Chapter 22 – My First HTC

In the summer of 2006 this Mac user of many years bought his first Windows laptop, for the express purpose of trying a proper Linux distribution on it. Somewhere along the way I decided that Linux was actually too hard, or that Windows wasn’t actually so bad. Why is any of this important? Because with a Windows-powered desktop machine the stage was set for my first (and as of this writing, only) Windows-powered smartphone, the HTC TyTN.

HTC was a Taiwanese company that had previously made branded devices for others, most famously the Treo 650 and Compaq iPAQ. The TyTN was not their first Windows Mobile product, but the first to bear the company’s name. And it was fairly spectacular for the times. It was the first phone that I could use in Canada with 3G data service, offering download and upload speeds at least twice as fast as the then-current standards. Added to that was a WiFi radio, letting me hop on to a wireless Internet connection without using cellular data at all. All this plus an extra camera on the front of the phone meant that for the first time I could make voice and video calls using Skype, in flagrant disregard for whatever limitations I had on my calling plan. This was disruptive technology at its very best.

As you can imagine, this premium product had a premium price tag to match. My carrier hadn’t even heard of it, but I found a small local shop that specialized in importing super-high-powered phones from Europe. They could get me a TyTN, but it would set me back eleven hundred bucks. Flush with cash from my first professional contract as a theatre director, I placed my order.

My time with the TyTN was bittersweet. Perhaps its star turn was the nine days it spent with me in Seoul to ring in 2007. I received a “welcome to Korea” text from Fido the moment I powered it up upon arrival at Incheon Airport, and HTC’s flagship fit right in with the super-high-powered phones that the locals were using. My TyTn even got a compliment from the staff at my hotel.

But it was an altogether different story on a trip to Bermuda later that spring. I realized how dim the TyTN’s touch-screen display was when I couldn’t read texts or even see who was calling me in the bright island sunlight. Worse was battery life; with both 3G and WiFi radios turned on I can remember going from a full charge to empty in the space of a twenty-minute cab ride. This TyTN clearly needed much more power than its relatively small battery could provide.

Ultimately the TyTN’s downfall wasn’t the device itself but the desktop operating system it was tied to. I appreciated the push-email capabilities of Microsoft’s Exchange but I despised Outlook on my Windows laptop — so much so that I went back to my hiptop, dumped the Windows laptop for an Apple one and banished my TyTN to the dark recesses of my desk drawer. Then I gave it to a friend. Then he never used it and gave it back to me. Then I gave it to someone else. Then she dropped it in the toilet.

An inglorious end to a titan of smartphones.