October 1, 2008 By Miriam Jones
I can see the smartphone's appeal. Trapped at the airport during a layover -- short or long -- I may as well try to touch base with the world. Send an e-mail. Check the latest news to see what political or literal hurricanes have occurred lately. It wouldn't matter how small the available device's screen is.
Verizon's version of HTC's Touch smartphone comes in white with a screen that measures 2.8 inches diagonally, which calls for some squinting at first. In comparison, the more recently launched Apple iPhone 3G measures 3.5 inches diagonally. The XV6900's total dimensions are 3.98x.56x2.35 inches. But again, if my choice is utter boredom or an attempt to connect to the world, I could easily spend several hours on this thing. Mobile Reuters gives the top news including photos. My local five-day weather forecast is readily available, with extended AccuWeather predictions another click away.
The touchscreen works OK using my fingers, and even better if I used my fingernails, but the stylus is much more precise for typing on the virtual keyboard. There's a wide range of ways to enter text: a block recognizer, virtual QWERTY keyboard, letter recognizer --which recognized my printing very well -- touch keyboard (a 20-key keyboard version), touch keypad (a 12-key version of the keyboard) and the transcriber -- an excellent decipherer of printing, cursive or my sloppier mixture of the two.
For contacts, among the heaps of information I could enter, I could attach a picture, list company name, work and home addresses, job title, IM, e-mail addresses, assistant, manager, birthday, anniversary, spouse and children. And then I could handwrite notes in addition to all this data.
On the home screen, upcoming date, time and appointments reminders appear. Logs of recent incoming text messages, e-mails and phone calls also show on the home screen, as well as easy access to weather, an application launcher and ringtone controls.
The 2-megapixel camera isn't the best. The effects include grayscale, sepia, cool (meaning "blue") and negative. Choosing "none" gave me some rather orangey photos. And it's best if subjects remain perfectly still. There's a little delay between pressing the button and getting the shot. Photo capture formats include H.2663, 3GPP2, MPEG4 and Motion JPEG. There are settings for white balance, brightness, self-timer, contrast, saturation, hue and sharpness, but there just isn't much point to all that work. There's a video recording option, too.
In the end, it's a fine package, but don't expect things like Verizon's V CAST Mobile TV or Music. Your favorite IM software -- AIM, Google Talk, etc. -- won't be there either. This is a business device after all. But there's plenty to keep a person productive.
Price $199.99 after a $70 mail-in rebate with a two-year customer agreement.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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