HTC Desire Review

The Desire is HTCs current european flagship Android phone. Its hardware specs are pretty much the same as those of the Google Nexus One phone, except it’s got physical Android buttons and an optical trackpad. In addition to this, the Desire has HTCs “Sense” UI, a skin that lies on top of the Android operating system.

HTC_Desire

I’m not going to lie, I loathe HTC Sense. These days, Android is riding a rocket to stardom, soon surpassing iPhone as the number one smartphone platform. A rising number of people are going to want an “Android phone”. Unfortunately, they can’t have it, because custom Android experiences like HTC Sense exist1. Sense brings you a black Android interface that features a flipping number clock up front, and a number of “social” widgets, such as “Friendstream”. If only it stopped there, I believe I could deal with it, after all, Android users can replace their entire homescreen interface with alternatives like ADW Launcher, available from the Android Market. The problem with Sense is that it doesn’t stop there, and I will go in to more detail in a different essay, suffice to say, Sense replaces core apps with HTC specific ones, replaces your lock screen with one that unlocks in your pocket … it sinks its teeth so deep in to Android that the overall experience is diluted and diminished.

HTC_Sense

As for the hardwarewhile on principle I’m against the amount of buttons present, I do appreciate that they’re physical. To be fair, they’re also quite handy once you get used to them.. I find myself missing the back button on the iPad. When I want to call someone, I find it nice and quick to press the search button, type in the first letter of my contact, and then press call. Even so, I’m still opposed to their existance, as they encourage lazy app design. Another boon of having only one a home button is that hardware vendors don’t get to screw around with the order of the buttons (“Back” and “Home” have switched places, compared to the Milestone).

In more comparisons to the Milestone / DROID, the speaker really isn’t that good. It’s not as loud, nor as clear, and the sound is almost scratchy in comparison. I suppose, on the flipside, that the Desire speaker is normal, whilst the Milestone/DROID speaker is phenomenal. Even so, now that I’ve experienced how good a phone speaker can be (my usecase was listening to podcasts in my kitchen, phone in pocket), the lack of a similarly excellent speaker in the Desire detracts from the rating.

The weight and grip of the device is just right, and you’re unlikely to get scratches on this thing. Overall the hardware is very nice.

Verdict

Android_homescreen_cyanogen

So, should you get one? To answer this, you have to ask yourself: are you going to root this phone and install a vanilla version of Android on it? If you can answer yes, well then the HTC Desire may be your dream phone! It’s easily jailbroken using Unrevoked, and easily re-flashed using Rom Manager. You’ll get your phone just like you want it!

Did that last sentence make you throw up in your mouth a little? Well in that case, you don’t want to get the HTC Desire. If you want an Android phone and you don’t want to jump through flaming hoops to get one, I’m so sorry to say that you have only three choices at the moment:

  • US Motorola DROID (not Milestone or any other Droid)
  • Google Nexus One
  • The soon to come T-Mobile G2.

So that’s bad news for us europeans. I can only hope Google changes the terms of use when Android 3 comes; hardware vendors really need hand-cuffs.

In a summary of this odd device, you get two ratings:

  • If you are a nerd and you’re going to the lenghts to “fix” this phone, this is the phone you’re looking for, especially if you’re stuck in Europe. 
  • If you just wanted an Android phone or a phone that works, I can’t recommend the Desire, and unless you’re able to get your hands on a Droid, a Nexus One or a G2, I recommend you buy an iPhone.
  1. This is not HTCs fault entirely, I also blame Samsung, Motorola and all the other “skin” vendors.  

Responses to “HTC Desire Review”

  1. Daniel says:

    If you need to root/flash an Android phone to get an open, manufacturer/carrier-nag free experience, why not get an iPhone, jailbreak it and get an open, nag free experience there?

    • Joen says:

      If you need to root/flash an Android phone to get an open, manufacturer/carrier-nag free experience, why not get an iPhone, jailbreak it and get an open, nag free experience there?

      Well I agree. I find it to be a sad state of things, but it’s completely true.

  2. 苹果大 says:

    Android will have a bright future. I like HTC, the way I like iPhone.

  3. adam says:

    *ahem*

    Apple isn’t the number 1 smartphone platform, not by a longshot. (blackberry beats it handily, and most studies list symbian as number 1, but it’s questionable whether symbian is a smart OS, or whether it could be considered a platform).

  4. Lasse Brandt says:

    Its sad whats happening to Android phones – I stumbled upon this link today, that describes exactly that situation:

    http://eliainsider.com/2010/09/14/fighting-the-wrong-fight/

    So much for the openness! FIGHT THE CARRIES! I will now go and find my torch and pitchfork :)

  5. Daniel says:

    There has been a number of interesting posts by MG Siegler on TechCrunch on this exact topic. I think we all love the idea of an open mobile operating system, but the carriers (and assisted by the manufacturers) are doing what they can to keep that idea from reaching it’s true potential.

    “Android Is As Open As The Clenched Fist I’d Like To Punch The Carriers With”
    http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/09/android-open/

    • Joen says:

      Daniel,

      Yeah and it’s pretty much spot on.

      I don’t like the use of the word “Open”, even though I know Google pioneered it. The problem is that with open source, the carriers are in the full rights to to this.

      We just have to remember that we’re open to NOT buy those crappy products.

      Another problem, as mentioned in this review, is that there are only three phones that reflect the true Android experience, and two of them are “end of life”.

      It’s a mess.

      I want Google to (and think they are about to) announce that Android 3.0 will be a new branch of Android, which comes with new requirements for the carriers. I think they are in a position to make some demands now, and I think that’ll happen.

  6. Daniel says:

    Let’s all cross our fingers!

  7. Kristian says:

    An important thing to remember is that *most* consumers don’t want an open platform.

    They want a coherent, well-designed experience, and while an open platform doesn’t inherently preclude this, it doesn’t further it either.

    I am as annoyed as many others by Apple’s walled garden approach where it interferes with what I want to do with MY phone, but the fact is they’ve been able to create a phone that delivers a remarkably consistent experience.

    Android has not.

    In addition, as Joen points out, carriers are extremely reluctant to relinquish control of the phone to consumers – witness how T-mobile and AT&T, just to name a few, have created custom firmwares with LESS features than was actually present in the unmodified versions from the manufacturer.
    Maybe they aren’t excluding features, but just trying to differentiate themselves.

    The end result is the same – a less coherent experience.

    Unfortunately it’s not going to change while consumers are still being tempted with iPhones for $99 (and less, since Telia sells an iPhone 4 for only $40 or so in initial downpayment). As long as we buy subsidized phones, carriers WILL have the upper hand.

    K.

    • Joen says:

      Kristian,

      As usual I’m in pretty much complete agreement.

      In addition, as Joen points out, carriers are extremely reluctant to relinquish control of the phone to consumers – witness how T-mobile and AT&T, just to name a few, have created custom firmwares with LESS features than was actually present in the unmodified versions from the manufacturer.
      Maybe they aren’t excluding features, but just trying to differentiate themselves.

      In some cases, the carriers have added MORE features, just ones we don’t want. Like an un-uninstallable Nascar racing game DEMO, or Motorolas proprietary navigation software. These examples of bundling crapware, I find, is almost worse than T-Mobile removing wireless tethering from the core.

      As long as we buy subsidized phones, carriers WILL have the upper hand.

      This is actually part of an upcoming post I’m writing, “Android has a bad motivator”. I say this:

      Android is open. Which means it is open source. Which means if you’re a carrier, you can take Android, pre-install a Nascar app, remove wifi tethering, and sell it to a willing mob of morons seemingly unwilling to speak with their wallets.

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