HTC HD2 £499

6th Nov 2009 | 16:19

HTC HD2

Could a Windows Mobile phone actually challenge the iPhone?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

A brilliant effort from HTC that almost completely hides the fact it's based on Windows Mobile. However, at 4.3 inches the screen is likely to put off a lot of users.

Like:

Responsive touchscreen; Fast processor; Decent range of media playback options; Dual LED flash for the camera; Sense integration into Windows Mobile

Dislike:

Screen is far too big for some; Messaging is fiddly; Phone can still slow down on the odd occasion; Opera doesn't support Flash playback; Poor camera

HTC HD2: Overview, design and feel

The HTC HD2 is the world's first Windows Mobile-toting phone with a capacitive screen, and also packs the world's largest mobile phone display too.

It's also the first WinMo phone to use HTC's Sense UI, previously used on the company's Android handsets, bringing with it Facebook integration and direct Twitter access, as well as masking well the operating system beneath it.

Running Windows Mobile 6.5, it certainly makes use of the all the good bits of the upgrade, but HTC decides to do its own thing on around 95 per cent of the HD2.

The first thing that most people will notice when picking up the HTC HD2 is the sheer size of the screen, which is justified when you realise it's a whopping 4.3-incher.

The screen dominates the whole front of the phone, reaching very close to the edges on either side and only leaving room for a speaker at the top and buttons at the bottom, meaning it's a very nice tablet-style look.

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The buttons on the front of the HD2 look like brushed metal, and are nicely rounded and raised, making them easy to hit. There's the usual suspects on offer, with the call and terminate keys flanking the home, back and Windows buttons.

Other than that, there's very little else on the HD2 button-wise. On the left-hand side, around half way up, there's a volume up/down key, which is flush to the chassis. This is actually a little hard to hit at times, as it's difficult to find it when not looking.

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The bottom of the phone houses the microUSB slot for charging and PC connection, along with the 3.5mm headphone jack. It's an odd place to put this pair, with the common option being at the top or in the top corners, and it means a headphone jack can sometimes get caught up in the pocket.

It's also hard to text in portrait mode when listening to music – we know that sounds like a pretty niche situation, but as the multimedia aspects of the HD2 have also been upgraded, this is important.

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The rear of the phone is also pretty minimal as well – apart from the camera (with dual LED flash) there's very little else to look at. It takes a while to work out how to get the battery cover off as well, with a slight groove on the right-hand side needing to be pulled pretty hard to remove it.

The battery looks pretty small, although that's probably just to do with the scale of the HD2. It basically holds in the SIM card and nothing much else, with the microSD card slot sitting away from it, making hot swapping possible.

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The other noteworthy aspect when picking it up for the first time is the weight of the phone - it's just 157g with battery, which is pretty darn light for a phone this size.

The camera protrudes slightly at the back, which can get in the way of holding it, but this is a minimal problem as you swiftly learn to shift it to a more comfortable position.

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The phone is curved nicely on the back, meaning it sits well in the palm. And despite the huge screen size, it's actually not that hard for the average (admittedly male) palm to navigate to all the important areas of the screen, with the thumb easily called into action to hit the upper levels.

In the box

Keeping with HTC tradition, the box is a slim design featuring just the basic components. This means a microUSB lead, an adaptor to let you plug said lead into the wall, a pair of headphones that double as a (pretty cool with remote control for the music player) hands-free kit, and of course the phone itself.

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We're not too sure we like the fact we only get one USB lead that doubles as both the charger and the computer connector, but with the polar bears in trouble the way they are, it's only fair we all do our bit.

However, we do like the lack of CD in the box for software, with that being either available on the phone or downloadable from the HTC website.

HTC HD2: Interface

We're big fans of HTC's TouchFLO 3D interface on previous Windows Mobile 6.1 phones – we're also huge fans of the Sense UI used on the later HTC Android models.

So you can imagine why we're pretty excited about the new interface on the HTC HD2 – it may be dubbed as 'Sense' by the company, but it's really a fusion between that and TouchFLO.

