I recently borrowed the new T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone and, after about two weeks of playing around with it, I have to say: I have a big fat crush. The screen—an astounding 4.3"—is insanely sharp. In fact, I happened to receive the phone the day before hopping on a bus for 4 1/2 hours. For 2 1/2 of those hours, I entertained myself by watching Transformers...on the phone. Not only did the crystal clear image blow me away, let me point this out: the phone's battery was still half full by the end of the movie. Crazy!
Aside from the on-the-go entertainment value with the phone—all of the movies are available for renting or purchase through the phone's Blockbuster app—the phone itself is sleek, easy-to-use, and the touch screen über responsive. (Once I turned off that annoying guess-what-word-I'm-trying-to-spell feature that is becoming a staple in many new phones, it rarely, if ever, missed a key stroke.)
I did, however, have one major beef with the phone: an incessant beeping that kept blaring in my ear as I sat at my desk testing its different features. I noticed the Voice Command icon appear, and every 10 or so beeps it would ask me to repeat what I said. (I said nothing.) For me, Voice Command is a useless feature, so once I figured out how to turn the feature off entirely, it was smooth sailing.
But of course, what matters most to us here are travel apps! Sure, there aren't nearly as many apps available as the iPhone (will anyone ever surpass that number?), but the apps available are useful. Three of the free apps that I tested:
LangLearnerLessons A flashcard app that teaches you helpful phrases in nine languages, and in various categories (such as "Staying at a Hotel" and "Eating Out"). An image related to the phrase appears in the middle; on top is the phrase in your native tongue, and below is the translated phrase. In both cases you can press a tiny icon to hear the phrase spoken aloud. To quickly find a phrase, switch from the Flash Card view to the word list view.
Next2Me This type of app is essential to any traveler. Using GPS, the program gives you a listing of attractions in your area, based on what you're looking for. Pizzeria? Done. Museum? Got it. Need a place to crash? No prob. Pick a venue, take a look at its description, and plot it on a map. The app also pinpoints your current position for easy navigation.
TripCase This app is basically a smart itinerary tracker. You have the option to manually enter information (like your flight number, where you're staying, etc.), or you can sync to your Travelocity account to import a saved itinerary. The community feature lets you share your experiences with your contacts via the app's TripLog. I was excited about this feature because you can associate these notes with a photo, and who doesn't like to show off an impressive travel find? However, when I tried it out, the photos wouldn't show up on the posts. Sad face.
While the above travel apps are useful, I think the real value in this phone is the spectacular media presentation—the movie experience supercedes that of the iPhone. Plus, it's just a really cool phone.
Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor at Travel + Leisure.