HTC Desire A8182 Review running Android 2.1 from Telus
Be sure and read my Setting up and choosing your Telus Desire page
On with the review … Google tapped HTC to make a phone it could sell to developers (and the general public). The phone (the Nexus One) was sold direct by Google for a little while and then pulled. A few carriers picked up the phone. It was a wonderful device and became my favortie mobile device displacing the iPhone after reigning supreme! Read my review. But HTC are not one to stand still so they set about to improve on an already fabulous device.
HTC have improved on the already stellar design of the Nexus one. Gone are the horrible touch buttons on the front (replaced with real buttons, YAY). The camera lens on the back is also less protruding so should be less of a scratch issue. They abolished the trackball in favor of an optical device (another big YAY). All in all this is one of the first devices in a while that is EASY to find a case for. Nothing to work around. A welcome improvement. Gone are also the raised chins the HTC Android phones have had. These by the way are all largely nit picks. But when you have a device as good as the Nexus one it leaves nothing but nit picks to complain about :) A pretty strong testimonial when you have discriminating critics like me writing about and enjoying your device. HTC did not fix the placement of the micro SD card, it still requires a battery removal. Pooh. They have however introduced one physical flaw. The back cover is really nasty to remove. You really feel like your going to break it. And I seriously wonder how long it will last. As one of my friends said, you’ll probably be onto a new phone before you have to worry about it anyway :) Some people know me well … And remember this has to be removed to replace the battery or change the micro SD card.
It’s funny when I studied programming there was an old adage. If you had N bugs and fixed one bug how many bugs do you have left? The answer is Y which can be bigger than N, smaller than N or even N. Because in fixing things you can introduce more bugs :) I do digress.
One of the things missing on the Nexus One was HTC sense. HTC designed a front end, a skinning back in Windows Mobile days to hide it’s hideous interface. It was such a hit they brought it over to Android. What HTC do is improve every one of the native aps built into Android and add lots of Apple style fluff. This is the kind of thing that transitions a device like this from a programmers device to one the general public DESIRE :) Ok that was corny … Here’s a quick glance at the improvements that you get from Sense UI:
Homescreen widget that includes an old style clock and todays date and weather. I’ve always loved this widget. One of the things I love about Android is the ability to customize whatever information you want on your homescreen. Not just icons to programs but info. So at a glance you are entertained and informed. Apple could take some pointer here. After how many years Apple finally allow us to change our wallpaper on the iPhone? Gee thanks …
There are other widgets too, some nice clocks and the like. They also provide a People Widget. I like this one. It grabs your favorties set in your dialer and creates a scrollable list of these people with their name and picture. It gets their picture either from your address book, or if available from Facebook! Fabulous idea. Notice the f icon in the one image indicating it got the picture from facebook.
RSS Feed Widget, Photo Widget, Improved calendar Widget, Twitter Widget, Stocks Widget, Music widget and many more.
Back in Windows Mobile HTC had one of the best dialers. It brought up a dial pad and as you pressed digits it searched your contact list based on the letters the numbers represented. An incredibly efficient calendar search. I am thrilled to FINALLY have this back.
HTC On Screen Keyboard
HTC’s on screen keyboard is a welcome improvement to Android’s. Better multi touch capability allowing faster typing, better auto correct and all round an impovement. This now is pretty much on par with Apple’s. Quite a statement. The Android default one has one thing that is missing which is voice search. Something I never used.
HTC have done a beautiful job of the music player. It is elegant and even gives an iPod like cover flow view. It is heavy and can be sluggish on large music collections like mine, but with micro SD cards continuing to grow this will only become more of a problem. That said, very nice fluff HTC. Well done.
The camera ap has been nicely enhanced to include a lot more features for settings. There’s even settings for geo tag, self timer and lots more. Much closer to a real camera. And with 5 Mp and a flash this is quite useable. FINALLY. This is ultimately limited by the lack of decent optics so it isn’t replacing a real camera, but with a flash at least it is much better than the past. The Camcorder can capture video but sadly no HD. Not sure where this limitation comes from.
And there’s lots of aps HTC have added too. If you go into Manage Application and see the list of things that say HTC beside them it’s staggering. Amazing.