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This means that we're getting the huge clock on the home screen, the slider bar at the bottom for different application widgets, as well as Facebook integration and Peep, the easy-to-use Twitter client that sits on the home screen.

It's not the same as the Android iteration, which offers more home screens with a greater degree of customisation, but there's a lot to love right out the box.

The main home screen also makes good use of the huge screen, offering not only the time and date, but also the weather in a smaller icon, any alarms and upcoming appointments, as well as three quick links to any contact, application or internet bookmark on the phone.

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And if you want any more of these latter options, simply slide the clock upwards and it will disappear, giving you six more 'favourite' slots to play with.

And one of the cool things about the weather widget, both on the home screen and on its own little widget display, is it will update your location by aGPS and therefore tell you the weather where you are. While this was an option on previous phones, it now extends to full screen – if it's cloudy, the whole screen will fog up rather than just a small portion.

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Other home screen widgets have been overhauled too – the likes of the music player has been given a more slick veneer with easier to hit buttons and easier to scroll through covers.

Weather is much more expansive visually as we've mentioned and, in keeping with the new Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade, contacts are given their own 'favourite' slot on the People screen, complete with Facebook profile picture.

The addition of Twitter and Footprints to the widget bar is very much a new idea in keeping with the HTC Sense overlay, and offer nice options beyond what's been given on previous WinMo 6.1 versions of HTC's phones.

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Of course, you can simply head through the menus to change which widgets you use each day – we got rid of the 'fun but pointless' Footprints and the Stocks option too – let's face it, if HTC's stock goes up and down, there's only so much interest we have on the subject.

As we mentioned earlier, the HTC HD2 is the first Windows Mobile phone to use a capacitive screen, and boy, does it make things better.

It's quickly noticeable that this is, by far, the best touchscreen on any Windows Mobile device thus far, with everything responding to touches in an iPhone-like manner, much as we've come to expect from HTC with its Android range.

This means that, coupled with the powerful Snapdragon processor, the phone just whips along under the touch, with barely any slow down.

You can scroll through the bottom widget bar of the HD2, accessing elements like the calendar, Twitter and the music/media player and get to where you want to quickly without judder. On previous HTC models the slowing down of the UI often meant that you would accidentally hit the wrong icon, but thankfully that's not the case here.

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We're not saying the HD2 is completely devoid of all juddering, for instance when scrolling through messages the phone will start to slow down a little, but its miles better than most smartphones on the market.

Little touches like being able to flick through messages from the home screen or change tracks by looking through cover artwork have been present on WinMo HTC phones before, but trust us when we say that using the capacitive screen makes these much, much better than before.

The only gripe would be that the screen is perhaps too sensitive – flicking through anything often results in accidentally opening up that picture or message or whatever – and that's pretty annoying.

And the screen is not just a magnet for fingerprints – it seems to create them itself at times, with ugly smears appearing even when you could swear you haven't even looked at the phone in a while.

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And while we're on gripes – we must never forget the HD2 is built on Windows Mobile, and while this is the most comprehensive skinning of that OS, it's still there, lurking in the background to jump up and annoy the hell out of us.

Before any Microsoft fans jump up and label us WinMo haters, we're very much not; but it's almost impossible to defend some elements of the OS.

Things like the file explorer, which require the most minute of touches to navigate through the endless layers of stuff to get to the bit you want, all laid out in a horrid blocky style.

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Messaging, with its stupidly over-sensitive keys and weird layout, coupled with the annoying method of inputting contacts' names – it's all irritating and still there (although HTC has managed to smooth it out, make the menus more rounded and easier to hit, thus removing the amount of times we wanted to throw the phone on the floor quite considerably).

But the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses - things like holding the screen to call up menus that open with a slick animation, copy and paste available from one finger, all of these elements make for a much more complete and intuitive experience.

HTC HD2: Calling and contacts

With a phone as big as the HTC HD2, it's easy to forget that it's actually supposed to be able to make calls and stuff too – luckily it does that fairly well.

