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REVIEW: HTC MTeoR UMTS Windows Mobile Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Wednesday, 09.08.06 - 16:36:45 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 34310x
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Ok, now it's released and available, HTC's first UMTS Windows Mobile Smartphone - the HTC MTeoR aka HTC Breeze - but what's all the hype about and how does it compete with other UMTS mobile phones?
Well, with the HTC MTeoR, HTC tries to give 3G Windows Mobile Smartphones a giant leap forward as it is the world's first 3G Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone and indeed, this slim and compact candy-bar mobile phone might makes it the ultimate pocket handset. It's featuring Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone, singleband 2100 MHz UMTS, triband 900, 1800 100 MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE and Bluetooth 2.0 without EDR support as well as IrDA while it is sporting 128 MB of ROM and 64 MB of RAM which can be extended through microSD memory cards. The HTC Breeze reference design is powered by a Samsung S3C2442 CPU with 300 MHz and the UMTS baseband is a Qualcomm MSM6275 chipset.

The (non touchable) QVGA screen measures 2.2" and displays 240x320 pixels by supporting 65k colors. The MTeoR features a 1.3 megapixel camera (without a photo light) for photos and videos. Since it is a Windows Mobile Smartphone, it doesn't have a touch screen but for the navigation, either the 3-way jog-wheel or the 5-way joystick can be used in addition to the 12-key alphanumeric phone keyboard. The whole device measures 112.4x49x14.8mm and only weights 120g with battery only; not too bad for a UMTS mobile phone.

The sales pack includes the device, one 1190 mAh Litium-Ionen-Polymer battery, a 110V - 220V AC charger, a mini USB to USB sync cable, a wired stereo headset, the manual and a CD-ROM with ActiveSync and Outlooks 2002 (not in the photo bellow):

So indeed, this is a - for Windows Mobile devices - typical sales pack today (the good time, where these kind of devices also came with a cradle are gone long time ago - unfortunately).

As said above, the HTC MTeoR is a candy-bar device but unlike HTC's previous Smartphones, the Breeze housing is made out of a kind of metal and reminds pretty much of the HTC Magician which seems to be made out of the same materials. This gives the device a way nicer look and feel and makes it looking more expensive and I would even say it makes it looking an upper-class device as well:

Its slim design even pays to this feeling as well. For sure it's not as slim as a Qtek 8500 but for a candy-bar (Windows Mobile) phone, it's pretty slim, especially if you keep in mind it's not just another GSM phone but also a UMTS device.

The keypad is sporting the Windows Mobile Smartphone typical extra keys like Home and Back. However, HTC made these two keys more important again, by bringing it back to the main keypad section around the joystick. In exchange to this, the two extra application keys are moved in between of the two soft key buttons bellow the screen:

Also and finally - the extra Contacts button - as used for the HTC Tornado/Hertz based devices - was replaced with something more useful: in this case an Internet Explorer Mobile button. Therefore you can open the Inbox and the Internet Explorer Mobile right from the two dedicated keys, doesn't matter in which application you are at the moment.
In addition, since the MTeoR isn't featuring a dedicated "Communication Manager" button, pressing and holding the Home key opens the Comm Manager. This is very handy, if you are regularly using the Comm Manager.
A little bit disappointing - in my very own humble opinion - is the way the green and red call buttons are located. I would prefer to have them closer to the number keypad instead of having the Home and Back button in between. The way it is placed now means you have to "jump" over the Home button to press the green call key and the same to press the red end key.
Also I dislike the fact, that HTC has given away space for the general keypad layout, especially with the spaces between the number keys which therefore become pretty small. Nevertheless, the gum looking plastic keys can be pressed well and exact enough for both - entering a phone number as well as entering texts.
On the bottom of the number keypad you have a light sensor which switches on/off the blue keypad backlight. This definitely saves battery power, especially because there is no reason to have the backlight switched on in the bright sunlight.