Complete access to the file system
This is one thing I love. On the iPhone you had no access to the file system. On Android you have it all. So you can attach different types of files to an email, or more than one (heaven forbid). This is obvious shit.
Clock and deskclock
There’s even a clock and desk clock that are very nice. Of course to make use of them you will need some way of propping up the phone or purchase a dock for your phone. There’s the ability to add world locations, multiple alarms, stop watch, and count down timer.
Having bought this phone from Telus I expected lots of Telus branding. I was thrilled to discover none. No Telus book marks, no Telus programs, no telus labels. Nothing. Amazing.
Well alas we have a desktop functional equivalent browser. The iPhone reigned king for a long time, but Apple’s silly public spat with Adobe (thanks Stevie) have left the iPhone in the dark when it comes to flash. This browser has it all. Speed, pinch to zoom, smooth panning and … Flash support! The only limitation is the screen size. Alas, full desktop equivalency (for the most part). This is hands down the best browser in the mobile space … (for now :))
Alas bluetooth works perfectly. Android has taken some time to get this right, now it just works. Streaming music, pausing music when a call comes in, full support for my car stereo! This has not worked on my iPhone 3GS since the iOS4 upgrade. You even have enough horsepower to be able to watch a movie and stream the audio over bluetooth. Impressive.
HTC have included a program called active Sync that provides the missing link between Android and Outook allowing sync. I don’t use it because all my mail/calendar/contacts have been moved to Google so don’t have a lot to say about it.
This phone like a lot of the newer phones use micro USB. So this means you will either be buying converters or replacing your cables, car chargers and home charger. In today’s market frankly it’s just about as cheap to buy new as to buy converters but having a converter around is handy. Be sure and get a charger with reasonable amounts of current as this phone takes a lot of current to charge. Otherwiswe it takes a really long time to charge. And plugged into the USB from the computer seems to charge UNBELIEVABLY slow. On some phones I have seen the option for “Quick Charge” when you plug it into USB. Not sure what’s going on here, but a colleague with a Nexus One sees the same. Here’s one quote I picked up on the web which was quoting Google “Charges at 480 mA from USB, at 980 mA from supplied charger” which most people find it Fully charges around 2 hours on AC and 4 hours on USB.
The battery on this phone is the same as the one for the Nexus One. Not a surprise in todays reuse engineering. This is a good thing and spare batteries are plentiful and cheap. There are even extended batteries you can get for it and they cheap on ebay.
On ebay I found LOTS of accessories for this phone. Everything from cases, to batteries, external chargers, desk docks, car holders and the like. And they are quite inexpensive. Most are coming from Hong Kong. Always a good thing.
Oh and by the way, in case you actually care, this thing makes a pretty good phone too. Good clear sound quality :) The phone is clever and if it is laying on it’s back when you pick it up, it automatically goes to the speaker phone. A nice and convenient button allows you to change it back to the handset and to mute the call. Nicely done.
Telus/Bell have rolled out a 3G based GSM network meaning they can now use a much more world compliant phone. The catch is there is no Edge based network on Telus/Bell. So it seems (from what I can tell) Telus have disabled the ability for this phone to drop back to Edge. Now this has a couple of implications. First in less populated areas where 3G may not be available you will loose data connectivity. Second dropping back to Edge is a way to save battery life. So you need to be aware of this limitation of using a Telus based phone.
All in all HTC have accomplished exactly what they set out to do. Build a better Nexus One. And if the only thing they did was add Sense UI to the Nexus One the job would have been mostly done. But when you look at the improvements, this has now quickly displaced the Nexus One as my favorite mobile devices of all time. Now if it had a keyboard I would be totally thrilled. I will take some time and try and get use to the on screen keyboard. Meanwhile I can only hope HTC will release a North American frequency Desire Z!
According to Telus they will be releasing the update to 2.2 in October so fairly soon. What do I miss from 2.2? Gmail updated it’s client but you require Android 2.2 to get it. This update allowed you to change text size (my eyes are getting worse), and the ability to have more control over notifications. Future upgrades will no longer be tied to the OS for Gmail. 2.2 is also faster than 2.1. Most of all I miss the ability to move or install aps to the micro SD card removing the limitations of the phone’s memory. Yes I load a lot of aps.
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