The call quality is pretty good, if not as loud as you might hope, and the speaker is a little tinny at times – get a connection to someone in a loud place or just a friend with an annoyingly high voice and distortion does creep in.

But on the plus side, you don't have to have to spend three or four seconds shifting the phone around your ear to find the only point where you can actually hear out of it, a la the iPhone for instance.

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Coverage, for calling at least, is excellent – on our train route home (an excellent test bed, as it has areas of strong HSDPA coverage as well as total blank spots) we were able to maintain a call practically the whole way, except for one drop (which no phone has ever surmounted).

However, if you wanted to do the same with data, it's a different story, as the phone will default to GPRS pretty quickly, and won't jump into 3G without first making sure you DEFINITELY don't want the slower connection. No, we don't – just give us the faster speeds please.

This may be more Windows Mobile than HTC as a flaw, as we've seen it on a few other Microsoft-powered devices, but it's still frustrating.

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The contacts listing does go some way to making life a little bit better though – the sheer volume of useful information you can squeeze in there makes it worthwhile.

The reason this is true more so than any other phone is that you've got a two pronged approach – there's the threaded correspondence through text, as well as any emails you may have received from that person.

Seeing as most people will only email through their work accounts, only Windows Mobile and BlackBerry users are going to find adding someone's work email address into their contact profile any use.

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But with the Sense UI thrown in as well, you get the chance to add a Facebook contact to the mix as well. This means profile picture and status (which you can get on BlackBerry Connect, of course), but also the option to see photo albums on the phone as if they were pictures taken yourself.

Well, in theory that's the case anyway – on our HD2 handset this option didn't work at all, with each picture we tried to access coming up with a 'No Entry' sign for some reason.

The HD2 also sometimes struggles to keep the contact up to date with Facebook information as well, with the status updates sometimes disappearing from view.

If you're only interested in doing one thing with some contacts (ie emailing or calling... not anything rude like that) then you can add them to the quick contacts list on the 'People' tab of the home screen bar. You set a function to go with that picture, be it calling or texting, and every time you hit that person, the phone will perform the required action.

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There are actually loads of ways to communicate within the HD2, from calling within an email message to smart dialling their number from the virtual keypad.

While the Facebook integration needs a bit of a fix, when it does start working then the HD2 will be a very comprehensive communication tool.

(Oh, and a small note – don't have the ringer volume up full blast and leave the phone on a table, as when it rings it will make you jump so much that you may have some sort of heart problem).

HTC HD2: Messaging

While contacts and calling was comprehensive on the HTC HD2, messaging is probably just that little bit more so.

The options for sending someone a message are plentiful – we're talking multiple email accounts, Twitter conversations direct on the phone, threaded texting to name but a few.

However, it's worth pointing out that while the HD2 has an excellent amount of messaging options, it still has to manage all of this through Windows Mobile, which unfortunately still means the terrible messaging interface.

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To HTC's credit the screen when trying to type a message is a little bit easier to navigate thanks to the larger screen and the more sensitive touch display, but it's still a bit fiddly to work.

The early 2000-esque visuals don't help things at all, and trying to move the screen around or enter a new name is a nightmare. Don't get us wrong, we can see the raw power of Windows Mobile when we're using it, such as typing a name and then being able to search for it in the company database, but having to hit the right sections exactly just seems a bit fiddly. Other phones do this a whole lot better and it still just beggars belief that Microsoft simply hasn't managed to sort out its UI yet.

And an interesting problem thrown up by the touchscreen on the HD2 – it's actually too sensitive at times. When typing out a message, especially when the phone is in portrait mode, it's far too easy to hit the send button at the bottom (below the oft-used comma key) and then your message is delivered without an option to stop it.

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What's nice about messaging on the HTC HD2 over other Windows Mobile phones is that it's nicely compartmentalised when you need it to be, but does come together to provide unified notifications too.

