HTC Unveils Glamorous iPhone Competitor

Taiwanese manufacturer HTC unveiled a precious gem on Tuesday in London. The company’s Touch Diamond phone, which will be sold in June via European carrier Orange, is one of the first devices to be seriously compared to Apple’s best-selling iPhone —a position nearly ever phone-maker wants hold. In a few months, the phone will become available in Asia and the Middle East. By the second half of 2008, it will be available in North America and Latin America. But pricing information for the high-profile device hasn’t been announced.

In the past, HTC has mainly built phones for other companies. But now HTC is looking to stand out in the crowd. Its original Touch phone, which launched in June 2007, has already sold 3 million units, according to the company. The Touch Diamond is even more eye-catching than the original, with a sleek design and diamond-shaped pattern on the back.

The Touch Diamond feature that begs a comparison to the iPhone is its touch-screen capabilities. While Apple made waves with its "Cover Flow" system that allows users to flip through albums and movies like pages or slides, the Touch Diamond offers a new concept from HTC called TouchFLO 3D, which is also the name of the phone’s graphics processor. HTC Diamond Through the Touch Diamond is smaller than the iPhone, its 2.8-inch touchscreen lets users sort and view e-mail like stacks of letters, receive animated weather forecast graphics, and look at pictures as though they’re in a roll of film. HTC’s phone is powered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.1 (it is one of the first phones to use this new version of Windows Mobile) and Opera’s Web brows, but its interface was designed by HTC.

While the phone will come stocked with other cutting-edge features that can’t be found inside the iPhone (such as a 3.2 megapixel camera, HSDPA Internet connectivity, and true integrated GPS), phone aficionados are already looking ahead to future phones, including an as-of-yet unannounced 3G version of Apple’s iPhones (expected by many Wall Street analysts to arrive in June), and a phone from HTC that will run Google’s Android open-source mobile operating system platform. While the next iPhone may match the Touch Diamond’s Internet speeds, it is difficult to predict how both phones will compare to the first Android phone. HTC gave no new information about its forthcoming Android device on Tuesday, though the device is still expected to arrive by then end of 2008.

Alongside the pending release of the 3G iPhone, Apple and AT&T are expected to deliver a brand new pricing plan, cutting costs by $200 for a new base-line iPhone. The pricing strategy, if true, would bring iPhones into the hands of many more customers. Apple is also expected to release unlocked versions of its phone, allowing customers to freely choose which carriers to sign up with. How this will impact its relationship with AT&T is still unknown.

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