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Home / Review Center / Cell phones / Business smartphones
HTC HD2 reviewBy Philip Berne, Sunday 22 November 2009
GALLERY
HTC HD2
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HTC's biggest touchscreen phone runs Windows Mobile under HTC's Sense concept. Check it out in our HTC HD2 review.

Review summary of the HTC HD2:
Scoreboard       Features       Side-by-side       Gallery
HTC HD2 With its massive, high resolution screen and the polished HTC Sense interface running, the HTC HD2 is clearly gunning for top billing in the smartphone world. It represents the best that HTC can accomplish, and HTC makes the best smartphones on the market right now (to check out reviews of our favorites, click here), with one possible exception. Outside and in, the phone is packed with innovative features and great performance, including some things we've never seen before, like Wi-Fi network sharing and the blazing, battery hogging Snapdragon 1GHz processor. If you're thinking of importing this phone, beware its limitations, like the lack of U.S. 3G support and onboard Instant Messaging apps. Plus, while HTC's TouchFLO 3D hides Windows Mobile as much as any phone can, we still prefer the HTC Sense concept on Android devices like the HTC Hero and Droid Eris, where you get far more customization options and active homescreen widgets. That large screen simply dominates the HD2 experience, and it's great for watching videos and daily use if you spend a lot of time staring at your mobile. Windows Mobile doesn't quite seem ready to handle the capacitive touch technology, and some links in the Web browser or Twitter app were unresponsive as we tapped away, but for the most part using the HD2 was lots of fun, and it was even better for keeping tabs and getting work done. If the phone fits your network, your budget and your hands, pick one up, it's a definite pleaser. Release: November 2009. Price: $800.
Pros: Huge, capacitive touch display. Innovative features, like Wi-Fi network sharing and deep GPS integration. Fantastic interface, especially for Windows Mobile.
Cons: Windows Mobile isn't ready for capacitive touch, gave us trouble in Web browser and other apps. Lacks IM clients on board. Carry a spare battery.
Poor
Mediocre
Good
79%
VERY GOOD
Excellent
Full HTC HD2 Review:
Look and Feel Very Good

The HTC HD2 is more than just a huge slab of phone. Even though it uses a larger screen than the competing Toshiba TG01, which packs the same speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset running at 1GHz, it's more comfortable in the hand, thanks to the somewhat trapezoidal shape that angle the edges to better fit your hand. More importantly, though, HTC has refined their TouchFLO 3D interface on top of Windows Mobile to the point that you really have to work hard to find Microsoft's mobile OS beneath. HTC calls this an HTC Sense phone, but we don't think it deserves the title, as the Android Sense devices have all allowed a far deeper level of customization and personalization, but that's more a function of the Android OS than a failure on HTC's part. For most people, the HTC Sense UI on the HTC HD2 will be good enough, if not great, and to customize there are shortcuts and buttons hidden throughout the phone's tabbed main menu screens.

The huge, 4.3-inch screen is the first capacitive touch screen we've seen on a Windows Phone, but we wonder if Windows Mobile is ready for the task. You can pinch and zoom the 800 by 480 pixel display, and this gesture works in unexpected places, helping you zoom in not only on pictures and Web pages, but also on some text-based apps, like the Adobe Reader. Unfortunately, there were plenty of times when we tapped a link in the Opera Mobile browser or in Peep, HTC's Twitter app, and nothing happened. Sometimes we'd type a letter on the keyboard, but the sensitive capacitive screen, which uses static instead of pressure, would register the wrong key as our finger lightly brushed over it. Even so, if the idea of a large screen appeals to you, the HTC HD2 made everything easier to read, easier to view for long periods and easier to use. We're fans of a large tablet concept, and the HD2 satisfied our big screen desires.

Calling Very Good

Though our unlocked HTC HD2 review unit was made for European cell networks, it comes with a Quad Band GSM radio, so it will function just fine on AT&T or T-Mobile, at least for calling and slower EDGE data networking. We tried both U.S. networks and found performance to be about equal in terms of call quality and reception. Calls over EDGE networks usually don't sound as good as calls on HSDPA, the so-called 3G networks, and this was the case for the HTC HD2 as well. Our calls had continuous static on our end, even when reception was strong. Things sounded better for our callers, though, and they reported only a mildly distant sound, but no other problems. For battery life, we managed to get just over 6 hours of talk time out of the device, which sounds good at first, but on a 3G network this lifespan will take a serious hit. We wish HTC had packed a higher capacity battery into this huge device.