For instance, if you want to Tweet someone you can do so within HTC Peep (the dedicated client on the phone) right from the Twitter tab on the home screen. But when you have push email turned on, it will aggregate any unread text messages and missed calls and calendar updates into the notifications bar at the top so you're not overloaded with updates.

The line between Android and Windows Mobile really is starting to blur on the HD2, with so many more gesture related options than before (although we acknowledge there were some put into WinMo already).

It's still very much not optimised as yet though, as scrolling through emails on the phone is a laborious and slow process. For instance, there's no way to mark all the emails as read when you scroll through the previews on the home screen tab, meaning you have to open up the inbox and either delete or head through a mountain of menus to get rid of the notification telling you you have unread email.

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But the little touches like packing a massive 'call this person' button with each email (providing they're in your phone book) makes us feel a lot more connected than before, and show that, like the iPhone and Android offerings, mobiles are converging not only on technology but also as more complete and integrated ecosystems too.

We also love that you can combine up to 10 email accounts onto the same device - this can be through Exchange, POP3, IMAP - you name it and the HD2 can suck it down and show you it in glorious black and white lettering.

However, we are still annoyed that you can't send a message or Tweet to someone direct from the contact menu – it seems like such an easy win when you've integrated photos and statuses already, and has already been shown to be possible with the Motorola Dext.

HTC HD2: Internet

Internet on the HTC HD2 is an interesting situation – there are actually two browsers baked right into the phone, Internet Explorer and Opera, with the option to download more like the alpha release of the first Firefox Mobile browser.

But while Opera is the default browser for all internet-related elements on the phone, when entering the Windows Mobile applications menu Internet Explorer is right at the top, and Opera is all the way at the bottom of the list.

And the difference between the two is pretty major as well – IE will support Flash video but not multi-touch browsing, and Opera vice versa.

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We preferred using Opera for internet usage on the HD2, but we'll quickly talk through the highlights of IE.

The main advantage, as we just mentioned, is the ability to watch Flash video on your mobile (which HTC has already shown as possible on the Hero).

However, while some sites will let you watch web videos, a great number of others won't. The greatest duality is shown on the BBC main site – BBC iPlayer will play but without sound and picture, and navigating there took ages.

The BBC sports site led to a better experience – video turned up on cue and played smoothly. However, don't expect to do anything else while watching it, such as making it full screen or zooming in, as this will just bring the phone to a grinding halt.

IE also has some other bugs beyond Flash video – for instance it's slow to load web pages even over Wi-Fi (it felt more like dial up than anything else) and the only ways to zoom in and out are either to tap and wait, or call up the zoom bar, neither of which are that intuitive.

That said, it did respond well under the finger when moving around web pages, and the easy-to-hit menu icons certainly are an improvement (and should be the way Microsoft goes about everything while it's developing Windows Mobile 7).

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Opera is a much more intuitive experience though, and that's the reason we're glad it's the default browser.

It's a lot more basic, with limited functionality compared to IE, but we like that for browsing. Using it over 3G is quick, and over Wi-Fi it easily keeps up with (and often outstrips) the iPhone in terms of page rendering.

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The only advanced feature the Opera browser has is the ability to save pages to read back later without needing to connect, but that's used on so many phones (even non-smart ones) that it's not necessarily a headline grabbing feature any more.

You can add favourite bookmark icons to the internet tab on the phone, which also makes it easier to head to your favourite sites. However, there's no push internet system here, as we've seen on previous Windows Mobile phones from HTC, so there was no automatically updated content to view when out of signal.

And of course, we can't help but enjoy multi-touch on a decent capacitive screen – every time we play with it we have to tip our hat to the iPhone for bringing an experience this good over two and a half years ago.

Overall, internet browsing on the HD2 was a really pleasant experience. The sheer wealth of options on offer made it a decent proposition, and while both Opera and Internet Explorer have some slight niggles both are perfectly adequate mobile browsers – it just depends what you like from one.

HTC HD2: Camera

The camera on the HTC HD2 is probably the best the company has whacked on to any of its models thus far.

