[This is a joint review between Doug Goldring of Gear Diary; it will appear simultaneously on both sites. Doug’s comments are in black, and Judie’s are blue italics]and Judie Lipsett of
The last time I used a non-touch screen version of Windows Mobile was the Motorola Q. It ran Windows Mobile 5, and I quickly learned that the interface was nothing short of terrible. That phone lasted about a week before I declared the phone completely unusable and gave it away to a friend. That was then. This is now: Windows Mobile 6.1. And a lot has changed.
I’ve been using the operating system formerly known as Smartphone for years, starting with the HTC Tornado (I-Mate SP5m) in 2005. That was followed by the Motorola Q, the HTC STR TRK, the HTC 710 (Vox), the Samsung Blackjack, the Motorola Q9, the Samsung SGH-i620 , the Samsung Blackjack II, the Treo 500v, the HTC S740 – AKA Rose, and more recently the Pantech Matrix Pro.
I have never felt that even the earliest Smartphone interface was terrible, in fact I generally found Smartphone to be a rock solid OS when compared to Pocket PC, as it required far fewer restarts. Over the years I have enjoyed watching the Smartphone (now called Standard) platform mature. With that said, I think that your bad experience with Smartphone was due to the Motorola Q being such a dog.
So, right off the bat, you can see that Judie and I are coming at this from completely different perspectives. Anyway, I decided the time had come to give a non-touch screen device another try. And what better device to check out than the HTC S740?
I agree that for anyone unsure of whether a non-touch Windows Mobile phone would work for them, the S740 is a great place to start.
Let’s take a look.
At first glance, the hardware looks pretty much like any other standard candy bar-style phone. It has a nice screen, a 2.6 inch QVGA screen. Not the best screen for watching video, but more than functional for most of the common uses of this phone.
Considering that so many touchscreen phones have gone to a 2.8″ screen, I actually thought that the 2.6″ screen on the Rose was pretty generous. It is bright, vivid, and appropriately sized to take the best advantage of QVGA (as opposed to cramming VGA into a 2.8″ screen or smaller, for instance.)
I agree. I thought the screen fit this device fairly well. The biggest thing here, though, is that this is obviously not a touch screen, which did take a bit of getting used to.
I bet so, coming from someone that has become so touch centric! To me, Smartphone / Standard devices have always been the choice for a person who likes pressing buttons, versus tapping out numbers or other information on a virtual keyboard.
Yeah, I am definitely a user who is much more accustomed to using a touch screen. Anyway, beneath the screen is a standard T9 keypad. Between the two, you’ll find your standard HTC button layout: a D-pad in the middle, surrounded by the two soft button keys, home, back, and the phone controls (answer and hang up a call). To be honest, I found these buttons to be a bit small. Especially the phone controls. I was constantly hitting the wrong button my mistake.
I didn’t have an issue with hitting the wrong buttons, partly because of the way that the phone control buttons were raised above the rest of the cluster, and partly because I have been using a lot of candybar phones lately (Nokia N85, Pantech Matrix Pro, Vertu Ascent Ti). In my opinion, these buttons are actually easier to navigate than some.
That could be. Like I said, I do not use a lot of candy bar style phones. But i did have problems with the phone controls. I was not a real fan of the skinny design of these buttons.
The whole face is overlayed with a mirrored surface, which really gave it a nice effect. It really offers a fantastic first impression.
But bear in mind that it also collects fingerprints and smudges like crazy!
Yes, it certainly does offer a real fingerprint magnet.
Now, I know what you are thinking. And no, we do not really intend for you to start writing emails and SMS/MMS text messages with that T9. That would be so…2005. No, we certainly do not expect you to start triple tapping that 5 button in order to make an “L”.
Well, just to clarify, this is xT9, which is a bit more fully featured than the older T9 on many phone handsets. But I digress.
OK. One of the great things about these dual reviews is that sometimes we learn something from each other. I never knew there was a difference between T9 and xT9. Never heard that before. Thanks, Judie. 🙂
Anyway, like the other current phones coming out of HTC these days, this one has a sliding keyboard. Just pop it open and you are ready to compose.
When I first started using this one, I did not like the this keyboard as much as the one on the Touch Pro. Unlike the Touch Pro, which features an intuitive 5 row keyboard, the S740 utilizes a 4 row keyboard, which makes for a much less intuitive layout. On the other hand, after using it for a few days, I found that because the S740 is longer than the Touch pro, it allowed for a wider keyboard design. This meant that the S740 was able to offer larger keys than the Touch Pro. It may seem like a little thing, but on these thumb keyboards, it can make a huge difference.
