[View Part II of the Video Review]
It may be Samsung that is constantly encouraging all of us to imagine, but it’s HTC that dared to imagine a sleek Windows Mobile smartphone with a number of firsts. The HTC Imagio is the first Verizon smartphone to boast V CAST Mobile TV. It’s also Verizon’s first native Windows Mobile 6.5 device, and among the first Windows Mobile 6.5 handsets to hit the market. The Imagio sports the latest version of HTC’s impressive TouchFLO 3D interface, and an impressive feature set that will undoubtedly appeal to business users looking for a professional device with a host of media options.
The HTC Imagio features an alluring industrial design, and would stand a good chance of taking home the gold in a beauty contest among its Windows Mobile peers. At just a half-inch thick, it is considerably thinner than its qwerty-toting Touch Pro 2 brethren. Weighing in at 5.25 ounces, and measuring 4.6 inches tall and 2.4 inches wide, the Imagio is compact and fully pocketable.
The front of the device is dominated by a gorgeous and finger-friendly 3.6-inch WVGA touchscreen with an impressive 480×800 pixel resolution that makes images, video and text look sharp and crystal clear. Surrounding the entirety of the screen is an attractive speaker grill-like framing, and a touch-sensitive zoom slider provides a well executed solution for zooming in and out on web pages and pictures.
Five hardware buttons are also found on the front of the handset, including a send, end, back, start menu, and programmable media launcher key. Holding down the send key launches the voice command function. A volume rocker can be found on the right side of the phone.
The back plastic cover is composed of a narrow strip of shiny, fingerprint-prone plastic and a larger area of slightly rubberized matte plastic that gives the Imagio a solid feel in the palm of the hand. The back is also home to a 5-megapixel camera, but is unfortunately lacking a flash.
A button on the back also pops out a silver ‘kickstand’ that doubles as a TV antenna and allows the Imagio to sit propped up on a desk or table for your viewing pleasure. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack graces the bottom along with HTC’s miniUSB port for charging and syncing. A stylus pulls out from the bottom-left, although it will likely rarely have the need to leave its comfortable home as most actions are easily performed with a finger.
The screen is locked by sliding a lock icon to the right or left, but to lock the screen to prevent accidental key presses you have to navigate back to the home screen to tap an on-screen icon. It would have been nice to see a hardware lock button and also perhaps a hardware camera key.
The Imagio is running Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional, although with HTC’s TouchFLO 3D interface you are likely to quickly forget you are using a Windows Mobile device. TouchFLO 3D is a sleek user interface built on top of Windows Mobile that provides eye-catching animations and intuitive and finger-friendly menus.
Unfortunately only accessible in portrait mode (the Touch Pro 2 series allows landscape access as well), the highlight of TouchFLO 3D is a series of tabs that offer easy access to important information and functionality. There’s a home tab, and tabs for messaging, contacts, calendar, email, the web browser, stocks, photos and video, music, weather, and settings.
The home tab offers a chic animated clock, current weather conditions for your present GPS location, and the usual notifications and upcoming appointments. Perhaps the most innovative tab is the contacts tab, dubbed ‘My Favorites,’ that provides easy access to favorite contacts – allowing one-touch dialing and messaging. Selecting a contact launches a new series of tabs that shows all text messages, emails, and calls with that contact. A final tab displays calendar events involving that individual as well as the contact’s Facebook updates.
The Imagio’s Start menu adopts a grid format, making the most frequently used applications easily accessible. The menu is largely customizable, allowing users to replace all but the first four Start menu icons with an application of their choice. It would have been nice, however, to be able to drag-and-drop icons in the desired location rather than having to replace each icon individually. A comprehensive menu of all installed applications can be accessed by tapping in the lower left of the screen.
The HTC Imagio sports a 528MHz Qualcomm processor and 256 megs of RAM, which proved to be more than adequate. We rarely experienced hang-ups or slow downs, even with a fair number of applications running. The Imagio has 512 MB of on-board flash memory, and is expandable with a microSD card (up to 16GB).