Sadly, that's not saying much, as some efforts from the brand have been truly awful, clearly a low priority in the design stages, but the hardware on the HD2 isn't too shabby at all.

The main problem is there isn't a camera button on the phone – this means manually having to either trawl through the Windows menu to open up the camera, or using the Photos and Videos tab and hitting the camera icon.

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If you're intending to quickly capture a picture of a duck struggling to swallow a fish before it's dragged under the water, this probably isn't the phone for you.

However, the camera isn't the worst of its kind in the world, offering not only a variety of photography options and tools, but also taking some half decent pictures.

The odd thing is that while the camera is 5MP, there's no option to take pictures at a lower resolution (apart from for a contact picture, but that's tiny). Panorama mode stitches together a number of pictures to make a full horizon vista, but we're starting to wonder if this is more of a fad than anything else.

The dual flash LED is a first for HTC as well, and helps in lower light conditions (obviously).

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Well, it not only helps but were you in some kind of mortal danger against the legions of darkness you could probably win with the war with the HD2, such is the brightness of the flash.

One of the cool features to come with the HD2's camera is touch focus. We've seen this on high-end camera phones from Samsung, such as the Pixon12, but it's the first time we've played with it on an HTC model.

It basically means you can press a portion of the screen, and the phone will focus in on it and take a phone for you. Given the absence of a dedicated camera button, it's touches like this that make the camera more usable.

You can alter elements like the effects used, such as Negative or Sepia, and also the ISO settings range from 100 through to 800, with auto mode engaged by default.

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The white balance is pretty comprehensive too, with brightness also an option. In short, there are enough options here for the moderately knowledgeable photographer to get his teeth into.

Picture quality is only OK, perhaps a bit sharper with the flash (which may be because the light is so bright it actually hacks the edges off things).

Here's a selection of photos to show of the HTC HD2's photography prowess:

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PHOTO SAMPLE: General image quality is OK, although detail is a little fuzzy

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PHOTO SAMPLE: The camera on the HD2 handles bright light well, capturing a lot of detail from the sky

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PHOTO SAMPLE: While close focusing is decent, colour reproduction is not

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PHOTO SAMPLE: The touch to focus option is a nice touch, meaning you can choose the photo's subject

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PHOTO SAMPLE: As you can see, the dual LED flash is brighter than the sun itself, and only when you move around two metres back can any detail be made out on objects. Note: you will likely blind (and lose) friends

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Shutter time is a bit more of an issue, with it taking between 1-2 seconds to take a snap once the on-screen button is pressed, depending on how much the HD2 has to focus. The constantly updating autofocus mode is nice, but it does hamper speed somewhat.

Video is also pretty good on the HD2, with VGA recording in MP4 the default offering.

We can't find out the specs on frame rate, but after testing it we'd imagine it's somewhere around 15-24 frames per second, which isn't too bad. It's not going to be good enough for the silver screen, but it is perfectly adequate for a day at the beach.

Video also has a pleasing array of options - you can change the resolution or file format to MP4/H.263, and there's also the option to record film applicable to an MMS message.

HTC HD2: Media

One of the criticisms laid at the feet of Windows Mobile over the years is the lack of perceived interest in making phones running its OS compelling PMPs too, and that's again something HTC's been working on improving.

And it has finally managed to offer a solution with the HD2 that means you really can drop Windows Media Player altogether if you so wish. You might find you want to use it as a good place to find all your media aggregated together, but it's still got the finger unfriendly interface as before.

We're stumped as to why Microsoft thinks lists are a good idea for touchscreen phones, as it renders them very hard to use in reality.

Music

The music player has been overhauled somewhat for the HD2, with the Snapdragon processor helping things out admirably.

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It should be noted first that when we got the HD2 out of the box and played with it for around 12 hours, the music player started to play up really badly. Songs would begin skipping forward at a ludicrous rate, and the only way to halt the process was to pause and rewind (if you caught it in time).

Then as quickly as this problem started, it was over, and never to be seen again. We're not sure if it was a normal firmware problem, or a glitch in the Matrix, but if you experience it too, please let us know and we'll have a quiet word in HTC's ear.