For calling features, the HTC HD2 is missing a couple basics, but it also comes with a few nice touches. There's no voice dialing on this phone, which is a serious omission, especially on a touchscreen device. We love voice dialing if we have to dial while driving. The phone is also missing visual voicemail, though usually this is a carrier-specific feature, so perhaps it will be added if a U.S. carrier starts selling this phone (T-Mobile is the front-runner in current rumors). The speakerphone was nice and loud and quite clear for calling, though we wish the phone automatically activated the speaker when we flip it over, like the Verizon Wireless MiFi.

Beyond those stellar features, the HTC HD2 also has a few accessory apps, with plenty more available for download from the Microsoft App Marketplace. There's WorldCard, which is a business card scanner app. This worked pretty well, about 70% accurate in our tests, which is still easier than entering 100% of that info by hand. There's also a dedicated tab in the TouchFLO 3D interface for keeping tabs on the stock market.

Social Networking Very Good

The HTC HD2 isn't the most social phone around out of the box, but for the features it does include, it does a nice job. We used the Windows Mobile Facebook app with the phone, and Facebook integration on the HD2 is fairly deep. Besides using the app to check in on your friends, you can also link their profiles to your contact list and you can browse Facebook photo galleries from within the photo gallery app. It was easy to upload our own pics directly from the photo viewer to Facebook. The phone also comes with a Twitter app, Peep by HTC. That's a necessary addition, since Windows Mobile is still light on great Twitter options. Peep had some nice features. You can send tweets and read your Twitter feed, and you can also upload photos or your GPS location directly from the device. We had trouble opening other people's photos and links in Peep, the screen wasn't very responsive when we tried to tap on URLs in tweets. We'd also like to see photos open within the Peep app, instead of the Opera Mobile browser.

For text messaging, the HTC HD2 also presents an attractive message viewer that was easy to use. We could read entire conversations at once thanks to the threaded messaging style, and even MMS messages came through with picture and video thumbnails in line with basic text messages. E-mail handling was good for Gmail, though it doesn't have all the labeling and advanced features you'll find on a Gmail app on a Google Android phone. Instant Messaging fans are left out on the unlocked, European version of this phone. The device only ships with MSN Messenger on board, and in the Marketplace only AIM from AOL is offered. There were no easy options to get Yahoo messenger or Google Talk on this device, and not even a paid option in the marketplace for a better third-party IM app.

Multimedia Very Good

For a while, we were really enjoying the multimedia experience on the HTC HD2, but then things came to a screeching halt. The music player is polished and refined, and it's the best player for music we've seen running on Windows Mobile. You can control tunes directly from the home screen, and the music Library looks polished and slick, keeping up with the TouchFLO 3D tabbed style. After a couple days using the device, however, the music player crashed completely. Songs stopped playing, our Library stopped updating and the system itself reported errors in the music player app. Unfortunately, this left us with only Windows Media Player, a music player left over from days long gone, but at least WMP worked when the HTC player crashed. We'd like to say this was an isolated incident, but we had similar problems on the unlocked HTC Touch Diamond 2, so clearly there's a bug in the system that HTC needs to address.

For movies, the HTC HD2 was capable of playing even our largest video files, including videos sized to the 800 by 480 pixel resolution of the display, which is the first time we've seen a phone capable of handling such files. Videos didn't look great at that resolution, with jagged edges and a general stuttering, but clearly that Snapdragon processor is pushing hard. Perhaps with more codec support, and DiVX comes to mind here, we'd be able to push video even harder. Some videos needed to be played in the older Windows Media Player instead of HTC's own video app, but they still looked great, even if they lacked controls and an attractive interface. If you don't mind doing some legwork encoding videos to fit the HTC HD2, that humongous screen makes a great distraction on long flights.

