John's HTC Touch Cruise review

John Walton
Cell Phone Editor
Published: June 30, 2009

Overview

What's good: small and very pocketable, cool form factor, Footprints, 3.2 MP cam with geo-tagging, D-pad doubles as scroll wheel, TouchFLO, A-GPS, Wi-Fi, bluetooth, 3G.
What's bad: Windows Mobile experience. TouchFLO helps a lot in this regard, but the same flaws still sit under the surface.

Introduction

The Touch Cruise 2009 is a reworking of the 2008 version. When it comes to making calls, managing photos, and sending texts, the phone is quick and simple. It feels great in the hand and pocket. Unfortunately, when digging into advanced functions, or even changing some fairly simple settings, Windows Mobile 6.1 jumps out from under HTC's beautiful skin and rears its ugly head. Nagging error messages and unintuitive configuration are some of my long-standing WinMo complaints, and the Touch Cruise is not exempt. However, if you're comfortable with Windows Mobile, then the Touch Cruise will be a pleasant experience for you.

Design & Features

This is the second time I have opened up the spare stylus in an HTC box because I didn't notice the one holstered in the phone. That says a lot about HTC's style and engineering. The downside is that this resistive touch screen is much more stylus-friendly than it is finger-friendly. I know that a lot of people prefer the stylus, and in my experience they are quite often the business users who absolutely must have Windows Mobile. The Touch Cruise is reminiscent of the old PDA, in a good way, and business users will be satisfied.

HTC Touch Cruise

Some have complained about the fixed-focus camera, but I actually found this to be a strength of the phone. When you are shooting close-ups or busy scenes, auto-focus can be more of a hurdle than an assist. TouchFLO offers a great gallery experience, and anyone who has used it before knows how lovely the weather, tab navigation, and music control is.

HTC Touch Cruise

Dedicated hardware buttons for Footprints (an HTC innovation for location tagging) and the CoPilot Live navigation software bring these functions to the forefront of the experience, but I'm not sure I like them where they are. While the features are definitely useful, I can't imagine using them enough to warrant that allocation of real estate. Then again, I'm not sure what I would replace them with. It's all a matter of taste and how you plan to use the phone. If you are big on navigation and geo-tagging, these buttons could be a godsend.

Usability & Performance

It may be laughable to some, but I find Windows Mobile impossible to use efficiently. I am tired of the pop-ups, tired of the multiple locations of similar settings, tired of the look, and tired of the errors. That said, I've spent enough words whining about the OS on this and other reviews. I know some people like the it, so let's move on.

The scroll wheel is a brilliant control to implement in conjunction with a touch screen. HTC has done something similar with a trackball on other touch screen devices, and it's been a brilliant solution to the problem of accurate selection with fat fingers. In the case of the Touch Cruise, it's a solution to the problem of any fingers.

Though you can make your way through the home screen tabs and photos with a digit, the stylus is almost a requirement for anything more intricate. And once you get past TouchFLO and into Windows Mobile, the stylus is your only hope.

Calls are fine, texting and email are OK, and web browsing is...well, nothing special. But the primary functions are all acceptable. I didn't access some of the deeper features because WInMo was playing defense. I just couldn't get into it.

Conclusion

If you like Windows Mobile, the Touch Cruise may be just fine for you. But with a street tag hovering between $400 and $500, you might find another HTC device on contract that you'd prefer. If location-based features and services are important to you, than the Cruise should be near the top of your list. If you honestly won't end up using them, cross this one off.

Products mentioned