Thursday, May 27, 2010

Comments on the HTC Desire

A few people have asked me about my opinion of the HTC Desire. I'm not going to do a thorough review: there are thousands of them out there. Instead here is a few short note of things I have noticed myself.

Some background: I purchased my first Android phone – a HTC Magic – in June 2009 at full SIM-free price (€450 I recall) and I've been delighted with that phone for the most part. As I was due an upgrade from Vodafone and the HTC Desire became available earlier this month at a subsidized price (€170 + €40 x 18 month contract -- it's €500 contract free) I decide to go for that.

The good

This sure is a sexy phone. The HTC Sense UI which is a layer on top of the underlying Android OS is visually appealing. Having said that I think I'd still prefer the plain old (relatively) boring Google UI. I guess companies need to "differentiate" their products, to the Sense UI is important to HTC.

The screen size is larger than that of the Magic, making typing the screen keyboard marginally more accurate. It's still a pain, especially in portrait orientation. In landscape typing works very well.

Screen technology is AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic LED) -- not LCD. Really vivid colors. Deep blacks.

It's fast and responsive (having a 1GHz Snapdragon ARM processor). Plenty of RAM (about 512MB).

The not-so-good

No traditional red hangup button. If there two things every phone must be able to reliably do is:

1. Make an emergency call (but only when you intend to)
2. Hang up reliably.

Instead you have a red screen button. That's if you're lucky enough to have the dialpad in the foreground. If not you're screwed. It's far too easy to fat finger an unintended call while messing with the contacts list. By the time you navigate to the hangup function the person at the other end has already answered, and you're faced with the age old dilemma: do you apologize or just hang up. I opt for latter, especially at 4am :-)

The AMOLED display is great, but not perfect. Because of the way LCD works it's still possible to read text in direct sunlight. Nothing is visible on AMOLED under the same conditions. So if you have to use a phone outdoors in a sunny climate an LCD based phone might be a better choice.

It has got the new micro-USB connector, so my stock of mini-USB cables is no good for this phone. For me cables are like pens -- I like to have a few in every room. Micro-USB is the universal charger standard going forward, so this is a very good thing in the long run.

Camera is 8 mega pixels 5 mega pixels. But if ever I needed a lesson why mega-pixels are meaningless unless you have the optics to back it up this is it. See photo. Still, it's not bad for casual use.


Would I recommend this phone? For sure. Right now it's probably the best Android phone available in Ireland. The recently announced Android Froyo software update adds plenty of speed and some amazing new features (eg tethering and phone-as-hotspot support). Desire users can expect an over the air update to Froyo later this year. How does it compare with an iPhone? I don't know– I never used an iPhone and probably never will. Many experts believe that Froyo running on decent hardware like the Desire beats the socks off iPhone. I would be inclined to agree.

Update (27 May 2010) - Camera was incorrectly stated to be 8 mega pixels. It's in fact 5 mega pixels.

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