Smart phones Touch, Shadow no iPhone rivals

first_imgNEW YORK – If you reach too far, you can lose your balance and fall on your face. That’s what happened with the design process for the “Touch by HTC,” one of the smart phones fighting for our attention this holiday season in a field that has been both energized and shaken up by Apple Inc.’s iPhone. The $249 Touch, carried by Sprint Nextel Corp., overreaches badly in trying to be a touch-screen phone – controlled by the user’s fingers on the screen – just like the iPhone. The resulting mess is the worst phone I’ve tried in the last few years. Oddly enough, T-Mobile USA just introduced another phone made by High Tech Computer Corp., the Taiwanese company that makes the Touch, and it’s a diametrically different approach. The $149 Shadow is conservative and restrained. It’s a good phone, if not a home run. The Shadow may be T-Mobile’s answer, but it doesn’t have a touch screen at all – it’s a “slider.” Pushing up the screen reveals 20 keys, with two letters to a key rather than the three on a regular phone. That speeds up typing a bit, but can be difficult to get used to. Like the Touch, the Shadow is light, handsome and has a relatively large, 2.6-inch screen. Its main control is a wheel that rotates to scroll and can be clicked four ways too. The interface is relatively simple and uncluttered. It’s more responsive than the Touch but can be sluggish now and then. T-Mobile lacks a fast data network, but the Shadow makes up for it in part by having built-in Wi-Fi. That means you can surf the Web without springing for a $20-a-month data plan, at least if you’re in a hotspot.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre The difference in results is even stranger when you consider that both phones run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile software, though somewhat different versions. The version in the Touch is designed to be used with a stylus. HTC has tried to make it finger-friendly, but it just doesn’t work. Scroll bars and menu items are too narrow to hit with a finger. You’re supposed to be able to scroll with a flick of the finger across the screen instead of the scroll bar, but it doesn’t work in all windows. The finger-typing keyboard that pops up obscures the fields you’re trying to type in. Luckily, the Touch has a stylus, though it’s a stubby little thing. Once I stopped trying to use the touch features and went with the stylus, my experience improved. For a moment, I considered retracting my “worst phone” judgment. The Touch crams a lot of features in a light and small package. The 2.8-inch screen isn’t as big as the iPhone’s but it’s big enough to enjoy movies. It isn’t cluttered with buttons, yet it does e-mail and Web browsing on a fast data network. It synchronizes calendar and contact data with Microsoft Outlook. You can watch Sprint’s mobile TV on it. last_img

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