The buttons on the Rose are nice and wide, and ever so slightly puffed – which helps when trying to key. When I started using the Rose, I was coming from the iPhone so it took me a little while to readjust from a Virtual to real keyboard. Another thing that took a bit of getting used to was the lack of predictive text when using the Rose’s keyboard versus the iPhone’s. These are minor things, but it took me a few days to stop expecting things to be as they had been, and to start appreciating how they now were.
As I mentioned in my preview, I did appreciate that “many of the buttons necessary for use when surfing or typing emails do not require the use of the function key for deployment.” This is something that had annoyed me on other Pocket PC / Windows Mobile Professional keyboards.
I agree. They did do a good job with some of the button placement. But I have to say that I really noticed a big difference between this and the 5 row keyboard on the Touch Pro (above). The 5 row layout allows the key placement to pretty well approximate a standard keyboard.
Looking around the rest of the device, your power button is on top, in the left hand corner. Pretty much the standard spot for a power button on most HTC phones. Unlike most of the phones I have used, however, pushing the button does not necessarily turn off the screen. Instead, it opens a handy quick menu, which lets you power off, lock the phone, open the task manager, open the communications manager, or switch the phone mode. In other words, lets you hop to many of the critical areas of the phone which you might need to access quickly.
On the left side, under your thumb is the volume control. I was disappointed to find this would only control the system volume, and not the ringer volume. of course, when you are on a call, this button will control the call volume.
Yes, this is a bit obnoxious. I do wish that similarly to how WM Pro offers a way to control both system and ringer levels when the volume buttons are pressed, WM Standard would do the same.
On the right hand side is the camera, which we will take a look at later. I have to say that this is one button I have really missed on the Touch Pro. This quick and easy access to the camera is perfect.
Agreed. Furthermore, I think that the camera button’s placement is perfect, because unlike Pantech, HTC did not put any buttons on the opposite side of the phone that would be mashed when taking photos. This seems like such a little thing, until you have had to deal with the aggravation. 😛
Let’s go ahead and turn the phone over onto its back. You will notice that the S740 features the diamond shaped ridges which were the subject of much controversy when the design was introduced with the original Diamond and Touch Pro. Now, my Touch Pro features a smooth back, so I had not seen this design in person before, and I will admit that I was a little apprehensive about it. What I found, though, was that this was incredibly well designed.
I have encountered these diamond “facets” before, but the biggest difference I found was that where the original HTC Diamond’s back was a shiny faceted material – both slick and too shiny, the Rose’s had a rubberized paint coating on it which made it feel wonderful when held. This was also due in part to the slimmer yet thicker design of the Rose; which I greatly prefer.
The ridges ensure that it fits perfectly in your hand, making it feel even narrower. Just slide the back off the phone to reveal the battery. You will also notice the 3.2 megapixel camera up there.
There are a couple of other things worth noting about the battery cover. The first is that it is not necessary to remove it to swap SIMs or to swap microSD cards; if you are used to both being placed under the battery, you will find yourself sliding the cover off and catching yourself, more times than you will like to recount. The second thing is that it doesn’t open the way you might expect it to. It seems like a no-brainer that it would slide UP and off, but instead it slides down and off. Greater minds than mine have been a bit confused when first presented with an S740, as they tried to insert the battery for the first time. Neither of these points is major, but they are worth pointing out.
I will count myself among those who were confused. Partly because the Touch Pro slides up and the S740 slides down.
As Judie mentioned, when you open the back of the device you’ll notice the lack of a SIM card or memory card. This is a little tricky to locate, so I wanted to point it out. Slide open the keyboard, and you will notice a hidden panel on the back of the keyboard. Pop that open to reveal the SIM card and external memory card. Heck, even the guy at the AT&T store had trouble finding it there.
Now that we have gotten a bit more familiar with the device, let’s go ahead and fire it up and see how she drives.
The main interface is probably the part of the phone that I was most concerned about. When I tried the Motorola Q, with Windows Mobile 2003 SE (non-touch, obviously), I was pretty much scared off by the difficult navigation in the main user interface. So, for me, this was a pretty big test. and boy was I impressed. It was like night and day from the last time I used a non-touch Windows Mobile phone.
Seriously, the Q was three years ago! Let it go! 😉 But I am particularly surprised that you disliked the Smartphone interface so much, when it was decidedly similar to the Pocket PC’s at the time – and even non HTC devices today! The biggest difference was that you couldn’t touch it to activate anything, but the ability to use the D-pad and back button should have taken care of that caveat.
