Aug 25, 2008

Apple iPhone 3G Vs. HTC Touch Diamond Vs. Samsung Instinct

Today we're going to enjoy a brutal fight to the bitter end. The Apple iPhone 3G, long considered the Halo device for all Macintosh fans, versus a literal Jewel in the HTC Touch Diamond. Our third contender is the Samsung Instinct, Sprint's current Halo device. These three phones represent the future of the mobile world. In one corner, we have the iPhone which is widely considered the best smartphone ever made. In the other, the HTC Diamond, one of the best Windows Mobile phones on the market and one of the first to use both WinMo 6.1 and TouchFLO (the WinMo touch interface). Finally, we have the Instinct, which is a Brew-based phone and the main actor in most of Sprint's new commercials.

Let's start our war with a quick Overview of what everyone cares about: Touchscreen Capabilities.

Apple iPhone: This is our standard bearer. All other phones will be measured against this device. It features multi-touch support. This means that the device supports multiple points of contact on the screen. As one can imagine, this takes quite a large amount of processing power to accomplish and as such our iPhone has the highest processor firepower of any of these three phones. Multi-touch allows complex applications such as the zooming of web pages with two fingers or dual-directional movement as some applications require.

HTC Touch Diamond: Touchscreens have been around for a very long time on Windows Mobile devices. The separation between non-touch and touch has generally been distinguished with the Windows Mobile Professional moniker. The HTC TouchDiamond differentiates itself with one key factor -- TouchFLO. (Those of you who follow the industry might be associating this technology with Qualcomm due to MediaFLO, I assure you they are independent of one another.) TouchFLO is a single touch interface, but the difference between it and, say a Palm Treo, is the ability to move. You can move your finger for various effects, which is something many other phones cannot do. To be specific, the Touch Diamond actually has TouchFLO3D, which has more graphical prowess. The backgrounds are amazing, and the interface is the most natural feeling on Windows Mobile UI ever. As to usability, I find it falls in a similar area as other Windows Mobile devices the second you leave the TouchFLO home page for greener pastures, and by greener pastures I mean any useful or necessary section of the phone.

Samsung Instinct: This is very similar to the LG VU (ATT) in terms of usability. They're both Brew-based, and have haptic feedback. In fact the only way these differ (as far as I can tell) is in terms of the chipset (EV-DO Instinct, MediaFLO HSDPA). The Instinct's touchscreen is also Single Touch. The dragability of this touchscreen interface is utilized far more than the Diamond, but less than the iPhone. Its haptic feedback (it vibrates in a responsive manner) just feels natural. When you scroll through a menu, it moves with you; I'd describe it as a wave in the direction of your scroll using varying levels and points of vibration. Moving backwards and forwards through menus feels frustrating. It has a lot of lag. The base operating system (the touchscreen) runs faster than the graphical user interface (what you see). This creates situations where you're moving through a menu, it lags, and you end up two or three levels deeper in the menu system than you meant to be. Not fun. I noticed the black levels on the screen were very well represented.

Conclusions: While the Touch Diamond’s Windows Mobile platform and its TouchFLO 3D interface have come far, the iPhone's multi-touch reins supreme. Haptic feedback on the Instinct is great, but the interface lag killed it. I would put the iPhone first, Instinct second, and Touch Diamond a very close third.

Camera? We're dealing with a whole mess of 2MP (+) Shooters here and oddly enough the experience on all of the devices varied greatly:

Apple iPhone (2MP): While the iPhone performed very well in all of our tests, it lacks adjustability. As in, you can't change any of the settings during a shot... Now I can only assume that Apple was trying to avoid Feature Creep, but it's a bit ridiculous to not be able to change ANY of the settings. I mean this phone uses the same settings for low light and high light conditions. This can result in some very odd looking photos depending upon lighting. In well-lit conditions, the iPhone performed great, and for general snapshot use it's awesome. The issues arrive in low-light or otherwise non-standard lighting situations. Crisp images, but only in ideal circumstances. Cupertino, One question: WHERE IS THE VIDEO? No flash. No zoom.

HTC Touch Diamond (3.2MP of pure Windows Mobile Fire): This camera is a beast in specs but can it live up to the hype? Answer: Depends. In some instances, the controlability of this thing shines, in others it's found wanting. As point and shoot goes, this is not your ideal camera. It takes time to setup quality shots, but it does take very good photos when setup right. It requires a lot of calibration to get right, but when the elements line up, it's quite good. On our phone, the white balance seemed a little off, too high for most shots, but it's a solid entry into the market. Solid video.

