The HTC Desire is one of the most talked about and requested devices of the moment. A smartphone with a specification list that knocks others for six this has to be HTC’s first real consumer market share winning device.
Ever since HTC begun producing smartphones they have desired to be a big well respected brand and over their 10 years they have done well to develop to the stage that they have. A profitable company, once more focused on the business and power user they are now making a play for consumer space which is dominated by the likes of Samsung, LG and Nokia.
By no means is it their intention to suddenly steal market share off of these players, it just won’t happen. What is starting to happen though is that they are slowly making a name for themselves, a name that many are coming to respect and love for its innovation, quality and more. The HTC Desire is without doubt the best hardware to date that can challenge the iPhone and the smartphones that are being produced by Samsung, LG and Nokia. Slowly picking off customers from the other big manufacturers HTC’s Desire is something that the many want to own for reasons which will become apparent throughout.
Regular readers will know that I have always been and will to an extent be a fan of the physical keyboard on a smartphone. Nothing beats the tactile feel and the accuracy you can obtain from this. I have too always been a fan of Windows Mobile, I know it is dated and clunky, but it worked for me without problem and that is what you want of a device. My last device a HTC Snap has served me well but times are changing….
I have been in contact with Android devices since the first HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) hit the shelves in late 2008, as innovative as it was I was not enticed to use it on a daily basis. The hardware felt cheap in my opinion and nothing really compelled me. A year on, it is a very different story.
This article is not intended to give a full run down of the Desire and why you should or should not own one, there are many of those on the web already. My intention here is to simply provide an honest and trustworthy explanation of my experience of moving from Windows Mobile to Google Android and why the HTC Desire has made that transition so simple.
Constantly developing technology makes it difficult sometime to decide what the best thing to do is but recently I took the plunge to store all my data online. No more syncing to a PC, all my personal contacts, calendar etc all stored in the ‘cloud’ no longer on my desktop. I know there are security risks but I am not a CEO of a billion $ corporation nor am I a spy for the MI5, so if anyone should want my data they clearly have little going for them in their life and really will be unimpressed and should this happen no-one will get hurt!
Living a fairly busy lifestyle, in the last 9 months or so that I have been syncing wirelessly to the cloud I have had no issues nor regretted this move. In fact rarely do I sit at a PC and update contact and calendar information, it is all done from my phone, emails included. When I do, I just open a web browser, login and hey presto, wherever I am in the world my data is there. So I have a backup online, I also take regular backups to a memory card too, just to be safe.
It got to the point where more and more devices were using Google Android and whilst I understood it, it was about time that I finally gave it a road test personally. With the HTC Legend and Desire on the market, the buzz around the Desire meant this is the one I had to test.
Using the wonderful services of Google this worked perfectly on the Windows Mobile HTC Snap, I had no reason to believe why the online syncing should be an issue on the Google Android Desire, and I was correct.
Setting up the Desire was simple all in all. Some things seemed illogical having been used to Windows Mobile but after only a few days I got to grips with it and within no time I had a setup similar, if not better than that of my HTC Snap.
However the issues I had in my mind, were despite the interface being fresh and the excitement of something new were:
- How would I get on with the on screen keyboard?
- How would I get on with the interface change?
- What is the social networking integration really like?
- Can I do all I did on my Snap?
- Will it respond quickly – Does the 1GHz processor make a difference?
- Battery life?
- Build quality?
- Is Google more than a gimmick and are the applications really that great?
So how have I got on?
The on screen keyboard really is not as bad as I thought it would be. I tend where possible to use the device in landscape mode to maximise the key size and the accuracy of my typing and on the whole it is pretty good. The vibration on each key press is beneficial and the predictive text element is helpful, although I have had to add a lot of words and abbreviations to the dictionary which at first was a little annoying but nothing too severe. If I do have to use the device in portrait mode I will use a standard numeric phone keypad – the QWERTY is just too small.
Whilst it is not quite as quick as the physical keyboard, and not quite as easy, especially on a late night when your relaxing with a few beers after work; the experience with on screen typing has been very good and much better than one of my previous devices, the HTC Diamond, mostly as a result of the larger screen.
The interface has taken a little bit of getting used to when coming from Windows Mobile, but it actually now feels more logical and sensible. So many times in Windows things were not in obvious places, but Android is much better.
With the HTC Desire there is the Sense UI user interface which I think is exceptional. I don’t just say it I mean it. There is arguments for and against this device in comparison to its brother the Nexus One, but for the small differences the Desire has more to offer in my opinion.
With 7 home screens, there is plenty of customisable layouts, from work to play. Specifically designed widgets look great and offer a interactivity like nothing before. It took me a couple of weeks to get my home screens set up, but now I have they work like a charm and are very easy to modify as is the wallpapers (which can be animated).