Ironically, the user interface now offers what looks like a nice finger friendly design. Which is great, even on a non-touch device. Those large buttons and icons give you all the information you might need in an easy to navigate format.
HTC has really unified both their touch and non-touch devices’ main screens, with their use of the HTC Home screen on Standard devices. Users should see all the information that they need on the black startup screen, and even though the layout is necessarily different from a touch based device’s, it should feel comfortable.
I agree. It is very comfortable and easy to use. I really liked this design.
There are ten “buttons” on this screen, each contains just a line or two of text. Not a lot of information there, but just scroll down to the one you want to see, and presto, all the information you need. From here, you have quick and easy access to:
- time and date
- calendar and appointments (but not tasks)
- missed calls/voicemail
- text messages
- Internet browser and favorites
- getting started and setup
This menu gives you quick access to pretty much every basic function you are going to need. I can think of a few things missing, like an RSS reader and maybe a launcher. But what I really love here is that it gives you almost everything you could find in Touch Flo 3D, but in a much easier to access format.
While it’s true that there is no RSS reader or touch based launcher on the home screen, there is an included RSS Hub program (a modified version of Ilium Soft’s very popular ) in the Programs list, so all you need to do to launch programs is hit the Start button – which brings up a list of the last nine applications opened. To me, this is the most effective launcher of all.
I agree, the launcher is very good. And you are correct that RSS Hub is included on the device. I have used both Newsbreak and RSS Hub, and for me, this is the best RSS reader out there (but that is another review entirely).
Many people use Windows Mobile devices for a variety of different purposes: email, Internet, task management, you name it. In fact, the S740 does all of this, and it even makes phone calls too.
I was quite impressed with my experience making phone calls on the S740. This is an area which I have always found to be extremely frustrating with Windows Mobile devices, despite the fact that it is one of the basic functions of the phone. The S740 was probably the best Windows Mobile device I have ever used for this purpose.
This is exactly what I have come to most appreciate about WM Smartphone / Standard devices! They are usually great phones that just happen to be intelligent.
Good point. I have generally found the opposite was true with many of the Windows Mobile touch screen/professional devices I have used. They are great little computers, which happen to make phone calls.
You are preaching to the choir; I have been lamenting that fact in reviews for years!
Dialing is a breeze with the generous T9 dialing pad on the front. Unlike its touch screen cousins, you never need to worry about hunting and pecking on an onscreen soft input panel or trying to dial on a thumb keyboard. Phone dialing is great, but it is pretty limited to dialing only the people you know well, or the people in your address book, and it requires you to find a specific screen in order to dial. So, I absolutely loved this hard T9 dialing pad, which almost served as a message from HTC saying, “we get it…you want to make phone calls…”
Once in the call, I found the phone to be pretty average. The signal strength was about the same on AT&T as my other Sprint phones. I did have some problems with a slight echo at times while talking, otherwise, the call quality was really pretty average. It got the job done, but was not necessarily anything to write home about.
My experience with the phone’s radio was very different, but I recognize that it is likely a regional thing. I have long railed about how dissatisfied I was with Sprint’s service in the San Angelo / Eldorado Texas area, and over the last few years I have found AT&T’s to be much better – both in town and in the country. With that said, there are some GSM phones that have crap radios (such as the first generation iPhone), and then there are one’s like the N85 and the Rose – which get excellent signal strength even in “fringier” areas. I found the signal strength and the call quality to be absolutely excellent. Gold star for HTC!
Here in the DC area, AT&T has pretty spotty coverage. I was not impressed, but then I have never been impressed with AT&T’s coverage here. I did have better success with my Bluetooth headset. It connected quickly and perfectly, and never looked back. I had no problems with the headset dropping the signal or skipping while I was talking on the phone. Plus, I found the call quality on some of the newer headsets far surpassed the built-in earpiece on the phone.
I think it would be a good idea to mention the headset you are using; just as phone radio quality can vary wildly, so can headset quality depending upon the model used.
I tested the S740 with two different headsets. One was the Griffin SmartTalk. The other was Sound ID’s exquisite new headset, the soundID 300.
One of the first things that I appreciated about the Rose was the excellent speakerphone. Since I don’t like to wear a BT headset, but instead prefer to use a speakerphone when my hands are occupied, it was important to me that this feature work well – and I found it to be on par with the Vertus I have tested.
