Well I’ve finally bitten the bullet and gone and bought myself a smart phone, my hand was somewhat forced by my previous handset crashing every couple of hours. It probably didn’t help that I dropped it down the loo once too! Anyway, The long and the short of it is that I took the plunge and ordered an HTC Desire.
This review is going to come from a perspective of someone who has never actually owned a smart phone, so I’m probably going to be very impressed by a whole load of quite generic features, the flip side is that I’m not biased by any other products and can appreciate the HTC Desire on its own merits without excessive comparison to the iPhone.
First and foremost, I was expecting a bigger box. I know this sounds daft, but there was clearly no room for CDs or big instruction manuals, and to my utter astonishment upon opening the box, there were no CDs or big instruction manuals. With nothing to tell me what to do, I tentatively prised the back of the HTC Desire open, popped the SIM from my old phone in, put the battery in and fired it up. Some instructions of how to get the back off would have been nice, but it was simply a case of “prise it open”!
Whilst there are no CDs, Interestingly the phone comes with a ‘free’ 4gb memory card. It turns out that the HTC Sync software is included on that, so you simply plug the phone in via USB, pick Disk Drive as the type of connection and install the software. I thought that was quite tidy. Although I only found out it was available on the memory card from an internet forum!
The first 10-15 minutes playing with the HTC Desire were spent by be going through a plethora of set-up menus and keyboard tutorials. This was, in fact, quite useful as the keyboard has a few nifty features that I hadn’t seen on any other smart phone before. After running through the tutorials and settings I was thoroughly up to speed with auto correction on text and special symbol entry. I’d also set up my Facebook account details. The phone then went into overdrive, pulling down all my Facebook contacts and saving them as local contacts. You can then easily link Facebook contacts to phone contacts, this is a really cool feature as it means your whole phone book is full of actual faces (well, depending on the profile picture of your friends at least!). It also seamlessly combines ‘real life’ with your Facebook life, which is handy if you’re organising a night out etc.
So what’s the phone like to use? Well, after I’d got the contacts thing sorted it all pretty much just made sense. I didn’t have to refer to manuals or anything, I’m sure as I get into the nuts and bolts of it I will, but generally everything is where and how you expect it. This brings me onto customisation.
You’ve got 7 home screens; these are customisable with widgets and apps. There are some very handy widgets, the clock / weather, calendar, media player. On top of that you have ‘scenes’ which gives you a whole new 7 home screens to play with again, and you can have multiple scenes. The idea of this is that you have a ‘work’ set up, ‘casual’ set up, etc. Probably overkill, but hey, it’s there if you want it. So spent another half hour or so was spent checking out all the widgets and moving stuff about, picking backgrounds etc. It’s got to be done really.
Screen: AMOLED loveliness running in 480×800, it really is fantastic, not so good in bright sunlight, but hey, what is!?
Camera: Pretty good, but not great. The 5 megapixel camera, with led flash takes reasonable photos for snaps, the auto focus works ok, but the shutter speed and focus is slow(ish)
The biggest downfall is that there’s no shoulder shutter button so you have to use main button on the front to take snaps. The flash has no diffuser so it’s pretty harsh.
You can monkey with the settings a little (brightness, saturation, contrast) to get a better picture which is good. Generally it does the job and wipes the floor with most other smart phones but is certainly not going to replace a cheap compact. Bottom line, great for Facebook snaps!
Browser: Good, fast, pages load quickly, seems compatible with anything I’ve thrown at it.
Connectors: Micro USB and 3.5mm Headphone jack. No proprietary connectors at all. Finally!
MP3: OK… Rant time… Why did they bundle naff ear phones? Clunky tinny ill-fitting rubbish! Why wouldn’t you bundle some entry level Sennheiser ear phones or something with a phone as premium as the HTC Desire. Furthermore, if you do decide to change your earphones you lose all the inline controls because they didn’t fit a through socket on the control, it’s an integral part of the earphones themselves. It’s crazy! OK, Rant over…
Anyway, plug a decent set of ear phones in and it all sounds great, music plays in the background without a hitch, and it’s got a shiny front end too if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Calendar: Great to put a full page widget on a homepage, nice and easy to use, syncs with outlook perfectly.
GPS: Pretty accurate, picks up GPS signal quickly. I installed Google’s “My Tracks” and it logged my cycle to and from work. Your journey, speed, elevation, average speed, can be viewed on a Google ‘my maps’. All was good apart from where it clearly got a little confused by me moving about trying to get my bike out of my bike shed, after I got moving though all was well.
I’ve been tracking various different routes to work for comparison, and finding it all quite nifty.
Battery Life: Well, I think it’s accepted you charge these things every night, but knocking the live feeds off significantly prolongs the battery life. There are also some handy apps that allow you to see what apps are using what power, so that you can manage it better. Fortunately the HTC Desire charges through Micro USB so you can plug it in anywhere where there’s a computer.
You can also set the USB connection to charge only, so no need to worry about it popping up your personal data or trying to sync with your work machine.
Sync: OK, I’ve only tried this on a PC, seems Mac support is limited for the HTCs although there appears to be some 3rd party software, but I’ve not tested it. My PC at home only used Windows contacts in Windows 7, HTC Sync picked up on those and put them on the phone. I then took the phone to work and synced up with outlook and it merged everything without incident. Also, where you get duplicate contacts, you can use the linking tool to join their work/home phone numbers all up into a single entry.
So in conclusion, I’m very impressed! I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon, but I’m certainly enjoying it at the moment. Having read plenty of other reviews online before I bought the HTC Desire, the general consensus it that it’s the best smart-phone on the market. I can’t give you that guarantee as I’ve not used all of the other smart-phones, but I can tell you that everything is smooth, tidy, fast and well built.
The HTC Desire is currently available for £399.99 at Expansys.com
- written by Rob Farley