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What is TouchFLO 3D?
TouchFLO 3D is the finger-controlled user interface for Windows Mobile, designed by HTC. Bringing iPhone-like intuitive scrolling, navigation and text editing to Windows Mobile 6.1 devices, it ships with the HTC Touch Diamond, Touch Pro and Touch HD.
You’ve seen the iPhone in action, and heard everyone sing and dance about it – so let’s get this out of the way right now. The iPhone user interface is custom built for finger and thumb control, with pinching and sliding and all of that jazz that you see on TV ads and YouTube.
TouchFLO 3D is a suitable reply, an upgrade of the TouchFLO system and built for Windows Mobile 6.1. It isn’t meant as a direct competitor, but as a reasonable alternative for users who want a Windows Mobile phone and the reliability and features they offer (such as cut and paste, video camera, etc) with a slick, stylus-free finger controlled interface.
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Browsing through the various options presented in the finger (or rocker button) controlled menu across the bottom of the screen seduces the user with its beautiful swishing as each screen slides out of view to be replaced by the next.
In particular the People/Contacts screen, the MP3 player and the Photo and Video screen make best use of the TouchFLO 3D technology allowing finger controlled browsing that is as reminiscent of Windows Media Centre and Xbox 360 interface as it is the iPhone’s. This really is the future for interacting with handheld devices and media centres, and TouchFLO 3D brings Windows Mobile kicking and screaming into that future.
The features available depend entirely on the device hosting the TouchFLO 3D – various homebrew versions are readily downloaded for most HTC phones. Currently the HTC Touch Diamond, Touch Pro and Touch HD are the only official releases, with more expected.
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One drawback of the finger controlled UI is the virtual keyboard – while the traditional Windows Mobile stylus-controlled onscreen keyboard has been scaled up to allow input via finger or thumb on the touchscreen, the predictive text function slows TouchFLO down, and it isn’t perfect for all finger sizes. There are better virtual keyboards available online for free or a small fee.
In particular, the Programs menu is very useful – 15 user-configurable buttons for quick launching of applications. I’m not quite certain 15 is enough, however. One drawback is that the Radio must be launched wither from here or the main Programs index, rather than from the MP3 player.
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Photos and Browsing
If taking photos is your thing, the slick UI permits various options, and switches easily between still and video. Checking photos later takes advantage of the finger sliding from left to right on the touchscreen to browse through the album and the viewer can zoom in by circling a finger clockwise on the area to be viewed in closeup. The G Sensor is also employed in the photo album, allowing snaps and videos to be viewed at any orientation. (G Sensor is the same given to the motion-control sensor of the HTC Touch phones.)
The star of the TouchFLO 3D show however is the inclusion of the Opera Mobile browser. Allowing the user to scroll with their finger or thumb, zoom into the fast loading webpage either by double tapping the screen or circling the thumb on the control bad and able to launch around 95% of web pages correctly, it brings Windows Mobile devices in line with every other mobile phone or PDA with scrollable, zoomable small-form web pages. G Sensor also detects how the phone is oriented and displays web pages in portrait or landscape format as appropriate.
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TouchFLO 3D is the best thing that could have happened to Windows Mobile, and is a suitable, measured response to the threat of the Apple iPhone, offering a simple and intuitive finger-controlled user interface while maintaining the traditional Windows Mobile screens and settings within easy reach.