HTC has more mobile devices in its range than you can poke a stick at — 19 at the time of writing. In other words, it has the entire market covered and offers a smartphone solution for just about everyone. However, why it needs so many is a bit of mystery as one model — the Touch Cruise — seems to tick most of the boxes smartphone users would have on their shopping list.
Like many of HTC’s handhelds, the Cruise includes TouchFLO — a gesture driven interface that shares some similarities with the iPhone and iPod touch. You can sweep your finger across the screen for scrolling through documents, web pages, slide shows and lists. This gives the Windows Mobile 6 interface a significant usability boost. The device fit comfortably into a hand, although I found that the position of some buttons meant that the device was primarily designed for right-handed folk.
HTC provides some customisation of the Windows Mobile software. The default home screen is replaced with HTC’s own Today screen plug-in, which delivers a decent-sized clock and ready access to messaging, the phone log and commonly used applications. The Start menu is given a larger than standard typeface so that dependency on a stylus is diminished.
The most common tasks I performed during my real-world testing — such as making calls, receiving calls and reading messages — could be easily executed with one hand. However, many actions, particularly text input, will require you extracting the stylus from the bottom right corner. For example, text entry using the on-screen keyboard or handwriting recognition can’t be done without a stylus.
In addition to the usual array of Mobile Office applications shipping with Windows Mobile devices, HTC’s bundled a few useful extras including Adobe Reader, an RSS Reader and the Opera Mobile web browser. Opera is a great extra as I found that it did a better job rendering web pages than the bundled Internet Explorer. Web connections over 3G and WiFi worked well and there’s Bluetooth for sharing the internet connection to your laptop.
Rounding out the HTC Cruise are GPS and a 3MP camera. The camera took reasonable shots and they could easily be sent to a Mac via Bluetooth. The GPS receiver is supported through provision of Co-Pilot Live version 7. However, you’ll need a system running Windows to install the maps. If you’re planning to do that, you’ll also need a microSD card to store the maps as the 120MB of integrated memory won’t be enough.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The Touch Cruise is a nice device. HTC’s customisation aids its usability and it packs plenty of features. Mac users will need to factor in extra costs for a memory card and — as it’s a Windows Mobile device — sync software.