Despite being a cumbersome smartphone laden with the rather unintuitive Windows Mobile operating system, HTC’s TyTN II (aka Kaiser) manages to somewhat redeem itself against the odds thanks to its versatility and sheer range of purpose.
With so many touch-screen smartphones hitting the market in response to Apple’s well-received device one can be forgiven for expecting the TyTN II to be another iPhone-clone, devoid of any original features or flair. The reality is quite different, however, as even a second spent holding HTC’s device shows that the phone was built for substance and not style.
What that means in simple terms is a very bulky, ugly phone – but one that can do enough to act as an all-around PC in your pocket should such functionality be needed. A perfect illustration of this is the very thick body of the TyTN II, which sits awkwardly in any pocket but is justified by the fact that it hides a slide-out QWERTY keyboard; extremely useful for sending e-mail, visiting a website or editing an office document – and all are easily done with this handset.
Of course such a small keyboard and screen is no replacement for your laptop where practical but as a means of keeping in touch with work while on a short journey – above and beyond tracking e-mail – the TyTN II is ideal.
It seems a shame, so that such a variety of input methods are wasted by the very uninspiring Windows Mobile 6 operating system, which handles almost like a downsized version of Microsoft’s decrepit Windows 95 system.
HTC does its best with what it is given and even affixes a very user-friendly front-end on to make controlling the phone as easy as it should be; but once you delve beneath this polished surface, as you will need to do eventually, things turn sour.
The TyTN II is an imperfect device in many ways, from its physical shape to what makes it run. It does what you would expect from a business-focused smartphone but you cannot help but feel it could have done so much more, perhaps with just a centimetre taken off the depth of the phone and a more usable piece of software running under its hood.
If this kind of polish can be added to the TyTN III, assuming there will be such a device, HTC may have an unstoppable force on their hands.
An edited version of this review appeared in an issue of Business & Finance in September 2008.