LOL. I never use the speakerphone, so I will pass on commenting there.
Overall, this was the only Windows Mobile device I have used that really seemed to understand that you will want to “tell time with that new watch.” While the speaker on the phone may not be anything special, you will get all the special you need from that stellar T9 dialing pad on the front.
Data and Connectivity
Like any other Windows Mobile phone, the S740 is designed for Internet browsing. And boy, was I disappointed with this.
Whoa! I don’t think that the Rose (or any other Windows Mobile phone, for that matter) was specifically designed for Internet browsing, but I do think that it was designed to be able to do it. Big distinction, but I’ll hear you out…
Honestly, I cannot tell you whether my problems related to the phone or AT&T’s network, but let me show you the numbers. I tested this by heading over to http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest. From there, I downloaded a 1MB file onto both my Touch Pro (Sprint) and S740 (AT&T) The Touch Pro maxed out at a relatively average speed of 362 kbit/sec. Not great, but not terrible either. The S740, on the other hand, slipped in at a depressing 114 kbit/sec. Roughly 1/3 the speed of the Touch Pro. Obviously, this made using the phone painful for data connectivity.
Ha! Okay, you are talking about data speeds and not the actual browsing experience. Here’s the deal: The S740 is the European / Asian model, and as such it does not have US 3G! If you want US 3G speeds, you’ll need the US 3G version, the HTC S743. No wonder your speeds were so dismal.
Fortunately, the S740 is fully equipped with Wifi. When I connected the phone to my Wifi network (using Sprint mobile broadband), I ended up with a whopping 623 kbit/sec. This was actually slightly better than the Touch Pro, which clocked in at 554 kbit/sec on the same wireless network.
One other quick note while we are on the subject. I wanted to mention the GPS in this phone. GPS is almost a standard issue option with Windows Mobile phone…or so I thought. No sign of any GPS on the S740. This was a real disappointment coming from one of the best Windows Mobile phones I have used. Simply put, this was a real glaring error, and one which I would hope HTC will remedy with the next model. The specs do indicate it is GPS and AGPS ready, which I imagine means it can accept a signal from an external GPS (such as a Bluetooth GPS), but there is not one built-in.
Once again, I will beg to differ. The Rose does have GPS, and it works very well – especially with Google Maps. Of course the proof is in the pudding, and so I’ll serve up some banana (my favorite!):
First of all, there are not one, but three GPS specific programs on the Rose. The first is Quick GPS…
…then there is GPS Router…
…and AGPS Settings.
Next, there is the lovely integration of Google Maps and the built-in GPS, which – take my word for it – has pinpointed my exact location, not some triangulation estimate from a local tower.
I think that you ran into a problem because there was no obvious carrier mapping software included, but to take advantage of the built-in GOS, you can easily download Google Mobile Maps or for free.
Nope, I think I ran into a problem because it was simply not there (or was at least disabled) on my phone. None of the programs you mentioned were available, and when I downloaded Google maps, I was not able to locate a single satellite. So, clearly there was something amiss.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to review a number of HTC phones, and I have to say that the camera has consistently been among the worst and most disappointing features in every one of them. Sad to say, but the camera in the s740 actually managed, in a number of ways to come in even worse than any of the other cameras HTC has used, despite its 3.2 mp rating.
Here is a picture I took with the camera on the S740. I have never seen anything like this. They are so poorly composed, I actually thought the camera was broken (and maybe it was).
For comparison, I had intended to include a picture I took with the Nokia E71, but those photos were inadvertently deleted. So, above is a shot I took from the same location and lighting with my HTC Touch pro (also 3.2 megapixel.) Any blurriness you may notice is not the camera. That is related to my less than steady hand holding the phone.
The real shame was that the camera does have a few nice features, which are lost on the poor quality of the lens and processor. It has seven different camera and video modes, running the gamut through photo contacts, fun backgrounds, MMS format, and plenty more. It even features a 2x digital zoom lens for those times you need to “get a little closer…”
While I’ll agree that most HTC cameras to date have been deplorable, especially when compared to the superior Nokia cameras, I thought the Rose did pretty well. Not well enough to make me think of ditching my trusty G9, but definitely better than some previous and current HTC models.
Here is a indoors example show with my Rose, in a room with particularly difficult lighting…
even so, notice how sharp items in the photo are!
One of the things I really like about a lot of the newer phones is how easy it is to get into the photo album from here. The album is arranged in the order you shot the pictures. From here, you can view your photos individually or as a slide show.
