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Windows Mobile Touch Smartphones -- Verizon Wireless Samsung Omnia and HTC Touch Pro

There are clear differences in the basic philosophy behind the different smartphones on the market. All now are multi-purpose communications devices, PDAs, and media players -- with phone and e-mail connectivity, contacts and calendar synching, and music and video entertainment. But the differences are also sharp: to greatly simplify, the Apple iPhone is about synching with your desktop iTunes library, the Google Android phone is about synching with the online cloud, the Blackberry is about enterprise communications, and Palm bridges the gap between personal and business.

In each of these cases, the form of the phone follows its function, both in its physical design and in the software interface that runs on the phone. The Apple iPhone is an integrated whole, and the Google Android phone and the Blackberry really are defined by the interface, no matter what hardware it happens to run on.

But what about Windows Mobile phones? These are amorphous -- How do you summarize the key user benefit when "a phone what runs Microsoft Windows" is the defining characteristic? Especially when these other phones work fine with Windows PCs, to interchange e-mail and Microsoft document formats.

So Windows Mobile phones from different manufacturers and carriers end up competing among themselves as well, seeking to differentiate not only in terms of the hardware design, but also by layering a custom user friendly interface on top of Windows Mobile.

Two new smartphones from Verizon Wireless show this design approach at work with a touch screen and custom enhanced interface. Both are built on Windows Mobile 6.1, with the Office Mobile Suite (i.e., Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (for viewing only) Mobile), plus Adobe Reader LE PDF viewer, and ZIP file viewing/create.

They have cameras for photo/video capture, and media playback for music and video. Both also include the Opera Mobile Browser for HTML Web browsing, and built-in Wi-Fi for fast Internet access for e-mail and surfing at wireless hotspots. And they have a microSD card slot to add up to 16 GB of external memory.

The Verizon Wireless Samsung Omnia (SCH-i910) has a large 3.2 inch touchscreen display that fills most of the font of the unit, at 240 x 480 resolution.

As a multimedia device, the Omnia features a higher-res 5.0 megapixel camera, has FM radio, and support video out to a TV display.

The home screen uses the Samsung TouchWiz interface, with customizable widgets along the left column that you can drag-and-drop as favorites on the virtual desktop. These display information and status, and then you can tap to launch the main Windows Mobile applications. It also has haptic feedback -- vibration to confirm user inputs.

The Samsung Omnia is 4.41 x 2.24 x 0.52 inches and 4.34 ounces. It's available from Verizon Wireless for $269, or $199 with service plan.

The Verizon Wireless HTC Touch Pro (XV6850) is the next generation of the HTC Touch (XV6900), which used a vertical design like the Omnia, and the iPhone. The Touch Pro has a significantly different design, with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard (like the T-Mobile G1 / Google Android phone, also from HTC, and the upcoming next-generation Palm Pre). It's clearly aimed to people who are going to be doing more texting and e-mail.

The Touch Pro 2.8 inch display is full 480 x 640 VGA resolution, and works in portrait and landscape orientation, for working though menus, browsing the Web, or viewing videos. The main screen works with the HTC TouchFLO "3D" interface -- drag your finger or stylus across the icons at the bottom of the screen, or switch between functions by swiping across the face of the device or pressing left or right on the navigation pad.

It also includes a 3.2 MP camera, with flash and auto-focus.

The HTC Touch Pro is 4.17 x 2.04 x 0.71 inches (with the smaller screen but thicker keyboard), and weighs 4.94 ounces. It's available from Verizon Wireless for $419, or $349 with service plan.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on mobile phones and smartphones.

Find the Verizon Wireless Samsung Omnia
and HTC Touch Pro on Amazon.com

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