The HTC Touch Dual is a quad-band GSM phone that adds a slide-out keypad and other improvements on its predecessor.

When HTC released the HTC Touch last year, Windows Mobile had an imperfect champion. It was no Apple iPhone killer, but it was certainly ready to put out a hit on Apple's handset.

Ultimately, though we liked the HTC phone's first take, we found a couple of minor issues that kept it from scoring high. Enter the HTC Touch Dual, a quad-band GSM phone that adds a slide-out keypad and other improvements on its predecessor.

We were dying to see how the keypad would improve our experience. On the HTC Touch Dual, the button arrangement resembles a normal phone keypad layout. Over the numbers, letters are set in a semi-qwerty format. As you start typing, the device uses predictive-text software - the same as the original Touch uses - to guess the next word. A few letters in, a small bar pops up likely words. Before long, it'll catch on to your style.

The keypad design should be familiar territory to anyone who has used the BlackBerry Pearl. We know some people find the Pearl's compact keyboard incredibly handy - but we're not one of them. The same goes for the HTC Touch Dual: we thought the virtual keys on the Touch were too scrunched together, and the Touch Dual's real buttons were even harder to use with beefy sausage stumps for fingers.

Another downer: adding that hard keypad forced the HTC Touch Dual's designers to sacrifice screen size. The Touch Dual's screen is 0.2 inches smaller than the 2.8in screen of the original Touch. It may not seem like much of a difference, but we found ourselves missing the extra room while watching videos or reading articles in the web browser.

Thankfully, some of the HTC Touch Dual's design changes are for the better. For one thing, the MicroSD Card slot is now on the bottom-left side of the device. Popping in new cards is much easier - good news for anybody with loads of files.

Beyond the design changes, the HTC Touch Dual provides a very similar experience to that of the Touch. Inside lies Qualcomm's MSM7200 400MHz processor, 256MB of ROM, and 128MB of SDRAM. It has the same 2Mp camera as the Touch does, with the same shutter-speed delay between shots.

The HTC Touch Dual runs Windows Mobile 6.1, an incremental improvement over the Touch's Windows Mobile 6.0. It also comes with a slightly tweaked TouchFLO 3D interface. For those unfamiliar with it, TouchFLO is simple-and-sweet HTC software that runs on top of Windows Mobile to provide an easy-to-navigate touch interface.