My current contract with Sprint expired at the beginning of this month, meaning that I am now eligible for the best-available discounts on an upgrade for my aging Palm Treo 700P. Over the last few months, I have been looking at a number of cell phone options and have largely settled on the HTC Touch Pro as my next phone.
I have been a long-time Palm OS user, so I admit that it is with a little bit of trepidation, and even sadness, that I make plans to switch to a Windows Mobile device. The simple truth, though, is that development on the Palm OS has essentially stalled for several years and it is now severely behind in almost every aspect. While updated versions from either Palm (which is promising a new, compatible OS) or Access (which ended up with ownership of the code base) or both are promised in the next year or so, these are still vaporware and I just don’t see continuing to live with yesterday’s technology while waiting around. I do hope that I can ease the transition just a bit by getting StyleTap to allow at least some of my old Palm OS applications to still run.
While the HTC Touch Pro has been available outside the US for a while, it has only been available here as an expensive ($800 or more), unlocked GSM import that would work on AT&T or T-Mobile, although not always with full compatibility with the highest-speed networks. Fortunately, the first official US version of the phone was announced today for availability via Sprint on October 19th. Their press release describes it as follows:
HTC Touch Pro: HTC Touch Pro is a professional workhorse that enables mobile professionals to easily balance their professional and personal lives. Along with the features available on HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Touch Pro adds a five-row, slide-out QWERTY keyboard for easy data entry, expandable storage capabilities with a microSD card slot (1 GB card included) and a business card scanner application to automatically capture and convert business card information to contacts using the built-in 3.2 MP camera/camcorder. Additionally, with Windows Mobile 6.1, users have access to security and device management capabilities desired by most business customers when used with Microsoft’s System Center Mobile Device Manager solution. HTC Touch Pro will be available Oct. 19 for $299.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.
The price really sounds right to me for a fairly high-end phone and its availability through Sprint is appealing as I’ve been satisfied with their service over the last couple years and I’m happy to avoid the hassles involved with changing carriers and porting my number.
Here are a few of the key points about this phone that appeal to me over some of the key competitors in the same basic category:
- Keyboard: Every time I have purchased a portable computing device that did not have a keyboard (i.e. Palm VII, Palm LifeDrive, TabletKiosk eo v7110), I have replaced it within a year or so with one that did. At some point, I feel like I have to accept the lesson and stick with what works best for me. If Apple had an iPhone with a slide-out keyboard, I’d give it some serious consideration, but that just doesn’t exist now. This is also the reason why I immediately sparked to the Touch Pro instead of the otherwise nearly-identical Touch Diamond.
- Large touch-screen: I really like the approach of retaining a large, VGA-resolution touch-screen via the use of a slide-out keyboard. Sure, it adds a little bit of bulk to the phone (the Touch Pro is still smaller than my Treo), but I feel it is worth it to avoid compromise. This is a big reason why I have decided against Palm’s latest Windows Mobile Treo models, despite otherwise impressive feature sets.
- Price/Network: As I said, I’ve been happy with Sprint and am willing to accept another contract in order to get the much lower subsidized price. While conceptually I like the SIM card approach used on GSM phones, it didn’t make much difference to me back when I had AT&T (or Cingular) and I don’t think it would matter much now. I just don’t need to switch phones often (especially at the unsubsidized prices) and I very rarely travel outside the US, something I don’t anticipate changing in the next 2 years.
- Overall feature set: Right now, the Touch Pro is pretty close to being the top-of-the-line for Windows Mobile phones and it really does seem to be the one model out there on any OS that seems to have just about every feature that I want.
Since the phone won’t be available for a little over a month, I do still have some time to look around at other options as well as to see if anyone announces something else that might be a better fit. I pretty strongly suspect, though, that this blog will start featuring postings about my experiences with my new Touch Pro come mid-October.