I have been given a HTC Desire handset by Telstra free of charge to review. The comments below expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion.
After a week of playing with the Telstra Desire I’ve made some summary conclusions, the phone is awesome, but definitely isn’t the iPhone killer reported by many media outlets.
Despite trying to soften Android’s image with SenseUI and make it appeal more broadly, the Android interface is still relatively convoluted and the management of applications in the background from using battery is too complicated to appeal to the iPhone users who just want to jump in and out of their favorite app.
Essentially, the two phones are competing in the same broad (smartphone) market, but have different targets. Android is great once you spend some time customising it and setting up the widgets and learning how to get the best out of the HTC Desire’s battery life, but is slightly bewildering at first where some of the advanced settings hide to tweak certain non-obvious options.
That said, the problem with managing application settings is mostly due to the HTC Desire’s battery life, which once the device is optimised (try the video here for tips) is fine for casual to moderate use but heavy use will require more than daily charging.
After my daily tweet-heavy commute (even while listening to MP3’s at the same time) which lasts about 75 minutes in the morning I’m left with 70 percent battery life, by 5pm I’m down to 60 percent and if I keep up the tweeting on the way home am down to 30 percent. This has improved on initial performance, suggesting the battery needs to go through a few charge cycles to get up to speed.
This battery life is generally acceptable, though once long life extended batteries are available after-market I anticipate purchasing one.
The HTC Desire is an extremely powerful device, but in order to get acceptable battery life one needs to wind back all the awesome features, sure I can selectively turn them on as needed, but that level of granular control should be unnecessary. I want the phone to go all out with background data and services all the time.
Battery issues aside
The HTC Desire rocks, but takes some getting used to (about 48 hours till I was around most of it), I came from Windows Mobile (HTC Touch Pro) which also had its own version of SenseUI installed using the latest WinMo 6.5.3 Rom’s. While there are certainly some elements in navigation carried over SenseUI is more or less a completely new beast on the Desire.
Most difficult to come to grips with was the reliance on the ‘back’ navigation element, once accustomed to it it makes a lot of sense, with applications designed using a hierarchical structure with screen taps opening up into new windows to the right of the application, with the back button taking you up (or to the left) a level in the navigation (or back to the original application if another had been launched.. for example clicking links from Twitter opens the browser, back returns to the Twitter client).
This differed from Windows Mobile’s reliance on hacked task manager applications to emulate an equivalent of a desktop task-bar. It’s an improvement, but I still like the option of viewing all currently running applications (possibly via the notifications bar) and switching between them rather than fishing around for the application’s shortcut on the home screen (is there an App for this? I haven’t looked too hard..).
Applications are plentiful, of generally high quality and have all the necessary bases covered, so I’m not left wanting for anything not covered in the Android Market.
The included browser is great, flash-lite integration works well, opening videos in the integrated player. Streaming works well on NextG but isn’t perfect while on a moving train, and overall the NextG network performs better than my home ADSL connection (which is unfortunately 1.5Mbit) when using the speedtest app.
HTC’s Desire hardware is awesome, battery life needs work, especially if you want to take advantage of all the advanced Android features. HTC’s SenseUI more or less just gets in the way of Android, but It isn’t necessarily worse, just different.
Would I recommend the HTC Desire to you?
Depends who you are, if you just want a mobile phone that does all the latest cool stuff that all your friends are talking about without worrying, iPhone is probably for you. If you are willing to spend some time getting used to and setting up the device so it best fills your needs, you will be better served by the HTC Desire.
Having a community of #telstradesire reviewers also going through the process with me at the same time certainly helped however, as tapping into that communal resource over niggles I was having certainly eased the transition.
I anticipate exploring the opportunities for hacking the #telstradesire and replacing the stock Telstra Android ROM on the device after the review period (we are asked to keep the devices unmodified during the review) so hopefully I can better comment on the full potential of the device once exploring this possibility at a later date.
Welcome your comments!