Camera and Photos - Good

The 5-megapixel camera in the HTC HD2 is not bad for a cameraphone, and some of the well-lit, outdoor pictures we shot were actually pretty good. It's still a disappointment for HTC's flagship device, and it was easily outclassed by better cameraphones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson and others (to check out our favorite cameraphones, click here). In our best shots, colors were bright and details were clean and mostly accurate, though the camera couldn't handle extremely bright light. That's too bad, because the dual LED flash is the brightest we've ever seen on a cameraphone, almost painfully bright for self portrait shots at arms length, and these were invariably blown out. However, the camera was easily able to light up a pitch black room. Check out our image samples below:

  • Pool Side


  • Bright Flower


  • Palm Fronds


  • Clock Close Up


  • Pool Panorama


  • Self Portrait, Outdoors


  • Self Portrait, Flash Only


  • Cappucinno with Flash


  • eBay Shot


  • The HTC HD2 uses touch focus, which is a great feature for tablet style phones, but we wish the device also came with a dedicated 2-stage shutter button. Tapping the screen to take a shot is a clumsy way to take pictures. The camera also had some obvious bugs. A few times during our test run, the camera had a strikingly pink hue throughout our image. We've seen similar reports online of a pink problem, though ours went away when we restarted the camera app. The camera also did a poor job remembering our settings. It forgot our preference to store images on our microSD card, and it's a hassle to get images off of the internal memory.

    Picture viewing on the HTC HD2 was fantastic. The device makes a great portable digital photo album. You can flick pictures aside with a simple gesture, and you can pinch and zoom to see fine details on screen. It's easy to send pictures from the Gallery app to Facebook or other online sites, or send them as an e-mail or MMS message. You can even select a favorite picture album, and this will be available from the top level of the TouchFLO 3D menu screens, so you don't have to dig far to show off your favorite pics.

    Traveling Very Good

    The HTC HD2 might actually be better for travelers than for the rest of us shut-ins. Besides the fact that it's made for European 3G radio bands, the phone comes with some nice software to navigate on your trip. ALK's CoPilot Live 8 comes preloaded with a 15-day trial, and it's a very nice piece of navigation software. The maps look excellent, especially on the HTC HD2's huge display, and the app did a nice job tracking us. The GPS sensor also found us quickly for a first fix. CoPilot keeps full maps on the device so you don't need to maintain a network connection to use the app. But you do have to pick which maps you want to download first, either over the air or on your desktop for a map sync. This is a great compromise, and we loaded up just the maps for Texas, saving some space. The phone also comes with Google Maps on board, which is good for searching but not so much for navigation. Though we did have fun looking at the satellite view on Google Maps, which is very detailed on the HD2's huge display.

    Staying Informed - Good

    The HTC HD2 does a nice job keeping you informed. For reading Web sites, the HD2 comes with 2 competent Web browsers, and we even downloaded a third from the Marketplace. Internet Explorer 6 is a bit behind the times, but not a terrible browser anymore, like it was on previous versions of Windows Mobile. Opera Mobile is even better, but it wasn't perfect on this device. We could flick our way around Web pages quickly, and we definitely like having pinch and zoom capabilities on our browser. But some links weren't responsive when we tapped them, even when we zoomed in real close. Plus, the browser seemed to have trouble fitting a full page on screen at once. It always bounced back to a larger or smaller side, trailing some content off the edge. For fun, we also downloaded Skyfire from the Marketplace. Skyfire was fast and capable, but still suffered from the same click problems as the other browsers. Still, it's nice to see that Microsoft isn't stuck up like Apple, who make it more difficult to load competing technology on the Apple iPhone.

    If you're curious about the weather, there is no better phone than the HTC HD2. HTC takes their weather very, very seriously. Besides the best animated graphics for weather we've ever seen, the HD2 also automatically grabs your GPS position and updates the weather automatically. No need to open an app, the main Today screen changes to display local weather. When it rains, drops fall on the Today screen until a windshield wiper cleans them off. Coolest of all, when you look at calendar items for the next 5 days, the HTC HD2 automatically adds the weather forecast for that day to the corresponding screen. That's a level of thoughtful design we rarely see.


    Price and availability

    The HTC HD2 is only available in European and Asian markets, though savvy importers will find the phone available unlocked, without a warranty, for around $800.

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