At its price point, HTC’s scaled down Windows Mobile device doesn’t have much going for it.
Sense of Windows
HTC Sense goes a long way into covering up Windows Mobile design faults. As we have seen with the HD2, the homescreens are replaced by a finger-friendly UI that allows you to flick between preset list of application tabs, such as Internet, twitter, weather, stock, albums, messages, email, settings, etc. The tabs can be customized to have just what you need. The home tab can flicked ‘up’ to reveal another set of customizable shortcuts panel that can be set to launch contacts, games or any stored application. Pressing the Start button gives you the icon layout, but HTC has made sure it has covered most of it up to never having to linger there for more than accessing downloaded applications.
The phone comes with an impressive list of built-in software like Microsoft Office Mobile, Facebook and Twitter applications, MSN Messenger, WiFi Router, and best of all the Opera browser as its default. Users also have access to the Live Marketplace. To access it you will need a Windows Live ID which is a huge bummer if you have been born into the Gmail age (because before it was considered n00b to not have an Hotmail account…imagine that!).The Live Marketplace contains a mixture of free and paid applications but the collection is no way near to that available on the iPhone or Android.
As with Windows Mobile devices, multi-tasking comes naturally. The OS never ‘exits’ an application, it just keeps it running in the background. While that may mean running out of memory or sluggish performance with many apps open, I never encountered any such occurrence in my use. To actually multi-task is another story, however. HTC did try to make it more accessible but it wasn’t good enough. Like Android, the information bar on the top can be tapped to present a set of options and notifications. You can access the Task Manager from there to switch applications but the overall process takes a lot of clicks. And its hard to make the information bar popout! I have literally jabbed at the top part of the screen with no success most of the times.
Overall, the UI is decent but there are still a lot of quirks, and annoyances that even the SenseUI could not hide. Basically, it lacks is user friendliness; the OS requires way too many taps to do the simplest of tasks and can be pretty confusing and technical at times. At least the 600Mhz processor with 384MB of RAM does well to keep the OS chugging along at consistent pace.
It’s no snapper
The HD Mini holds a typical 5 megapixel camera with macro and autofocus, but no flash. The image quality is just about passable – the photos have high noise levels, low contrast and can get dull and dark at times. The video recorder scores as much. It can record at VGA resolutions @30fps and the videos are best watched on the device than on a bigger screen.
Battery a day
The HTC HD Mini squeezes a 1200mAh battery. HTC reckons you’ll see up to 435 mins of talktime, and/or up to 8hrs of video playback, or up to 12hrs of audio playback. While I certainly lack time to test those out, the battery just about manages for a day with constant use of the WiFi for browsing, emailing and social networking.
You expect a level of call quality from smartphones…heck, even dumb phones nowadays. HD Mini falters on what it should do best first. The call quality is very average with low volume and soft sound; it’s quite hard to hear on busy roads. Also, on occasions I found myself doubting if I was audible to my caller at all. The loudspeaker is just terrible. A cheap children’s toy makes louder noise than the HD Mini’s loudspeaker. Playing music is no joy either with mono, crackling sound.
HTC HD Mini and Nokia E72 share the same predicament. Both are well built devices, packed with features and loaded with pre-installed software, yet both suffer the same drawback: an aging OS that is soon to be replaced with a brighter, smarter one. At AED 2499, HTC HD Mini is an absurdly expensive smartphone that will soon find itself obsolete.