The Diamond 2 has been around for a while now, and as if right on queue (what seems like 30 years later) AT&T releases their iteration of the device. AT&T wouldn’t be AT&T if they didn’t change the physical look and feel of the device some way somehow. And guess what? They sure did change it. But not without slapping on a name that makes no sense, HTC Pure.
I’m not sure if the changes to the phone itself are for the better or the worse. Although it retains a close resemblance to its European cousin, the Pure still has a look of its own. Instead of the grey tone worn by the original Diamond 2, the Pure is out fitted with an all black casing. Even the hardware buttons on the device are black. Not that I mind, I’ve always been a fan of shiny black electronics.
On the top you’ll find the power button. On the side you have your volume up and down buttons. And on the front of the device you have answer and reject call buttons and the back and start menu buttons between those. Noticeably missing are a dedicated camera button and even the now expected AT&T PTT button. The lack of a dedicated camera button really gets under my skin, only because of the excellent camera that is included.
The speaker is placed on the right side of the device. This is an odd but great place for it. When the phone is being handled or is rested down somewhere, the speaker isn’t covered. I can appreciate this design. On the back of the phone you’ll find a long brush metal strip with the HTC brand and a 5.0 Mega Pixel marking. Over all, the device maintains its appeal and offers a solid feel in the hand. I find the size to be more or less perfect for my personal taste.
On to the software. You can expect HTC’s prize winner UI to be present and accounted for here. Touch Flo 3D makes its presence known on the device. From the very first boot up, you see very little to none of the Windows Mobile UI. I suppose this isn’t a bad thing, seeing as how ugly Windows Mobile can be sometimes. Fine…it’s ugly all the time! You’re treated to Touch Flo 3D 2.1, which is pretty much HTC’s latest production build of the UI. You can expect features like a calendar tab, animated weather tab, stock market tab and even Facebook integration in the contacts tab. HTC has worked very hard to give the user a great experience when using the device. And they’ve pulled it off nicely!
AT&T on the other hand, I’d swear they worked just as hard to screw up the experience for that very same user. At first glance all is well. You’re greeted by the not so ugly AT&T themed Touch Flo 3D UI. Their theme of many blues and some grey works well. But that’s about all the good I can say for AT&T. Scrolling over the Touch Flo 3D bar, you’ll see a new tab. The good ol’ AT&T tab. They’ve gone ahead and given you some short cuts to applications they think you’ll really enjoy. So you’ve got a AT&T Mall, AT&T Music, you know what, I’ll just copy and paste AT&T a few more time simply because I feel as though I can top their ignorance. So here goes…. AT&TAT&TAT&TAT&TAT&TAT&T. Right!
The AT&T Music link opens a window with a few apps. You’ve got Music sync, Music Videos, MusicID, Shop Music, Windows Media Player and XM Radio. Of those six apps, I will only be using two in the next year or so. Right!
The AT&T Mall link takes us over to a window with one icon. And this icon is called Media Mall 2. Not 1, but 2. Why couldn’t the link access the application directly? I wish I could tell you a little more about the new and improved Media Mall 2, but every time I launch the app, I get an error. Right!
Away from the AT&T tab on Touch Flo, lets head on over to the start menu, by now you’re anxious to see what goodies await! Oh no! More AT&T madness! I see the good ol’ AT&T Navigator. Truthfully, this is a great app. It’s almost worth its monthly price tag if you care to sit down and crunch some numbers. So for the sake of remaining bitter, we’ll act as if we never saw that.
Then I see games, so like any self-respecting adult, I click the games icon a little harder in hopes that it will launch a little faster. Wow what a line up, games like Monopoly, Ferrari GT Evolution, Ms. Pac-Man and more. You know what? AT&T can deface my Touch Flo 3D tabs anytime, as long as they keep pumping out games like these! But wait! Hold on a minute. Of the 10 games given, 7 of them are trials. Right!
So I go back one level in the start menu, feeling a little upset, I try to shake it off. The next icon I see is labeled “get YPmobile with navigation.” Any time I see “get” I am already thinking some sort of demo. But what the hell, I’ll see what it’s about any way. Who knows, maybe this app might be worth whatever money its being sold for. Why being sold for? Because so far, AT&T has given me nothing! After clicking the link, I’m taking to a mobile yellow pages web site. What? I am confused; I thought I was getting a mobile app with some sort of navigation? Instead I am taken to a mobile site? Where is the navigation? Oh, silly me. Anytime the browser accesses a site, its navigating to that site. Right AT&T? Right!
Back to my start menu. The next few icons are all the same icons that were given in the Touch Flo 3D tab, so I’ll save myself the frustration and skip right over them. Next would be an icon simply labeled “apps.” Really? I’ve got to see this! In this folder there are some interesting apps. MobiTV, FaceBook, Mobile Banking, WikiMobile, Mobi4Biz, JuiceCaster and the Weather Chanel. I’ve only tried three of these. The Facebook, Mobile Banking and WikiMobile. All in all, pleasant apps. I have no beef here. Not that I know what JuiceCaster is, neither do I care to find out, but for the sake of hoping AT&T can even up the score here, I’ll just write off the whole “apps” category as a plus.
Next is an icon labeled “tools.” With little confidence at this point, I go ahead and click it any way. Here you’ll find a bunch of standard windows mobile….well….tools. So nothing special here. The last icon of interest in the start menu is labeled “Microsoft Services.”
In here you’ll find things like the wonderful MyPhone app, live search or recently rebranded bing app, a few widgets and the Windows Mobile Marketplace. To my surprise the marketplace was actually live when I toyed around with it. The layout was straight forward and easy to use. One couldn’t ask for more.
I decided to set all the annoyances aside and give the camera a try. I was actually impressed. You are able to focus in specific area of the screen by simply tapping the screen (and you thought apple did it first with the 3Gs.) Even without the flash dark pictures came out decent as long as you didn’t move.
Messaging on the phone was a huge concern of mine. I was very nervous about ditching my hardware keyboard for an on screen option. I’m happy to say I am never looking back. The onscreen keyboard works wonderful! It took a few hours to get use to the feel, but I am sold!
So, what is my impression of the device? I wish AT&T sold me a Diamond 2 and not an AT&T Pure. The user experience out of the box really should have been better. This is part of a much bigger problem. Microsoft is trying to line their ducks up to streamline everything and prevent this type of misfortune from happening. HTC is going full force forward and flexing their innovative muscle, while hiding any and everything Microsoft. And AT&T is ego tripping trying to slap AT&T on any and everything while trying to sell the customer ever service they offer. It’s really a sad thing to witness. There is no reason a user should have three different “app stores.” AT&T should know when to back off and just include the Microsoft Marketplace. And if they don’t like that, then pull the Microsoft Marketplace and one of their other options and just have one remaining. It really bugs me that a user requiring the abilities of this phone will walk in the store and be subject to this corporate madness.
It is important that anyone reading this review understand that I’ve been around for a long time, and I am a different caliber of user. Some of the things I’ve mentioned here may not be a deal break for many. Even with the AT&T bloat, the phone still performed its tasks like a champ. There was no slow down what so ever when the phone was required to perform. If you’re looking for a true smartphone to carry out your day to day duties as well as your business agendas, then this might be the device for you.
Even with the horrible software experience, this phone still receives many praises from me. Once you get comfortable with the device, you might find yourself over at xda-developers.com looking to take the device to the next level. It’s a great phone and is without doubt worthy of your contract renewal.