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That aside, the music player is excellent on the HD2. The large screen, combined with the large buttons and slick cover flow solutions, mean this could easily replace your current MP3 player.

Turning the phone on its side puts the normal music tab (with covers available to flick through) into an iPod-like Coverflow situation - but unlike other non-iPhone mobiles, there's not even a hint of slowdown here, making it a breeze to scroll through your album covers.

If your music isn't showing the correct album art, there's a link to Gracenote on the application, which lets you update the covers with the correct picture.

One interesting anomaly - when using the phone in music shuffle mode, when in portrait the covers randomly re-queue themselves into a new order. However, when you spin the HD2 into landscape mode, the covers head back into alphabetical order and won't show you which song is playing, meaning if you don't know it you'll be stumped.

However, in our opinion music sounded pretty good on the phone, and the equaliser with a huge range of options also helped smooth out ragged sounding tunes too.

Video

With a 4.3-inch screen, you have to expect video to be sublime on it. However, while the playback was smooth and pleasant to watch, it didn't pack the 'wow' factor of other mobile phones.

Were it to use an OLED rather than the TFT LCD on offer, then perhaps things would be a little bit different.

Don't get us wrong, the video looks great on the HD2, it's just we've seen better and we were hoping with a screen this large video would have been phenomenal, rather than just pretty good.

That said, the WVGA screen is always going to look lower-res than phones with a screen 1.2-inches smaller, so it's hard to make a real impression.

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Another gripe would be the lack of a dedicated video player, in the same way music is displayed in its own tab. Video playback is instead only possible by flicking laboriously through videos and photos mixed together, or by hitting 'Albums' twice at the bottom of the phone, which takes time and throws you into the hell of Windows Mobile File Explorer.

And there's no function to make a video playlist in the normal mode either, so if you're looking to cue one after the other then you'll need to head back into Windows Media Player to do so (although we doubt that will be an oft-used function for most people).

But once again, the touchscreen makes video watching a breeze - especially skipping forwards and backwards on the slider bar, with an unnerving degree of accuracy for finding where you want to go.

Photos

As mentioned above, photos and videos are all lumped together in the 'Photos and Videos' tab (who would have guessed that?), and the way to look through them from the home screen is to simply flick upwards, which can be rather slow.

You can also single tap the photo to open it into landscape mode, and swiping from right to left to move between pics. There is, once again, absolutely no slow down here, thanks to the high power processor, which is another plus for the HD2.

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However, the albums are arranged in that old Windows Mobile block format, so unless you want to mess with the settings it's not the most aesthetically pleasing layout ever created.

You can also share the messages by text or by email, and if you've linked it in, append them to your Facebook page too, all from a single icon on the gallery screen.

YouTube

Google has overhauled its YouTube application for mobile phones in recent months, and the HD2 is reaping the rewards. It's basically a more finger friendly version of YouTube Mobile, but with a whole host of other bits thrown in too.

You can take advantage of the plethora of high quality videos on the site over both 3G and Wi-Fi, with both streaming video immensely well. Adding things to and from bookmarks is as simple as touching an icon, and there's also a list of all your watched videos too.

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The main function of this application is to show off to your friends - if you're swift you can have the relevant video playing before the person finishes saying "have you seen those drunk and moonwalking Ewoks on YouTube yet?"

HTC HD2: Applications

The amount of applications on the HD2 has dwindled somewhat compared to other HTC WinMo phones, but that's no bad thing as we believe a lot of them were a bit redundant anyway.

That's not to say there aren't some 'cool but ultimately useless' apps on here, but they're less annoying than before. We'll walk you through some of the highlights, but we'll let you work out the likes of the MP3 trimmer on your own...

Google Maps

One of the problems encountered with previous HTC phones is that the GPS doesn't really work that well. Thanks to Quick GPS on the HD2, the whole thing works a lot better than before, with up to eight satellites being quickly found even when indoors (although admittedly near a window).

