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Verizon Wireless XV6900 / HTC Touch Smartphone

The Verizon Wireless XV6900, released earlier this year, is based on the HTC Touch design.

This is certainly a very nice design and interface built on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform -- And the first smartphone that my 20-something female test panel has found seriously interesting.

But, it's still Windows Mobile 6 underneath, with a sometimes inconsistent and clunky interface still showing its desktop IT heritage -- including a Task Manager on your phone(!).

The first thing you notice with the XV6900 / Touch is the comfortable feel -- a clean white design, smooth curved edges, easy to fit in your palm, and mostly usable with your finger or even one-handed (3.95 oz., 4 x 2.4 x 0.6"). The interface is fully touch based, with only the navigation control button and Talk and End keys for the phone on the front. The 2.8" touchscreen display is 240 x 320, 64K colors.

The Touch interface replaces the default Windows Mobile home page, and is designed for easy fingertip navigation, without requiring pulling out the stylus. Tap along the middle of the screen to switch between the Home display (with large digital clock), Weather (downloaded for your desired location), Launcher (favorite applications), and Sound (quick silent / vibrate). Or use the other buttons to access the main applications including the Phone, Messages, Camera, Calendar, and Contacts.

But there's more: swipe your finger from bottom to top to display the 3-D Touch Cube interface, with the visual effect of a rotating 3-D cube to display other launcher pages that you can customize, if you prefer. When viewing photos, the Touch interface uses gestures to pan, rotate (half-circle), and zoom (full circle).

The interface also offers a profusion of options for text input -- a phone-like Touch Keypad for easy finger input, a full Keyboard with smaller keys best used with the stylus, and a Touch Keyboard with a QWERTY layout mapped on a 5 x 4 grid (tap multiple times like a phone keypad), and multiple handwriting Recognizers.

As a Windows Mobile smartphone, the XV6900 / Touch can sync and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint and PDF files. Play clips with Windows Media Player and take photos and shoot videos with the 2 megapixel camera.

With Verizon's high-speed EV-DO data service, you can send text, picture, and video messages, or access the Internet to use Outlook E-mail or surf with Internet Explorer.

But using Windows Mobile also means clumsy desktop features squeezed onto a handheld -- like close boxes with a tiny "X" in the corner of the screen to exit dialogs. Or an incomplete setup when you first turn on the device, with confusing messages about running .EXE files and installing .XML and .CAB files (!). Or the astounding power off message: "Power will be tuned off, and you may lose data if you have not saved them" -- as if I should have saved my "datas" by burning a backup CD from the phone(?).

Just one more example: To view your photos, you rotate the unit on its side for the Camera Album, which switches the display to landscape mode, and then displays the photos full-screen the same way. But if you view your video clips in the Camera Album and then click to play one, the display switches to portrait mode to launch Windows Media Player, then back to landscape to play the video full-screen, then back to portrait and Media Player to replay the video -- and then you need to click the close box to get back to the Album in landscape mode. Yeesh!

But if you want a Windows Mobile smartphone, the XV6900 / Touch combines a nice physical design with the enhanced touchscreen interface.

The Verizon Wireless XV6900 / HTC Touch Smartphone is $299 online from Verizon, or even less with rebates.

See the Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones.

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