The Imagio is a dual-band device capable of world roaming. The Imagio supports domestic CDMA networks and GSM networks abroad. World travelers will be able to access 3G voice and data services abroad.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to Microsoft Exchange integration, Windows Mobile devices have long been among the best. The Imagio is no exception to this rule, offering Microsoft’s Direct Push technology which, in our tests, often alerted us to new email messages before our friendly desktop notifications could get the job done. Calendar and contact synchronization also worked seamlessly.
Of course, the Imagio will support most any other email service. We had no issues accessing our Gmail account, and also tried out the device with an IMAP account just to be sure. The TouchFLO 3D interface enhances the Windows Mobile messaging experience, offering sleek animated graphics and numbered bubbles indicating the number of unread messages.
The handset has pre-installed support AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo! instant messaging services. There are a number of downloadable applications that will provide connectivity to other messaging platforms.
Since the Imagio lacks a physical keyboard, the device relies on a virtual (on-screen) qwerty keyboard that can be used in either landscape or portrait mode. As is the case with all resistive touch screens, the Imagio requires more accuracy and pressure than capacitive touch devices. Despite this shortcoming, the Imagio’s keyboard can still be used without the stylus, albeit with somewhat of a learning curve.
The XT9 feature, which offers selectable word suggestions as you type, sped up the typing process. While portrait mode is fine for quick messages, the keys are somewhat larger while the device is in landscape mode, which makes typing more epic messages an easier affair. Although the virtual QWERTY rivals many of its kind, users frequently relying on their mobile device for writing lengthy emails may find themselves longing for a physical keyboard.
If we had to give the Imagio just one accolade, the consensus would likely be a superior media experience. The Imagio is the first smartphone to support V CAST Mobile TV which provides live TV broadcasts with impressive clarity – provided the device is in relative proximity of a window. The on-screen guide is easy to use, and makes channel surfing a breeze.
The device also supports VCAST Videos for on-demand video content including full length episodes of popular TV shows. Video quality was impressive, and buffering time was usually only a couple of seconds. V CAST Music with Rhapsody is also supported, offering the ability to preview and purchase tracks over-the-air at the relatively steep price of $1.99 per song.
Other entertainment options include HTC’s well-executed YouTube player, which also doesn’t disappoint in the realm of usability or video quality. The Imagio also has a built-in FM radio which requires the use of a pair of headphones which act as the antenna. There’s also a number if simple pre-installed games such as Solitaire and Bubble Breaker.
The Imagio is armed with a 5-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities. The camera offered crisp and vibrant images, and we were impressed by picture quality both indoors and outdoors. The lack of a flash is by no means a deal breaker, but is an omission nevertheless for an otherwise sophisticated device. As far as video quality, the Imagio outperforms the majority of its peers, and would have surely taken a laudable position in Wirefly’s Top Ten Video Phones of Summer 2009.
The camera will take pictures in six different resolutions, and offers a number of advanced options and settings including white balance, ISO, brightness, self-timer, and effects. Tapping on a particular area on the viewfinder will focus in on that area.
The Imagio supports Bluetooth profiles including headset, hands-free, dial-up networking, object file transfer, phone book access, file transfer protocol, and a couple more. Of course, the higher-end device is also equipped with WiFi and A-GPS. It’s loaded with VZ Navigator for turn-by-turn GPS directions. The imagio also supports Verizon’s Visual Voice Mail service.
As a Windows Mobile 6.5 device, the Imagio is also loaded with Windows marketplace for Mobile, which at the time of launch offers about 250 free and paid applications. The Imagio also supports Microsoft’s new My Phone service, a free tool that allows Windows Mobile users to automatically backup the contents of their device and share pictures. A premium service ($4.99 for 7 days of access) offers a number of options to recover a lost device.
It may sound like a line straight out of the mouths of the marketing spinmeisters at HTC, but the world roaming-capable HTC Imagio is the ideal smartphone for the busy professional that wants to be able to work hard and play hard. The attractive and slender Imagio is the first smartphone to support V CAST Mobile TV, and boasts no shortage of additional entertainment prowess.
The Imagio has all the bells and whistles you would expect form a high-end smartphone, including powerful email and messaging options, WiFi, GPS, and an impressive camera and camcorder. Those who are in the business of writing epic emails from their smartphones, however, may find themselves missing a full physical QWERTY, and the absence of a flash as well as camera and lock hardware keys was disappointing.
[View Part II of the Video Review]