Sprint's HTC Touch Pro

This holiday season is turning out to be a taste of heaven for mobile phonatics.

All the major carriers are boasting new, highly anticipated models, like Google and TMobile's new G1 (and its use of a new operating system called Android), the all touch screen CrackBerry Storm from Verizon and its cousin, the Bold, on ATT. Options abound, even for the most e-mail-addicted, YouTube-watching, human interaction-avoiding techie.

Not to be upstaged, Sprint recently unveiled the Touch Pro by HTC -- the Chinese manufacturer also responsible for the G1. In the last year, HTC has flooded the market with handhelds aimed squarely at the iPhone and its place as the most cache-laden gadget since the iSlicedBread. (ATT has also just recently launched the Touch Pro under the moniker the Fuze, for those who prefer "more bars in more places.")

The Touch Pro aims to impress both visually and functionally.

Upon startup, you are welcomed by a screen that is nothing short of spectacular -- colors and text are clear and a pleasure to read. Utilizing HTC's TouchFlo 3D, the phone features a visually amazing skin for the Windows Mobile platform upon which it operates. It's designed to make the phone as finger-friendly as the Windows Mobile operating system will allow.

Sliding your thumb across the bottom of the touchscreen lets you cycle through the various features of the phone, like e-mail, text messaging and the Internet browser Opera (more on that to come.)

Once you pick a program, you can use your thumb or finger to flick through new messages and watch old ones literally fly off the screen. It makes checking mundane tasks pleasurable, like sorting through spam about Black Friday sales or searching for a long-lost cousin's e-mail address.

On to Opera. The browser is a vast improvement over the altogether appalling Internet Explorer housed on most Windows Mobile phones. Opera is specially designed for finger navigation, like Safari on the iPhone, allowing you to double-click to zoom and to flick to scroll through a Web page.

On Sprint's 3G EVDO network, Web pages load quickly and clearly, with crisp photographs and lucid text.

In addition to these data-heavy features, the phone also comes with an easy-to-use photo and music organizer (although you will need to buy a microSD card to expand space beyond the included 1GB card) that operates in a similar fashion as Coverflow on an Apple product.

A few complaints: The HTC's battery life and thickness both leave something to be desired. One of the nice features of the phone is the inclusion of a slideout QWERTY keyboard that comes in handy for longer messages. But the tradeoff is a bulkier gadget.

Also, given how intense the display and applications are, do not expect to get more than a day of regular use before having to recharge, albeit this is something many of us have become used to as we have to sit and listen to the incessant whines of our "trendier" friends about their iPhone 3G's battery lives.

At times, the phone made me self-conscious about whether I had fat fingers, when stumbling to hit the point on the screen I actually intended. But the feeling of being the chubby kid on South Beach was fleeting, and overall I really enjoyed the HTC's navigation.

Overall, HTC and Sprint have definitely put out a veritable contender to the iPhone in usability and aesthetic beauty. While it has its shortcomings, the phone itself will surely turn heads when you seductively whip it out and start finger-dancing all over the screen. (At least, it got my iPhone-toting friends to turn their noses from the sky to my screen, and that's the gift that just keeps on giving.)

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