The Desire and these Android devices, along with many smartphones nowadays claim to integrate with your social life much better and they do. The Desire, is promoted by HTC to have HTC Friend Stream, one app that brings updates from your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and more accounts into one easy to access and use application. The idea is great and it works, but if you are a heavier user of any of these services it does not do the job. I found myself a little frustrated by it and tend to use the individual Facebook and Twitter applications – none the less for a very quick update Friend Stream is useful, especially when time is short and it takes pride of place on one of my home screens.
The links to Facebook and Flickr are great though when it comes to contacts. Just link them up if they don’t automatically and without the need to do anything contact pictures, contact details, status’s and photo albums are all updated. I have found this to be fantastic and one of the best ways of ensuring you always have the right details for contacts, because needless to say some are not as organised at informing you of changes to these. It could be said that Facebook is not very professional, but millions use it and for me it forms part of my life and a means of keeping in touch. Businesses may frown upon it but it does not have to be integrated. However for the mass consumer market to which HTC now aim this device through competitive contracts with the network, I am very confident other users will be as impressed as I am.
I questioned the capabilities of the Desire to integrate into my life like the HTC Snap did. Why, I don’t recall because its better by a long way. I do more than ever on the device. There isn’t one thing that I did on my Snap that I don’t do on the Desire and it is things like the vast array of easy to access apps that make me now rely on it even more. To the point I have ditched my iPod and almost my digital camera and integrated them all.
I rarely experienced lag on the Snap and the Desire doesn’t understand the term. Its super quick and super responsive. I have had a couple of programmes crash but I have at these times been multi-tasking and running a lot of applications. The biggest lag issue is with the networks – I use O2 and they are not that bad for data connection, but it’s not great either and often the delay is with the data being fed through the network.
So this is where the Desire falls down, battery life. It isn’t great, in fact it’s a little poor. I do just get through a day with emails syncing every 30 minutes and medium usage on calls, text etc. My Snap if I was careful could last 3 days! If using the WiFi or GPS battery life is of course worse and if I knew I was to be out the office or away from power for some time, I would take a second battery or ensure I have a car charger.
Now for me this isn’t a big issue as I have a charger on my desk at work but I do charge my device every night and often find myself giving it some extra juice in the car after work when on the way out to meet friends so I know the device will last the evening. However I would be lying if I said the battery life was great. I do think though considering all the device does it is not surprising that the battery life is not great and an extended battery would not add much bulk (HTC if you listening, please make one – any maybe an official cradle too, o and a car kit).
As far as quality goes it is not bad and better than many other mass market phones. However the back panel feels a bit cheap and plasticy when you compare it to the aluminium Legend, which feels so robust but by no means would anyone think you are operating on a budget with one of these.
The device lives up to the rigours of everyday life, or certainly appears to. I do have a pouch case but have found myself using it without as I believe a phone is to be used and not hidden away. I will be applying the Desire screen protector now these are available and ditching the case. However if you want a little more protection the HTC pouch cases offer this without any real additional bulk.
I was not sure what I was going to think about Google Android and I didn’t start using the device from the standpoint of I want this, however the OS and the tweaks in the software made by HTC are quite simply brilliant.
I find myself constantly picking the device up, messing about with it adding applications and making alterations. The application store is much better than on Windows Mobile and the number of apps that you can pick up for free is insane, some real good ones too…more on that in future articles. I never really used the camera on devices before, but the Desire camera quality, for video too is the first I have found to be truly acceptable and more than before I am taking pictures and video with the smartphone and uploading it to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube within seconds of having shot the footage.
It is fun, easy to use and intuitive. It may not strike as a business device and for the power hungry sales man knocking emails and calls out all day long it may not be the right device, but it has the capabilities.
With all this said there are some niggles – The device is bigger than I would like. I love the big screen but I sometimes find it a little difficult for one handed use and often use two hands. The optical trackpad whilst more reliable long-term does not have that tactile feel and apparent accuracy of the trackball. The call volume, whilst more than acceptable could be louder, as to could be the speakerphone but I am just being picky.
The result of all of the above is a appreciation for the HTC Desire and the Google Android operating system that I thought I would never have. For something to take me away from Windows Mobile and a physical keyboard is remarkable. There is conversation of new smartphones developing into ‘superphones’, something bigger and better and different to the smartphone. All I can say to this is that the Desire is worthy of such a title, super it is and it goes beyond what many can imagine and require of a mobile device.
I feel like I have praised the Desire throughout like a glorified sales pitch – This is not my intention but everything said is true.
I can honestly say that any user of Windows Mobile contemplating change but put off by the ‘newness’ and the less tried and tested, more fun and funky interface of Google should re-consider. Providing you do not have a specific requirement that is yet to be catered for in Android give it a go, you will be blown away.
Google may be a brand that need no further praise and recognition as too may HTC be when it comes to smartphones; but when the two come together to produce not a smartphone, a superphone that creates and experience like this, they are well worthy of the praise and have my allegiance for the foreseeable future, Apple…compete with this.