 months im on my 3rd phone it payns me i love wm but i to have had prob. been using wm for 3 years now they seem to have alot of prob. i have certin things i want my phone to do a bult in gps is a must and alot more i want a phone that will do what it says not almost what it says i love htc but i will not get another one unil they get pic. txt.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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