On the top of the device you have the speaker with two LEDs - left and right from it:

These LEDs flashes green (for active GSM and UMTS indication) and blue (for active Bluetooth) as well as amber/green (for charging indication). All this is pretty basic and known and typical for HTC Smartphones.

On the backside - in the upper left corner - the device has its 1.3 megapixel camera with fix focus and digital zoom only. Interestingly enough, the camera is still not backed-up by a camera light, which is even a standard for most of today's bred and butter mobile phones so you need some half-decent light conditions, if you want to make photos or videos. Also a mirror for self-portrait shots is missing and the reason for this missing mirror might be the fact, that the original version was planned to have a second camera on the front side, used for UMTS video telephony (and in this case self-portraits as well):

Well, the second camera is gone, at least in the European version, even if the Asian Dopod 595 version of the HTC Breeze is definitely launched with this second QCIF+ camera.
According to HTC (which was confirmed by some mobile operators as well), the 300 MHz of the Samsung are not strong enough to support UMTS video telephony which makes me wonder why the 300 MHz of the Dopod 595 should be strong enough? Anyway - the HTC MTeoR is released without the second front camera and it seems HTC have missed to add the mirror for self-portrait shots on the backside.
In the middle of the black plastic part you only have the antenna connector (protected by a black knob) as well as the loudspeaker for speakerphone and audio playback.

Talking about the black upper part of the MTeoR (on the front and back) - this is made out of plastic because here are the GSM, UMTS and Bluetooth antennas located but it's not looking that bad at all and isn't killing the overall impression of the device. Far from it, it adds some nice accent to the overall look.

On the left side of the device you have on top the 3-way jog-wheel, which isn't working like the HTC's Hermes track-wheel since it can be pressed and hold up and down only or pushed to open the selected item. So no, it's not a 360° spinning wheel but works more like a rocker:

Nevertheless, this isn't working too bad except for one thing - you can not adjust the device volume anymore because it's not assigned to the device volume settings anymore but used for menu navigation instead; which is - on the other hand - pretty handy.
By the way - it even has a press and hold function which opens - in this case - the Contacts application. Nevertheless, this assignment can be changed with a Registry hack to any other application as well.

On the bottom of the device you have a microSD card slot (and yes - it's microSD, formerly known as TrashFlash, not miniSD or SD). Well, this is definitely a trend in the mobile phone industry, to micromize wherever possible and this includes - unfortunately enough for most of us - the storage cards as well:

So yes, most of us have to buy new memory cards but microSD cards are available up to 2 GB now, for a reasonable price.

On the right side, you find the typical camera shutter key as well as the - for HTC Windows Mobile phones - even more typical voice control/Voice Notes application launcher:

Also on the right side located is the infrared eye to exchange information with other mobile devices and for sure it can be also used to connect the device to a Notebook to use it as a wireless modem (if your Notebook still has an infrared eye as well).

On top - this is a low burner - the MTeoR features the power button which also opens the QuickList:

Way more interesting is the bottom of the device and its connectors or in this case missing connectors. Here you have the microphone and a weird looking but 100 % compatible mini USB jack, but no headset jack. And indeed, as HTC has left the headset jack at the HTC Hermes, it has also left the headset jack at the Breeze:

Generally, it's not a problem at all, since the mini USB jack also supports stereo audio out with the provided stereo headset.

However, as the latest poll shows, most of you prefer to use a 3rd party stereo headset instead of the original "low cost" headsets. And since a mini USB to 3.5 mm stereo jack adapter isn't available so far, you can either listen to the music through the original headset or wireless through Bluetooth since the MTeoR also supports the A2DP and AVRC stereo and remote control profiles:

Nevertheless, another drawback - if you use the original stereo headset - is the fact, that you cannot simultaneously listen your music/having phone calls and charges the device.
For future device releases and if HTC continues to use the mini USB for audio out as well, I recommend HTC to add a mini USB to 3.5 mm adapter as well as a Y-cable to the sales packs, or at least offering it as accessories.

