In light of the current state of the mobile phone market, the final score of the HTC Touch Diamond 2 has been reduced from four to three stars.
Almost a year after the release of the first Touch Diamond, HTC has launched an updated version of its smartphone, which struggled to find its way in a crowded market.
With a larger screen, 5 Megapixel camera and a redesigned interface controlled entirely using the touchscreen, the Diamond Two seems to be an entirely different proposition. But is it a good smartphone? Can it help us forget the numerous problems of the first Diamond?
The Diamond 2: Smarter than its predecessor
The Diamond 2's first strength is its attractive finish. It has maintained the general feel of the first version, but includes several updates. The back has the same multi-faceted surface as the original Diamond, coated in glossy black plastic. The phone is now a few millimetres thicker, but by no means problematic.
For the outside of the phone, HTC has gone for a tried-and-tested material: grey plastic with a metallic finish, which places the phone's look halfway between the professional and consumer markets.
Elsewhere, the navigation keys, which used to be available as an alternative to the touchscreen interface, have now disappeared. All that's left are two buttons for accepting and rejecting calls and to give access to the main menu.
The same four--this time from behind
The Samsung Player HD, iPhone 3G S, HTC Touch Diamond 2 and Samsung Jet side-by-side
The same four--this time from behind
One of HTC's best innovations is a tactile zoom bar that runs across the bottom of the screen. It's very easy to use, accurate and Cand handle zooming to several different levels.
Because of its reasonable size, holding the handset in your hands is comfortable
Good news: It's not just Windows Mobile
It's not easy to hide all of Windows Mobile's faults--far from it, in fact. It's an OS that's hardly known for being lightweight, and its interface wasn't designed with touchscreen navigation in mind. This has encouraged manufacturers who use it on their handsets from creating their own software to run on top of the OS. That's exactly what HTC has done, and its TouchFlo 3D is one of the most complete virtual systems to run on top of Windows Mobile; an even bigger version will soon be available as an update. This means that the user can benefit from specially-designed applications with an attractive interface, including a customisable home screen, as well as new messaging and contacts apps. Most of the time, this means you can escape from the confusing maze designed by Microsoft. It's a lot better than the first version of the Diamond!
The Windows Mobile menu has been redesigned and is customisable
The Diamond 2 is faster
Although it's a definite benefit, the extra software layer puts an extra burden on the handset. Fortunately, the hardware is powerful enough to provide a fluid experience in most cases. It's not on the same level as the iPhone or the HTC Magic, which runs Android, and still subject to a few delays, but it's a whole lot better than the original Diamond. All of the earlier model's adolescent troubles have been resolved, software there are no more annoying crashes, for instance. Switching it on still takes too long: over 1 minute 10 seconds.
A reasonable web browser
HTC has decided to give its customers a great browser Opera Mobile 9, which is easy to use and gives a great Internet experience. Helped by the new zoom feature and the accelerometer, web surfing is pretty reasonable, but still behind what Safari can manage on the iPhone.
Web pages are rendered accurately, but still more slowly than on the competitor, the iPhone 3G S
The Diamond 2's photos are reasonable. Because it doesn't have a flash, it's better to go for a well-lit environment. Compared to the Nokia N97, another 5 Megapixel phone, the photos have less detail and the colours are less accurate..
The video mode doesn't have stabilisation, so it too is more of a standby option. The resulting videos are only just acceptable and suffer from quite a lot of jerkiness. You should also avoid the zoom as much as possible as it has a very bad impact on image quality. Because Microsoft is involved, you need to use Windows Media Player to watch video, which can't handle DivX.
The music player interface looks good, and is also very easy to use
Finally: battery life. With 3G and WiFi both turned on, the Diamond 2 lasted almost two days, which is respectable for a multimedia smartphone.
Note: The phone that we received to test got very hot, and its battery lost its charge very quickly. We 'updated' the ROM by reinstalling the same version, which quickly cooled it down and solved all of these problems. Some units in stores might well suffer from this problem, but HTC has told us that it has not received any such reports. Just our bad luck then?