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Review of HTC Prophet by the example of GSM communicator Qtek S200
A Taiwanese company of HTC, which is an ODM/OEM manufacturer of Windows Mobile devices, follows existing traditions in its release of new platforms. Just remember after a successful HTC Himalayas, a keyboard model with an integrated Wi-Fi module, we mean HTC Blue Angel, appeared only in a while. And after it in the beginning of this year we introduced a renewal of HTC Himalayas. It had no keyboard, however was equipped with Wi-Fi. That was HTC Alpine with the same body and a slightly improved camera.
By its appearance, HTC Magician gave a stimulus to a new gadget line, which is intermediate between Pocket PC and Smartphone. And even till now this device keeps high sale. And the company decided to develop its new branch using an approved way - HTC Wizard with Wi-Fi and a keyboard and run by a new operating system came out quite in a while. Now similarly to HTC Alpine, just at the same period after HTC Wizard, a new HTC Prophet comes. It has no keyboard; however Wi-Fi and an improved camera are both present.
Magician, wizard and… a prophet. Magician, Wizard, and Prophet are code names of the platforms. They will appear under various brands of operators and other companies like Qtek, Dopod, I-mate, T-mobile, O2, Orange and others. The first two trade marks belong to HTC (and cover a European and Asian regions correspondingly). At that these models can have different design, body colour and some elements, extra software. And gradually HTC introduces more and more variations of the same platform. We tested Qtek S200 in black, and it differs from other models in nothing principal, so a code name of the platform will be used in the review.
On the one hand, HTC Prophet is a complete copy (both software and hardware are meant) of HTC Wizard. On the other hand, it's equal to HTC Magician in appearance. That is why today review will be quite short, we will only discuss external elements and a new camera, all other aspects were highlighted in the review of HTC Wizard.
The appearance has not changed much from the HTC Magician's time, it just got rounder. Side edges are not splay as earlier, but slightly project. The body is made of a less smooth, almost dull black material (the front part is of metal, and the back and sides are made of plastic). I found this plastic pleasant to touch and it looks like expensive. A negative point is that the dull surface is easily soiled, and fingerprints remain on it.
The body assemblage is qualitative typically of HTC, all details closely fit and show no backlash. You can see changes in design are almost absent as compared with HTC Magician on these photos. The dimensions remained the same (we expected the device thinner, however it is not so), the weight is 4 g less (148 g against 152), which is not principal.
Let's first discuss the changes on the sides. Traditionally, an "on" button is placed on the right edge (you will turn the communicator off if holding it), IrDA and a stylus holder (longer than before, it got easier to plug out) also found place there. I'd like to note that a ribbed surface of the sides is replaced with a not deep hollow of an uneven material. The communicator will lie in your hand comfortably and won't slide. The dimensions are close to the optimum ones, however, the body could be shorter and thinner, but let's wait for the future models.
A full-size SD/MMC connector found place on the top side (look for 4 GB cards on the counters already). A strap hole moved to the left from the top side, where a volume slider is placed traditionally (you can use special utilities to assign glancing over pages to it), a camera button and a dictaphone one. I'd like to mention the slider became a bit more comfortable - its motion is rougher and it projects from the body more. Pressing a dictaphone button, you start a dictaphone record, which contains only your voice - you still will hear your interlocutor's voice, but very lowly (that is due to vibration spread over the loudspeaker's body to the microphone). Just pressing a button, you call a Comm Manager, which controls the sound, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
With no changes a miniUSB is placed on the bottom end (for synchronization, recharging, connecting as a modem), a headset connector (2.5 mm), a microphone and a soft reset button to press with a stylus are also there.
I think that elements placed on the front part of HTC Prophet are of the most interest. The joystick got round, but its ergonomics has not changed. Call and cancel buttons also got round and smaller, however, which makes no problem. Four more buttons are inscribed into an insertion of a soft plastic, which rounds the joystick - they are two soft buttons, "OK/Сlose" and "Start Menu". They have no visible edges, and small pimples only tell where to press. That may seem uncomfortable; however you will get used to very soon and feel no problem. There set of buttons can help to control an operating system almost without using a stylus, which is a merit of a new operating system.
A battery compartment is on the back, as well as a camera gap and a mirror for self portrait. A gap for an external loudspeaker is placed near the mirror. The battery is compatible with HTC Magician, and a SIM-card holder is inherited from this very model.
