HTC HD2 review: Portrait of a rockstar

GSMArena team, 17 November 2009.

Tweaks & Modding

And just a step away from the conclusion we'll share with you some tips about tweaks and modding. PocketPCs have long been the target of custom modding, patching and tweaking. HTC for one have an especially wide and busy fan base that seems to be constantly poking and prodding for a new twist to their gear.

So, the HTC HD2 review would not be complete without mentioning some of the achievements on the user customization and modding scene.

First off, it's the screen auto rotation limitations that have become the target of the modders. By default, screen auto rotation only works in the web browser (not even in the image gallery and the video player).

The Gyrator app enables the automatic screen rotation for the HD2 almost all across the interface - except for the Home screen. An added bonus is that you can set specific system or app events to be triggered in response to the handset movement.

At this point, Gyrator didn't work for enabling auto rotation in the gallery, but we guess a newer version should be out soon taking a specific approach to HD2.

You can find more about Gyrator and download the latest version over at its developer's website.

There is also a whole list of other customizable options that require you to edit the Windows Mobile system registry.

Probably the most useful feature you can enable that way is the pinch zooming across newly installed applications (notice that this won't work with preinstalled programs like Internet Explorer). Pinch zooming is a must have feature when it comes to small-font applications like the Registry Editor, which are better suited to stylus use than anything else.

The Zooomer app turned out the most convenient way to enable pinch zooming. You only have to find the installed application in the custom created list, check a box and soft reset your device. It works like a charm. You can download the Zooomer app here (it's at the bottom of the page).

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The Zooomer app

And when it comes to the Registry Editor, we used it to activate the geo-tagging feature of the camera. It allows saving the location information in the EXIF file of the image. It is very strange why HTC decided to deactivate this feature even if the hardware and the software support it. Just start the Registry Editor, go to HKLM\Software\HTC\Camera\P10 and set Enable to 1. Then soft reset the device and start the camera to see the GPS Photo among the other capture modes.

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The Registry Editor

Thanks to the Registry Editor we were able to unveil part of HD2's hidden potential. For example, we enabled the Wi-Fi 802.11n support which increases Internet browsing speed dramatically. You need to go to HKLM\Comm\BCMSDDHD1\Parms and to change 11nModeDisable from 1 to 0.

The haptic feedback for link clicking in the Opera browser was something else that we had to enable on our own. If you'd like to do it as well, just go to HKLM\Software\Opera\Defaults, then tap and hold on the white background, create a new DWord value called VibrationEnabled and set (dec.) to 1.

Normally, links in Opera work only when youíve zoomed in on them, however, using the Registry Editor you can enable clickable links in zoom out. Go to HKLM\Software\Opera\Info\az_overview_threshold and change the value from 64 to 32.

The last trick made possible by the Registry Editor is the magnifying box, which appears when a text is selected. After changing the value from 0 to 1 in \HKLM\Software\HTC\TextSelection\EnableMagnifier, you can go to the Messaging app and try this feature out.

The HTC HD2 doesnít have voice dialing app out of the box but you've got numerous options out there. For instance, you can get the Cyberon Voice Speed Dial application, which when assigned to a button can handle voice dialing and even execute voice commands.

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The Cyberon Voice Speed Dial application

The tweaks we mentioned work like a charm and are generally easy to do, however, believe it or not, there is an even easier way to enable all those hidden features. The application that will do all the heavy lifting for you is called BsB Tweaks. Thanks to it you only have to switch on or off a certain feature.

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Life is easier with BsB Tweaks

And finally, you can also download a user customized system image (or ROM, as its more popular). Most of those are created to easily transfer numerous system tweaks in one go that hopefully improve overall performance and fine tune certain aspects of the OS and UI. For further details visit the XDA developers' forum and look for the Leo section.

As always, use caution and sound judgment when tweaking your phone's system files. Some of those actions can void your warranty and even brick your device if you don't know what you're doing. We don't accept any liability for any damage you may cause to your phone by engaging in these officially unauthorized system tweaks.

Final words

HTC HD2 has it all to be a winner Ė groundbreaking hardware, inventive software, high performance and solid design. HTC have struck the right balance with the HD2 and they are certainly giving the competition a run for their money.

Thanks to the capacitive screen the HTC Sense delivers almost unsurpassed Windows Mobile experience complete with multi-touch gestures. It seems the Snapdragon platform is what the now aged Windows Mobile platform was meant to run on. If only we had that kind of hardware and software a couple of years ago, nobody would have even considered the iPhone seriously.

But we didnít and we donít suppose Snapdragons are going to become mainstream any time soon. So from a broader perspective, Windows Mobile is still just another runner-up in the run for the ultimate all-touch smartphone. The impressive user-experience on the HD2 is hardly indicative for the OS by itself.

So if you get our drift, it's not Microsoft, but HTC that deserves the user experience award for the HTC HD2. Their Sense UI and TouchFLO 3D have blended exquisitely well delivering an unmatched social networking integration (save perhaps for the HTC Hero) and touch experience easily equaling that of the iPhone.

But even though itís such a powerful package, the HD2 has it flaws too. The camera is below par, video recording is kinda poor, the limited internal storage is a real bugger and the its sheer size does push the limits of user comfort. That last thing will perhaps be a deal breaker for many users.

What is more, the HD2, just like its predecessor, does not justify its HD moniker. It doesnít capture HD videos (but we knew that beforehand) and worse yet, it cannot even play any right. Samsung Omnia HD does these things with a substantially lower clocked CPU, so we guess Snapdragon doesn't equal HD automatically either.

But still Snapdragons are still quite rare on the phone market and until more of those appear next year, the Toshiba TG01 and the Acer neoTouch will always remain two opponents the HD2 should consider. Both of them feature less UI customizations, resistive touchscreens and less RAM. But what works in their favor is they both are nearly 200 euro cheaper than the HD2 with its 550 euro price tag. That alone makes them worth checking out. But as we said, HTC have done a tremendous job of making Windows Mobile more usable and the added value of their product is well worth the extra bucks.

Toshiba TG01 Acer neoTouch
Toshiba TG01 ē Acer neoTouch

The final threat for the HD2 success on the Windows Mobile ring is the more lightweight Samsung I8000 Omnia II, which should definitely be the weapon of choice for all those of you that find the HD2 just too big.

It might not have the brute processing power of the HD2, nor the RAM count, but the actual handling and response are perfect. The 3.7" AMOLED screen, another fully customized UI, huge internal storage, DivX/XviD support out of the box and all kind of software goodies make the I8000 Omnia II a force to be reckoned with in the smartphone field this holiday season. Not to mention itís got a nicely capable camera and it currently goes for some 150 euro less than the HTC HD2.

Samsung I8000 Omnia II
Samsung I8000 Omnia II

So there you go. There is no shortage of options out there but weíll gladly take the HD2 just as it is. On some counts it would be a decision against good reason, we admit, but the passion for gadgets is rarely one of logic, and always one of the heart.