Tap settings from the camera to open an extremely easy to use popup menu. From here, you can customize many of the important settings for each of the seven picture modes.
To be honest, there really was a lot to like on this camera. Unfortunately, none of those things included the lens or the processor.
Please pay no attention to the rolling of my eyes! I seriously think that your camera was defective! 😛
Battery and Memory
The S740 features a 1000mAh battery. At first, I felt this was pretty good, it seemed to last a long time. Then I realized I was not doing much with the phone. I had not really been using the phone to sync my calendar, check email, or connect to Bluetooth. Once I started performing these relatively basic functions…the battery proved itself to be typically inadequate.
I have long maintained that batteries are the weakest link in most phones and devices. Nothing is more frustrating than coming home with your new phone, packed full of advanced features, only to find that your device does not have enough battery power to handle these features for more than a few hours at a time. There absolutely must be a more refined power source than is currently utilized, and battery manufacturers have to find it…and quickly, before the features of the phones get far too advanced for the batteries to keep up at all.
Gah Doug; I seriously feel like I have stepped int the twilight zone with you on this review. Battery-wise, The Rose has truly impressed me. I don’t have an Exchange account, but I do sync it with Plaxo multiple times a day. I also compulsively pull email (manually, when I think about it), SMS constantly, upload photos to Flickr or Facebook, do light surfing, and make calls. Not once have I received a low battery warning, even after the full days I put in at CES last January. The 1000mAh battery was something I fully expected to gripe about, but it has not let me down yet!
Well, to be fair, I have never met a Windows Mobile device which truly impressed me with its battery.
The memory on the S740 is not much better. It features 256 MB of ROM and 256 MB of RAM. This is just horrible.
Compared to what?! The memory on the Rose is superior to many other currently available Window Mobile devices – Standard and Pro. For instance, it has the same or greater memory as the new T-Mobile Shadow, the Touch Diamond, the Touch Dual, the newly announced Snap…and those are just a short list of the many HTC Windows Mobile devices it beats, alone.
I am not saying this is worse than other Windows Mobile phones. But that does not make it acceptable.
Maybe it won’t be acceptable in 2011 or even 2010, but right now it is pretty darn good!
Thankfully, that tiny RAM storage memory can be expanded with a 4Gb memory card. But really, this is a device which offers to play music and video, so even that 4GB is going to run out fast.
It works just fine with the 16GB microSD I have, so if you need more memory, you can certainly add it.
OK. My bad.
The ROM, on the other hand, is certainly better than previous devices, but still not great for the amount of multitasking you expect, The memory capacity was better than previous Windows Mobile devices…but that is not saying much. Especially considering the iPhone features up to 32 GB of memory.
Umm no! The touch comes with up to 32GB, but the iPhone is still capped out at 16GB!
My bad again. I thought both the iPhone and Touch had 32 GB versions.
Windows Mobile simply has to do better in this department if they are to be expected to compete against some of today’s more modern phones. The really upsetting part is that, unlike batteries, the technology more than exists to increase the built in memory by a significant factor, and I have never understood why Microsoft does not take better advantage of this.
I have to admit that I was a bit trepiditious going into this review. Like I said, I have not had good experiences with non-touch screen devices. But this one offered a whole new experience. To say it is the best non-touch phone I have used would be an understatement. From the extra wide keyboard to the fantastically simple interface, this is among the best Windows Mobile phones I have ever used. Period.
While I certainly agree with your conclusion, I am absolutely amazed that we both ended up agreeing on this point, since we obviously had such different experiences with the Rose. All snark aside, I have been and continue to be impressed with the HTC S740. The only improvement that I might like to have seen was answered with the introduction of the S743.
This is a Windows Mobile phone that can be handed to anyone, power users and typical consumers alike, without worrying that its operation won’t be understood. Because of the numeric button keyboard, it is an intuitive and easy to operate phone; because of the Windows Mobile software, it is a powerful and personalizeable business tool.
I am not surprised that we agreed at all. Most of the important user interface features, I absolutely loved: the main menu, T9 keypad, and slide out keyboard. I found many of the controls to be intuitive and easy to reach. The parts I did not like as much, tended to be more along the lines of minor inconveniences and things that are a fail across most HTC phones or Windows Mobile devices: camera, battery, memory. But I do agree that this is a great phone for just about anyone, especially someone who has never used Windows Mobile before.
The HTC S740 is available from various online retailers. If you live in the US and want 3G, you should get the S743.
MSRP: Around $350