A new 2MP camera integrated into this model is the main innovation. And this is the first time when we can speak about the camera quality seriously, as before this moment we could estimate the camera as a "merely average". No doubts, it still has much to develop to reach Nokia's and Samsung's smartphones, but this is a huge leap for HTC.
The camera of HTC Prophet allows photos with the maximum resolution of 1600x1200 pixels, and also you can have 1280x1024 pixels, 640x480 pixels, 320x240 pixels, and 160x180 pixels. The camera interface including settings and the appearance was completely inherited from the previous models. So, we won't discuss it in details. I will only note two new modes. The first one is Sport, which allows about 30 photos one after another in a VGA resolution. And the second is Burst, which is a series of photos in a VGA resolution, which lasts till you press the shutter button. The two new modes appeared due to a faster camera - taking a photo with the maximum quality takes 2.5 seconds, and that from the moment of taking a photo and ending with saving a picture into the memory.
A rotary wheel round the objective - you can switch form a usual mode to macromode manually. That is similarly to Nokia N80. You will have to do it with your nail and very carefully not to touch the objective. However the practice shows you will surely touch it anyway. So, you switch to a macromode and can now shoot from the distance of 6-15 cm. Everything closer or farther looks blurry. For example, you won't manage to take a photo of a whole A4 page or even a horizontal part of it. You will have to take photos of fragments.
As you can see the quality of macrophotos is on the high level. Small text fields will be the most suitable for taking photos, and taking photos with later recognition of visit cards is an ideal solution for macromode. But still this utility is not integrated; though such a program has already become standard on Windows Mobile communicators by Samsung. And I hope it will appear here also by the commercial launch of the product. Photos in macromode are ones of the best among smartphones. Let us see camera capabilities in a usual mode.
You can see that outdoors photos are highly detailed, details are not blurred and no area is whitened. They look good, which makes a considerable progress as compared with the previous models. Although, the photos still lack picture brightness and vividness. I suppose that is a software problem - having slightly edited photos in Photoshop, you will make them much more attractive.
Indoors photos are also very qualitative, incorrectly shown white colour and bright objects is the minus. White colour turns into yellow and bright objects like a lamp will get a special aura, extra luminescence.
I was not really surprised by video recording. The maximum resolution (176x144 pixels) and the quality are low.
There is a conclusion I made for the camera part. That is a giant leap for HTC, however still there is much to develop for the level of Nokia's and Siemens' smartphones (no autofocus, normal flash, normal nightmode, good software image developer). So, the developers should finish with the camera software before the release, a program for recognizing visit cards would be very suitable.
As we have already mentioned, HTC Prophet is equal to HTC Wizard inside. And the performance tests differ only in 4-5 percents. The battery life got only 5-10 % shorter due to a less capacious battery (1200 mAh against 1250). The software and hardware (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, flash memory) parts are equal. You can read about it all in a corresponding review in details:
HTC Prophet showed no problems with the connection quality. The best call melody should be MP3 or WMA. The call signal and vibro are average in power, so you can miss a call in a noisy place (the volume is now lower than in HTC Magician, which will be corrected by the commercial launch).
The Prophet is some kind of a cocktail of the HTC Magician's appearance and HTC Wizard inside. Some negative and positive moments can be mentioned when comparing with HTC Wizard.
And a similar comparison with HTC Magician. Pros:
The model will appear on the counters on the joint of the first and the second quarter of 2006. Obviously, the price will be on the level of HTC Magician Dark (Qtek S110), but less than of HTC Wizard (extra pay for the keyboard). Some of HTC Magician's users, who need Wi-Fi and a new OS, however the presence of a keyboard is not as principal, will buy the Prophet. And the majority of the owners, who do not consider the presence of Wi-Fi crucial, will not exchange the device for HTC Prophet. The reasons are - nothing principally new, piratical software with the new OS for the Magician can appear. And the last is you may find it hard to part with megahertz and megabytes psychologically. And people used to changing the devices often will also change the smartphone.
So, we see the ode is targeted at new users. And if HTC Magician had no rivals by the launch moment, then HTC Prophet will face well-deserved competitors in the person of E-Ten M600 and O2 XDA Atom. Still the model will compete with HTC Magician (Qtek S110) for the first time. And at the same time, there is no evident advantage in any of the mentioned models; it is hard to call any a leading one.
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Published - 22 November 2005
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