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Over Wi-Fi the mapping function is speedy and flawless, and while Co-Pilot is built in to the phone as a trial, we'd imagine you'd only really begin to use that if you get involved with the car GPS dock add on (sold separately).

RSS Hub

Filled with a number of RSS feeds to choose from, the annoying thing is some of them don't work. The best thing you can do is either hunt through the internet and copy and paste the RSS addresses, or you can simply copy across an OPML file from your proper RSS reader on a PC.

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However, the feeds work well and are displayed nicely in a list format (although hitting them can be a little bit tricky, as we mentioned above). It's easy to update them and is a nice addition to an already well-stocked phone.

Facebook

The Facebook application on the HD2 is the standard version developed for larger touchscreens, but with a slightly more vibrant display (bizarrely) for the Windows Mobile range.

It gives easy-to-use tabs for finding your friends, seeing photos or messages and using the application as a phonebook for all those buddies that have added their number to their profile.

You might wonder why it would be necessary to add such an application to the HD2 when it already has such tight integration with contacts, but it makes sense by providing the missing functionality.

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As we mentioned, there's no way to message your friends direct from their contact menu, and this application offers just that option. And you can call/text your friends who have added their numbers to the site, as well as write on walls, poke, view and all that stuff the kids appear to be down with these days.

Bing

Would you believe it, Microsoft has bundled its new wonder software into the mix as well, without you even needing to download it.

This means that not only do you get a search engine to rival Google, but you also get car directions, maps, local search and weather to boot.

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Again, over 3G and Wi-Fi the service works immensely well, with categories and internet links just veritably flying along the way you'd hope they would. We're still not convinced that Bing will ever overtake Google in any of these categories, but it will be interesting to see how the battle unfolds.

And should you be itching to expand the plethora of talent already available, the Windows Mobile Marketplace is just waiting to be downloaded and installed on the phone for you, giving you access to a wealth of pricey applications.

They actually all are pretty expensive, with the free ones few and far between, so we suggest you wait a little while for the developers to get cracking on this portal before you start pouring your money into it. Unless you really want 3D Monster Trucks - the Ice Escapades, in which case go right ahead.

HTC HD2: Battery life and organiser

Battery life on the HD2 is better than you'd expect from a phone with a 1230mAh battery, lasting longer than a day, but not by much.

That's not actually too bad when you consider the strain you put the phone through - a full day, every day, of push email, likely Wi-Fi being left on and a spot of internet browsing/media playback (all of which are excellent on the HD2) being used as well, and it makes sense that the battery will be given a bit of a hammering.

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It's a good job that the HD2 uses a more universal charger, as on a couple of occasions we've been left without one and luckily a number of people these days have a microUSB charger to spare. Seems the days are gone when every drawer was filled with a Nokia charger instead.

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The organiser is a dream, as you'd expect on a behemoth like Windows Mobile. The calendar is integrated nicely with the Sense UI too, so not only do you get all the important appointments displayed prominently on the lock screen, as well as obviously on the relevant calendar day, the phone will also show you the upcoming weather stats for that period too.

The calendar will sync with both Google and your Exchange server, depending on how you choose to use it, meaning it's easy to see what's coming up either from your personal or working life.

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Office Mobile is included too, with the likes of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as software for viewing PDFs as well, so you'll have no excuse when the boss asks why you haven't looked at that document yet.

On top of that, there's additional functionality such as Remote Desktop viewing through a dedicated application, and the obligatory notes and voice recording you've come to know and love on such phones.

HTC HD2: Connectivity options and PC software

The HTC HD2 is well kitted out when it comes to connectivity, as is the case with most smartphones these days.

We've already covered the marvellous improvement in GPS when using the dedicated booster program, so it's nice to see this malnourished part of the phone getting a little bit more love.

Beyond that the communications manager holds the key to letting you get connected to the outside world, using slider switches to let you turn on and off the likes of Wi-Fi and push email from Microsoft Exchange.

