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HTC Desire

Review The best Android mobile phone we've seen
Tue May 18 2010, 15:57

Product: HTC Desire
System Specifications: Android 2.1, 3.7-inch capacitive AMOLED touchscreen, 1 Ghz Snapdragon processor, 5 megapixel camera, 3.5mm jack, FM radio, 3G, Bluetooth, WIFI, GPRS, GPS, GSM, HSDPA, microSD, micsoUSB, Li-ion battery
Price: T-Mobile, free on £35 contract

FROM A COMPANY that has a history with Android mobile phones, where the OS is really only a few years old, now comes the sixth handset and its flagship model the HTC Desire. This mobile phone is not dissimilar to another of its recent handsets, the Google Nexus One, which it made specifically for the Internet search giant. The HTC Desire has the latest version of Google's Android OS, a fast 1Ghz processor and a large bright touchscreen to go along with its humble moniker.

HTC is not backwards about naming its handsets. With names such as Legend and now Desire for its phones, you can certainly say HTC is confident about its smartphones and their attractiveness.


The Desire's size, weight and dimensions are fairly comparable to the Iphone, although it feels a lot sleeker and a more professional design thanks to the black executive backing, the matte finish and the rounded edges of the metal case. The HTC Desire is 119mm x 60mm x 11.9mm thick, compared to the Iphone dimensions of 115.5mm x 62.1mm x 12.3mm thick.

HTC has opted for an AMOLED screen in the Desire, moving away from the TFT screen which isn't as bright nor as sharp displaying images and colours. HTC used the same type of screen in its Legend phone and the Desire's twin, the Nexus One. The 3.7-inch 480x800 capacitive touch screen happens to be one of the most responsive screens we've ever seen or used on a mobile, so much so that a good deal of this review was written on the handset. The onscreen keyboard in landscape mode was very receptive in interpreting touchscreen inputs, with exemplary auto-correction for misspellings.


There is a downside to AMOLED screens and that shows up trying to use them in bright sunshine, where the display almost disappears from view. We found this to be the case with the Desire, much to our disappointment, as it rendered the handset almost completely unusable outside in full sunlight.

The latest version of Android 2.1-1 ‘Eclair' is loaded on the handset. Older smartphones have not been updated to this version, nor have some newer phones. HTC has taken away some standard Google features of this iteration of the Android OS while adding some of its own. Noticeably missing is the voice recognition feature that was seen in the Google Nexus One for email and text dictation. Support for multiple Microsoft Exchange accounts is also missing, as is the Google Maps Sat-nav turn-by-turn feature though this has been re-introduced with a downloadable update - it wasn't previously available in the UK.

HTC has bundled in its own customised theme or user interface for the Desire in much the same way as it has previously in its Windows Mobile handsets since 2007. Its UI is called HTC Sense on the Android platform, which first appeared in the Hero handset from mid last year and now competes with Motorola's Blur and also Sony Ericsson's User Experience. Sense offers a friendlier user interface for the Android OS, with seven home screens as opposed to the basic three. All of these screens can be personalised with widgets and applications, or you can just use the default themes that are already on the phone. It's a fairly decent UI, although other players in the Android market offer more functionality in their overlays and we would have expected more from over a year's development of HTC Sense.


HTC has updated its original Sense with social networking functionality. HTC Friend Stream is the go to application on the handset for aggregating all Twitter and Facebook updates into one stream. The social notworking functions aren't as thoroughly worked into the phone's user interface as they are in the Moto Blur overlay or TimeScape by Sony Ericsson. But all the bells and whistles of the Desire can be found in various applications on the Android Market repository, or on a decent cooked ROM from Xda-Developers, only HTC has taken away the leg work for the average user.

Due to the involvement of HTC and its Sense overlay, future updates to the Desire won't be a free and easy affair to roll out. There won't be the simple deployment of over the air updates that vanilla versions of Android benefit from, instead it will be a somewhat clumsy effort to update it from the HTC website, as the Sense overlay is far too wrapped around the Android OS to make it easy.


What HTC has brought to the Desire that was missing from the Nexus One until recently is the welcome multi-touch feature. This is very useful for viewing text on web pages in greater detail and for pinch-to-zoom-in on Google Maps. The Desire also has the ability to natively view Flash content on sites from inside a web browser, which previously wasn't possible and still isn't on Apple mobile phones and probably won't be for some time, if ever. This gives the user the ability of replicating a desktop web browsing experience on a large, responsive touchscreen mobile.

Contacts are thoroughly integrated into the address book and from a variety of sources on the Desire, from Microsoft Exchange which is first natively supported on this version of Android, to Gmail and also Facebook. What's missing is an intelligent engine behind the address book to weed out and integrate everyone's details automatically and save the user the effort of manually editing when first starting up the phone.

The battery inside the HTC Desire produced a mixed bag of results in our testing over some time in use. In calling alone without any social notworking features enabled or even email gathering, the Desire lasted for exactly 8 hours of phone calls. In regular operation, just as might be used day to day with the social notworking and HTC Sense features enabled along with infrequent text messaging, calling and a picture or two being captured, the Desire lasted just past the 9 hour mark.

This effectively means that the Desire will need charging at the end of every day. If the phone is used by a heavy social notworker, text messager or email user, the Desire won't make it to the end of a 7 hour stretch before dying, as we discovered.

HTC has opted for only a 1400mAh battery instead of a 1500mAh battery that is more commonplace in flagship mobile phones. This would have given more juice to the Desire and we would have welcomed it, seeing as how the mobile really didn't last a full working day or even through half a day of heavy use.

In Short
HTC's current batch of mobile phones all have names more apt for perfumes than handsets. Don't let that put you off though, as the HTC Desire is a good mobile phone with a large, bright, vivid screen that's remarkably responsive and the best we've used to date. HTC's user interface hasn't really grown as much as we'd have liked over the past year, while new players on the block now add a lot more value and functionality to the basic Android OS. However, other than a few foibles and niggles it is the best of the bunch of Android mobile phones currently being shipped. µ

The Good
Latest Android version, a large, bright, vivid and responsive touchscreen, Flash support.

The Bad
HTC Sense hasn't really evolved as much as we'd have liked over the past year.

The Ugly
Battery life could be better and it should have included a 1500mAh version, instead of 1400mAh.

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