HTC, which just announced its new touchscreen cell phone, the Diamond, had been treating this new product announcement with a great deal of secrecy, even flying over the assembled press corps (yes, that includes you too, bloggers) to London for the event, like a modern-day Willy Wonka. Well, dear reader, LAPTOP had one of the golden tickets, so follow the jump to see what all the fuss is about. There was a lot of speculation about what this device was going to be: The first Android device? An iPhone killer? Rumors were wildly circulating in the weeks, and the last few were actually quite accurate. Crowding the 100 or so members of the media into a small theater in the basement of the Soho Hotel in London, HTC’s president and CEO, Peter Chou, showed off the culmination of his company’s efforts over the past year. He noted that 3 million devices with HTC’s TouchFLO technology were sold in 2007, and had been since working on simplifying user experience and putting those learnings into the Diamond. A touchscreen was just the first step, Chou said. The next two years, he added, is about making the Internet usable and fun. “The promise of content at your fingertips has been false,” said Chou. “It’s so difficult to view, so difficult to use. Nobody is going to use that. Transforming a Web site experience that was made for a PC to a small device is challenging.” Fact vs. Fiction With that, he introduced the Diamond. First off, the final rumors that indeed rang true: 2.8-inch VGA screen, Windows Mobile 6.1, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, HSDPA 7.2, 4GB internal memory, 3.2-megapixel camera, and an accelerometer. And now the remaining facts: An Opera browser; HTC’s proprietary mini-USB jack for headphones; no microSD card, so you’re stuck with the 4 gigs onboard; stylus; threaded SMS. Battery life rated for about 4 hours of talking. Phone will be rolled out in Europe and Asia in June, and the rest of the world “later this year,” according to Florian Seiche, VP, HTC Europe. North America groans. From the images on the screen, it also looks like there is a secondary camera on the front of the phone, too. Considering it doesn’t have a hardware-based keyboard, the device will be marketed towards high-end multimedia users. Pricing has yet to be determined. No One’s Said “iPhone Killer” Yet HTC is clearly going after the iPhone with the Diamond. One look at the user interface makes that plainly obvious. It’s very sleek; except for the logo in the upper left-hand corner, you wouldn’t know this was a Windows Mobile device at all. However, the only mention of the Apple device was by Andy Lees, the senior vice president of Microsoft mobile communications who noted that Windows Mobile devices were far outselling the iPhone. Yeah, and how do you rate next to Nokia? A Walk Through the Diamond Anyhew, Horace Luke, HTC’s chief innovation officer, walked us through some parts of the device. In some respects, HTC is taking a cue from the iPod in using a small circular button below the touchscreen. This makes navigating the device much easier with just one finger. For example, users need to use two fingers to shrink or zoom images on an iPhone, but on the Diamond, it seems like this is accomplished with moving your thumb in a circular motion. A row of icons at the bottom of the screen leads you to different applications, including messaging, contacts, music, and the Internet, and users can scroll between them with a swipe of the thumb. Also, in sections such as Contacts, a user’s contacts are listed in a vertical bar along the right side of the screen, which is also scrollable with just one finger. The music section displays album art similarly to the iPhone’s, only instead of seeing brief glimpses of albums both before and after the current selection, you only see album art of what’s to come. One of the coolest features, a carryover from the HTC Touch, is the weather application, with animated icons for different weather conditions that morph as you go from one city to the next. There’s a few smart-looking messaging apps, but Luke didn’t go into them much, and didn’t talk at all about the virtual keyboard, which, in my opinion, will make or break this device. Luke briefly touched on the fact that there’s a few different keyboard input methods. During a brief hands-on, I found two types of QWERTY keyboards, a traditional layout, and one that’s more like a BlackBerry Pearl, seen here to the right. Typing wasn’t too hard, though like any virtual keyboard, it’ll take some getting used to. The little grid pattern at the bottom is used to switch in between different entry methods. The included stylus isn’t too bad, either; it’s made of metal, which is nice. The browser on the Diamond is, surprisingly, Opera. Web pages are automatically formatted for the screen, and selecting a certain area lets you zoom into that section, which then resizes the text to fit the screen. Over the HSDPA network on Orange’s network here, Luke loaded Topgear.com in about 7 seconds, but had a bit of trouble when he tried to follow another link. Interestingly, Internet Explorer 6 was not ready in time for WinMo 6.1 rollout on this phone, but Andy Lees didn’t seem concerned that users would stick with Opera when they finally finish it. The Diamond also has a YouTube application, which HTC worked with Google to implement. It, too, loaded fairly quickly; a video of Madonna and Justin Timberlake started streaming in about 5 seconds, and the quality appeared fairly decent. Well, that’s all from the press conference. We’ll be following up later with other posts about the device. Until then, cheerio from London.