HTC HD2 vs. …HTC Touch Pro – part II (software + wrapping it up)

Let’s move to software.

First of all I have to say this: Software is …erm… software. Software changes. Software is a critical factor if things cannot change, because vendor has locked things out or doesn’t care to update or user doesn’t want an unsupported device, but is next to a moot point if the user takes care of really updating their device using official or non-official paths.

I say this because TP uses Windows Mobile 6.1 with HTC TouchFlo3D 1.2 and HD2 uses Windows Phone 6.5 with HTC Sense (TouchFlo3D 2.5). Officially. Non-officially? 6.5 (and even newer build than HD2) with HTC Sense has been hacked to TP anyway.

This won’t stop is from comparing the too, just to see how things progressed.

  • OS
    • HD2:  Windows Phone 6.5 – v5.2.21864.5.0.81
    • TP: Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 – v5.2.20764.1.4.3

Well the difference is obvious (market name change) or not so obvious (build version) depending on how you see things. In practice I have to agree with the people who yell that 6.5 is half baked, but I have to disagree that it sucks so much.  WP is by far the most enterprise-enabled mobile OS available. As simple as that. Yes you can make “nicer” phones with iPhone (supposed-)OSX or Android. You don’t have the underlying power though. Plus it is very interesting how “Microsoft-monopoly” actually gives us the MOST open platform of them all. iPhone is not open at all. Even the hardware platform is closed. Android is supposedly open, yet, everything spins around Google core applications… Yeah right. In any case I am not looking to open the debate that has opened thousands of times already over the Net.
Half baked isn’t ignored easily though. For example someone will immediately notice the stupid way of sorting icons in “honeycomb”… “move to top” or “move down”? And this was released? Oh come on! (I know that newer builds now work as iPhone icon sorting)
Note that both HD2 and TP already have “cooked” ROMs with the latest 6.5 builds which differ quite much from the current official build. They name them 6.5.X (like 6.5.3), but personally would name the latest ones easily 6.6. That aside, HD2 hardware is more capable of lifting the weight of a Microsoft OS than TP. Sad, but a fact.

  • Front End
    • HD2: HTC Sense – Manila 2.5.19202525.0
    •  TP: HTC TouchFlo 3D – Manila 1.2.35845.1_1813.6

When Diamond (and soon later TP) came up with TouchFlo 3D, the mobile world, wowed. There were commercial front-ends out there (SPB Phone is a notable example), but never before such a functional eye-candy. HTC had nice tricks up their sleeves with every TF3D generation, unfortunately didn’t take care to update existing models every time TF3D became better. This job was again taken over by some bright people, hacking everything in. As with the OS, you can find the latest and “bestest” (sic) on both devices, hacked by 3rd party.
Staying stock though, Sense is WAY better than TF3D. HTC managed to hide the underlying OS well (“too much” possibly in some areas) and a normal user will never need to lay hands on the OS layer. For the rest of us, as always, Sense can be bypassed easily. In fact for people that haven’t worked with 6.5 yet, even the 6.5 new “today” can by bypasses and people can get back to the oldie-but-goody classic today screen (with the plug-ins etc.).
I won’t talk about how snappier Sense is from TF3D, because we have big hardware difference and newer OS. Will comment on this comparison if/when I upgrade my TP to 6.5+Sense.
Original TF3D although looked nice (to some, even better than Sense), lacked some vital details (for example calendar). Sense does much better (but still far from perfect).
Sense does a GREAT job integrating socialization in the interface. You can link your contacts with their Facebook account and missing info (including their photos) update missing info in their local contact card. You can even see what they are doing, history (mail/SMS/call) centered on each contact etc. There is also Twitter.

  • Included software

Except the newer versions of everything (like new Office Mobile), HD2 has shortcuts for many of the new Sense functions, easily accessing them from the Start menu (which is not a menu any more in 6.5). Other notable inclusions are WorldCard Mobile (business card scanner) like in TP, MS Marketplace and Facebook and a Twitter app. Also Digital Compass, a demo of CoPilot (that eats up all the included 2GB microSD and is the first thing that gets deleted), Google Maps (multitouch enabled like everything included in the stock device). Things missing that ARE in TP? Notably ANY voice-dial app (why?) and a backup solution (WHY!?).

  • Overall Experience

Well this is the “juice”. The greatest change is of course capacitive screen and NO stylus (yet – it is said they are about to sell a special one as extra). A seasoned WM user will immediately argue that a finger cannot do what a stylus can do and will be 100% correct. Older apps suffer, although the big screen makes things a bit better. Apps that need detailed pointing (remote desktop apps, painting etc.) suffer. Games suffer, esp. the older ones that need buttons (those suffer also on TP) and cursor control. I really don’t think it was time yet.
On the other hand, someone HAD to push devs to think about being more thumb friendly anyway. A trend that started with iPhone, many WM apps were already finger friendly, but now if they want to stay current they HAVE to be.
In fact this hard “push” had worked the other way too. I find myself using my TP less and less with the stylus! I take the stylus out only when absolutely needed. Before, it was my first move (this is why TP has a stylus sensor that wakes the device when stylus comes out).
HD2 feels WAY WAY snappier.
HD2 GPS feels 1000 times better. I opened iGO8 (same version, same map and larger skin on HD2) at the same time in both devices… didn’t clock it, but HD2 opened in less than 10 seconds, while TP took almost 30! In fact HD2 got (CORRECT) GPS signal BEFORE TP iGO8 even opened! TP opened iGO8 and then took almost a minute to get some signal (maybe more, as I said I didn’t clock it).
What is bad? We have to wait for apps/games to really update. I have about 500 apps/games in my TP. Remember TP was “picky” esp. with games already. Think how “picky” HD2 is.

So, is HD2 a step forward? By all means yes.
Is HD2 missing things that could be important to some? Definitely yes.
If I had to choose one, which one would I keep? Hard choice today 1st of December 2009. HD2 is clearly the new kid on the block with all the modern bling bling. TP is far from outdated though and much much more compatible with software of today. It even has hardware that got eliminated with HD2 (not talking just for the keyboard). This potentially becomes more difficult by the fact that I will hack 6.5 and Sense in my TP. Yet… HD2 is indeed a more smoothed-out experience. People that want less “fight” with their smartphones and more “just do it”, should definitely go with HD2 (although I still hear some whiners coming from iPhone camp).
If you ask me, HD2 is currently the Best Smartphone on Planet Earth as of October 2009.
Long Live the King (until he dies and we happily crown a new one).

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