The MTeoR is powered by a Samsung CPU with 300 MHz and running Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU 2.3 and this combination cooperates perfectly. I haven't seen such a snappy and responsive Smartphone for a while. Applications open pretty fast and the waiting time is really short - unlike with TI OMAP 850 CPUs which can become pretty slow.

Since it is HTC's first UMTS Smartphone I was pretty curious how it is doing and it does well - since it isn't HTC's first UMTS device at all but "already" the third one. The 'U' on top and '3G' in front of the carrier name indicate, that the device is attached to a UMTS network:

Web surfing on the device is pretty fast - I've reached speeds up to 320 Kbps! I mean, keep in mind that theoretically UMTS is able to serve up to 384 Kbps, it's pretty close to what UMTS can provide:

Unfortunately, the HTC MTeoR isn't supporting the faster HSDPA mode yet (and I have no information if it might be upgradeable later by a ROM update but I don't expect a HSDPA upgrade at all) which means that the first UMTS Windows Mobile Smartphone is outdated at the time of launch already. But Ok, HSDPA is still fairly new and - for instance - in Germany only 2 of 4 UMTS networks supports HSDPA at the moment. But even with UMTS only, web surfing on the Smartphone makes fun enough and since it can be used as a wireless modem for Notebooks too, the MTeoR can also speed up the mobile PC web surfing - up to 384 Kbits but not up to 1.8 Mbits (as supported by HSDPA).
While we are talking about Internet access. Unfortunately - and this is a real drawback - the HTC Breeze platform doesn't have Wi-Fi/W-LAN built-in which means, the only wireless connection of the device is UMTS, EDGE or GPRS. Therefore you can not access the often cheaper W-LAN, like at home or public hot spots. Not sure why HTC left W-LAN out for such a device but the MTeoR would be an even better device, if it would also includes W-LAN connectivity.

Since the MTeoR is running on AKU 2.3, it also supports (theoretically) Microsoft's MSFP Push E-Mail service as well as remote device configuration. Also, AKU 2.3 supports two new features: a reworked Start menu and a new file explorer (see my previous article here):


Both applications add a real value to the device and are appreciated. Last but not least - software-wise the HTC MTeoR comes preloaded with Westtek's ClearVue application suite, which allows viewing Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files on the Smartphone.

Final Conclusion

Nearly well done HTC - for the first UMTS Windows Mobile Smartphone it's not too bad but the MTeoR has also some drawbacks. Leaving W-LAN and HSDPA out makes it half as valuable only as it would be with W-LAN and HSDPA. Especially because it clearly targets the mobile Internet user. For what else is a 3G UMTS device good for if it doesn't has a video telephony camera on the front? While I'm not a big user of video telephony (I've only used it rarely in the past), leaving the video telephony functionality cuts 50 % of what UMTS is good for; the other 50 % are the high speed mobile data access and here, the MTeoR fulfils everything it was promising - as long as you are not using it in North American UMTS networks. It wasn't clearly described in the marketing flyers but the Breeze is definitely a singleband UMTS device - only working in the European and Japanese 3G networks which work with 2100 MHz. The MTeoR isn't supporting the North American 850/1900 MHz UMTS bands, as used for instance by Cingular. Another disappointment is the fact, that the GSM mode is also supporting triband only, namely GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz while the North American GSM 850 MHz mode was left as well. So yes, the MTeoR, as good and feature-rich it is, it isn't designed for North American market at all but for inbound roamers from Europe or Japan only since you can use UMTS over there but not in North America (which might becomes another disappointment for inbound roamers as well, as soon as the carriers have their UMTS roaming agreements in place).
Therefore, all the rest of this conclusion hasn't has North American readers in mind anymore but European readers only.

If you see the MTeoR as just a mobile phone, it's a nearly perfect Smartphone - stylish and good looking, thin and well designed and the Samsung 300 MHz CPU really pay off since the 300 MHz saves battery but makes the device one of the fastest Smartphones on the market today.
The voice quality is perfect in both directions (and slightly better in the UMTS mode) and the stand-by time is sufficient in GSM mode. In my tests it staid stand-by for around 3 - 4 days which decreases as soon as you use SMS or GPRS - for sure. Constantly talk time was something around 3 hours in GSM 1800 MHz mode. But for sure, these figures are lower if the device is used in UMTS mode.