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Bluetooth 2.1 is supported in this release too, allowing easy pairing with Bluetooth stereo headsets. We're actually listening to streamed music from the HD2 over a pair of Jabra Halos when writing this review, and the two devices sync together automatically when turned on.

Music reproduction is great, with bass well represented, and the touchscreen is easy to use when just being tapped to change tracks.

Wi-Fi, which we've mentioned a few times throughout this review, is therefore unsurprisingly represented in the communications manager, and the connection interface has been improved again. The buttons are easier to use, the UI changed to look a bit nicer, and the phone remembered the WEP code each time the network came within range.

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And one of the best features of the HTC HD2 is the ability to make the phone function as a standalone Wi-Fi router. It's just a top feature, not least because it simply works. You can choose the WEP key you want, and the phone will broadcast the signal to anyone that wants it.

It's obviously in P2P computer mode, meaning that some people might baulk at using it (as that's usually the form for virus transmission). But we were so impressed with how the router software worked, and how quickly it managed to stream things like YouTube as well.

We wouldn't recommend doing such a thing regularly unless you want angry emails from your network asking you why your data consumption has gone up so much suddenly, breaking your 'unlimited' limit.

Of course, such practices have been going on for some time when tethering a Windows Mobile phone to the PC, and that's once again possible with the HTC HD2.

The later version of Windows you have, the better the PC syncing experience will be, where using Windows Vista or 7 will give access to Windows Mobile Device Centre.

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This lets you back up all your files and folders, copy any media to the relevant areas of your PC and generally make sure the phone and the computer are good buddies, as well as allowing you to add or remove programs where necessary.

Of course, you could always use Windows Mobile MyPhone, which takes things one step further and lets you back your data up to the cloud, save all your messages and find your phone when it gets lost, which is a nice option to have.

HTC HD2: Hands-on gallery

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HTC HD2: Official gallery

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HTC HD2: Verdict

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The HTC HD2 is a boldly designed phone, with a massive screen and industry leading features under the hood, all in a slim and attractive design.

And for 'only' £500, we're impressed with how much technology was actually on offer. When you consider the Samsung Pixon12 still costs the same to buy from some online retailers, you can see how much of a better proposition this is.

We liked

There's just so much to like we could practically double the word count listing it all right here. The screen is large, bright and responsive, the phone can handle media better than most other handsets out there, and the sheer power of Windows Mobile is highlighted in the best way possible.

Add in the Sense UI giving us direct access to a number of social networking aspects, and the uber-cool ability to turn it into a Wi-Fi router on command, and you can see why it's worth getting excited if there's a sniff of a chance the company might give you this phone as your corporate device.

We disliked

Ah, but there's invariably a downside. Usually this would be the place where all the problems of Windows Mobile would be laid bare, but no other company has done a better job of hiding its faults than HTC with the HD2.

However, that massive screen is both a blessing and a curse. The phone isn't going to appeal to many, as although it's a slim device, it's still very handbag unfriendly, as well as easy to see through any pocket.

The messaging still needs a few more tweaks (with the occasional amount of slowdown every so often when typing at speed) as well as the annoying positioning of the send key.

Video could be made a bigger deal of in the phone too, given the huge screen, and that's something HTC could perhaps fix with a future firmware update.

Verdict

The HTC HD2 smashes past the iPhone in terms of raw processing speed and the ability to handle Flash video.

It dwarfs the Hero with a more responsive screen and its Wi-Fi routing ability too, and is far better than anything Samsung, LG or Nokia have come up with so far.

That said, the phone is still built on an inherently iffy OS, and there are times when that problem rears its head and snorts fire into your hand (metaphorically... that would be a health hazard otherwise).

We so desperately want to give the phone 4.5 stars to rank it alongside the likes of the Hero and the iPhone 3GS, but it just falls short.

If Microsoft sorts out its Marketplace with a few more (and cheaper) apps, as well as a couple of firmware tweaks, this could easily be the phone of the year, even at this late stage.

But until then it will have to be content with being the best 'business device' on the market by a country mile.

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