Samsung Instinct (2MP): I was very disappointed in this phone. I was expecting a Brew-based app of some sort with some unique touchscreen or haptic oriented activities. Instead, I got a camera that combines the worst in both the iPhone and the Touch Diamond. Not only is this camera atrocious, but it has no zoom, and no settings at all. This is not the iPhone bad, where the camera is at least set at a reasonable frame, it is instead set at a super wide frame, and a zoomed out one at that. I tried to use this camera, and it never produced satisfactory results. Ever. No flash, no zoom, no settings .

Conclusions: Although this was setup to be a firefight of high powered cameras, it turned out to be water pistols. This was very disappointing as there were high expectations from all three. Point and shoot goes to the iPhone, whereas quality goes to the Diamond. Overall, the user experience has to go in favor of the iPhone because of its simplicity. The Touch Diamond is a close second and the Instinct a distant third.

Entertainment, the real reason why we all own phones is next on our list:

Apple iPhone: This is the only “real”, and I use that term loosely, expandable phone reviewed. It has the app store, which, after you've used YouTube to death, is a welcome reprieve. For the sake of argument, we'll consider the iPhone as only what it contains initially, rather than what it can have through expandability. The iPhone is designed to be the most entertaining device on the planet. If we can talk in the simplest terms, what other phone gives you physical control over web pages. It's very entertaining to just read news and the web in general when you can control it to the degree you can control it on the iPhone. The YouTube application is solidly built, and it runs video quite well. In addition, the music player is essentially an iPod Touch. The iPod has consistently had the best user interface in the world. This carries over to the iPhone. It's entertaining to use. Period.

HTC Touch Diamond: The YouTube app is awesome. It works great over cellular data, but has issues over Wi-Fi. When you get it running though it works fairly well. Ignoring the load times, it was a solid experience. The interface is the most refreshing thing to hit Windows Mobile since 5.0. It's quite simple really; reminiscent of the iPhone. The home screen scrolls well, and it really is a gem of a phone. It's entertaining just to use.

Samsung Instinct: Sprint TV is awesome. It works well over the EVDO Rev. A that this device runs over. This literally streams live TV or captured clips to your handset. The entertainment value is tremendous. Theoretically, one could waste an entire day just by using the Internet functions on this device. The Internet is WAP, but it's touch enabled WAP. It tends to be a little clumsy. I found this phone to be a real one trick pony.

Conclusions: Even without the AppStore, the iPhone is the best device when you need to kill time. Between the music player interface and the YouTube app, it's definitely the best. The Touch Diamond and the Instinct were close, but I found the Instinct was better. Maybe I was partial because of the speed of the network, but I found the overall video experience (although limited) to be more enjoyable than the Touch Diamond.

Design: Diamond in the Rough?

Apple iPhone: Elegance. There's no other word that describes the iPhone. It has only what needs to be there. It doesn't give the user very much freedom, that is until you see the AppStore. You can't redesign the menu screen without jailbreaking the device, and you can't customize much of the visual appeal. It's a strong well thought-out product. It has one button.

HTC Touch Diamond: This phone looks expensive. From the back of the phone (plastic cut to reflect light a la a diamond), to the SUPER BRIGHT screen; this phone looks great. From the parts of the operating system that HTC touched, the TouchFLO 3D interface is amazing, but it feels like an incomplete product. As soon as you dive beneath the home screen UI, you get stuck in the hell that is Windows Mobile. It's not fun, it doesn't work well, it clicks slow and terribly, but it works. But if we only examine what HTC did to the device, so as to not consider the follies of Microsoft, it's a splendid addition to the Windows Mobile lineup. It was a very stable device, no crashes while I used it.

Samsung Instinct: Simplistic phone. It has no physical controls, but the look is nice. It's flat everywhere, but with haptic feedback it feels like a better phone than it looks. I have to say that this phone might be unusable without the haptic feedback as there's not much device response other than the movement. I like the look of this device a lot, and its laidback aspect is pleasing.

Conclusions: The iPhone is the simplest device of these three Uber simple phones. That; however, does not make it the best. I liked the design of the Touch Diamond more than the iPhone. While the iPhone does have a lot of things going for it, the look and feel of the Diamond is what really makes this device top quality. This was a really hard decision as all of the devices are strong contenders in the field of design. HTC has made an amazing looking device, and it stands up to some very big competition.

After careful assessment, I've come to the conclusion that the iPhone is still the king of the touchscreen hill. What surprised me was how close the Instinct and the Touch Diamond were after using them. I felt that both phones were strong clients for teenagers through gadget inspired adults, but in the end I think the Touch Diamond wins. Although the Instinct has more entertainment options, the Touch Diamond is a better phone altogether. What really won me over was the crispness of the operating system. Source...

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