If you plan to use the device with Microsoft's MSFP Push E-Mail service, please keep also in mind, that you have to install a personal certificate but the current security settings prevents you from installing your self created personal certificates. That's bad, for what else is the MSFP good for? But how can you use it, if you are not allowed to install your own certificates? Here I have all my hope into the Windows Mobile community, that we will see a hack hopefully sooner than later which unlocks the application lock of the device.

So that's a lot of disappointments above and the question is if I would by it myself? Indeed I would (and I will), even with the limitations above but I'm not living in North America but in Europe and my current carriers doesn't supports HSDPA. Therefore, the singleband UMTS support of the MTeoR is good enough for me but might not be enough for others.
But a decision to buy a new mobile phone isn't including the feature-set only but also the overall value it provides as well as the design and design-wise I'm really exalted. The used materials are looking high-class and the overall design looks premium as well. The Windows Mobile 5.0 platform is the platform of my choice and since I'm not a video telephony user, it's fine for me that this feature is left.
Don't get me wrong, even if I've listed a lot of disappointments above, I'm still satisfied with the device and if you are a European or Japanese UMTS user, if you don't need HSDPA and you have no use for video telephony but you are looking for a stylish UMTS Windows Mobile phone, the MTeoR might be the device of your choice.
If you live in North America or you plan to use HSDPA, you should skip the MTeoR and wait for its follower which will has - I'm sure - at least quadband GSM and triband UMTS Support, as supported by HTC's latest Pocket PC Phone Edition, the HTC Hermes.

The HTC MTeoR is available from several online shops around the world for around 479 Euro.

Cheers ~ Arne


 

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Comments
Posted by Rogier on 09.08.06 - 17:09:19

Wow, this is a very nice review! I still have a few questions though:

1)How do you like the design of the device, apart from its thickness? In my opinion the gray and black colour setting doesn't really looks nice in the pictures. The all-black C700 Orange version looks a lot better.

2)How do you change the volume, when it cannot be done with the "rocker"?

3)Will you be making a review of the Samsung i320? I know msmobiles.com has posted its impressions, but I prefer your judgement, as you choose for a more qualitative approach.

Posted by Arne Hess on 09.08.06 - 17:49:33

Hi Rogier. Thanks for your feedback.

Regarding your questions:

1) The photos doesn't gives the real color of the device. IMHO (and opinions are always questionable) the real color looks much nicer while I have to admit, that I can not see silver phones anymore. Therefore, I was a big fan of the "rusty" brown MPx220. The real color of the MTeoR is darker, not that shiny silver at all and therefore I really like it.

2) Traditional way through the settings. Please keep in mind that this is for the standard device volume only, during a call you can for sure change the volume. What I mean was the notification sounds like for alarms, etc.

3) Yes, I will. Samsung has me on its list already but as I wrote before, I'm going to review the i320n, since this is the version which is to be released here in Germany and maybe in other European countries (as I've heard) as well.

Posted by Gordon on 10.08.06 - 19:34:47

Nice review.

Any sign of the v. poor battery life and the overheating issues as reported on Modaco.com?

Might be worth adding a mention of the Application unlocking issue too.  Although I see you have a seperate piece about that.

Posted by maxnix on 14.08.06 - 22:12:08

The world's first 3G phone?

I hardly think so.  Samsung SCH-i730 has been out for over a year with EV-DO.

Posted by Arne Hess on 14.08.06 - 23:28:13

maxnix wrote:

The world's first 3G phone?

I hardly think so.  Samsung SCH-i730 has been out for over a year with EV-DO.

You are right, the i730 is available for some time already but according to Microsoft's own definition, it's a Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, not a Windows Mobile Smartphone.
Therefore, the MTeoR is indeed the first UMTS (3G) "Smartphone" while it is also not the first UMTS device but the 3rd one already.

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