Monday, 20 December 2010

The Definitive Review of the HTC Desire

I caved.
iPhones are expensive, too expensive for me to be dealing with. *See HERE for an update on this situation.
For half the monthly price, I could get a free phone, unlimited texts, 500 minutes and unlimited internet.*
This seemed a good deal, and the free phone was a HTC Desire. I didn't want to like it when I was playing with it in the Carphone Warehouse, but to my surprise, I did like it. It has a nice screen, the touch screen is better than I expected, not too big or heavy, pretty good camera... Android. That's the bit where it falls. Android. However good the anti-Apple nerds shout, Android will never be an iOS. Yes, it's good. It does the job for me, but it just isn't an iPhone.
In this review, I will compare almost every aspect of this phone to the iPhone 4.

*Not really 'unlimited'... 1GB is what they gave me. It sucks to be a real user of mobile internet, not someone who only wants to show off with a fake iPhone.


So, the review:

The Business.
The phone seems to be well built. Rubbery texture on the back, plastic on the front. Glass screen. No surprises. The screen is pretty good, apart from appearing to love trying to scratch itself. The iPhone has Gorilla Glass, scratchproof. It's had this on every iPhone and iPod Touch released, and even a 1st generation iPhone's screen will look almost brand new now, under general use. The Desire's screen, although mine never got scratched, seems very scratch prone. Don't keep it in the same pocket as keys or coins. I bought a screen protector as soon as I got out the shop, before even using the phone. Even with this plastic covering, the touch-response works well. Typing and clicking small buttons and links online can be troublesome, more later about that.

The Eyes.
The resolution is 400x800. Pretty good for a phone it's size, but looks like a 1980s digital watch compared to the iPhone 4's Retina display, with it's 960x640 resolution.
The Camera is pretty good, I think. Most reviews say it's sub-par, but it's 5MP, with autofocus, flash, tap-to-focus and it seems to work well enough to pick up text for Evernote.

The Shell.
The Build Quality on the phone is pretty solid. I think it should survive a few missed-pockets. Like all my new things, it suffered the 'Slippery Gadget Syndrome', in which all my brand new and expensive thing wants to do is land on the floor, by any means possible, from as high as it can. So, from personal experience, I know it can survive a drop off the desk, a tea spill, a missed-pocket into the snow. It does have a rubber case, but that's mainly to protect from scratches and hopefully to make it less slippery.

The Fingerspace.
The touching business is a lot better than I was thinking. Accurate 90% of the time, however it doesn't agree with cold fingers, gloves, or accidental touches.
Typing is good most of the time, but sometimes the software just seems to have a little fit and go mental, replacing words like 'know' with 'Oklahoma'. It's favourite auto-correct error is changing 'the' to 'Tue'. Massively irritating. Moving the cursor to midway through a word it has changed can't be done. So, if I have typed a word like 'toffee' and actually wanted 'coffee', I'd have to delete the whole thing and write it again. It also cannot understand abbreviations or acronyms, for example, CD. I have to type C, then select it as only being C, then type D. If I don't do this, it will auto-correct to something else, apparently the first word it thinks of beginning with C. Other times, it finds words completely at random, such as Oklahoma from trying to type 'know'.

The Guts.
This phone is not very technically powerful. It has a tiny amount of RAM compared t the iPhone 4, a processor incapable of multitasking, video hardware which can't play videos properly and about 300MB of internal storage, which is embarrassing compared with the iPhone 4's minimum of 16GB. Luckily, there is a 4GB memory card in the phone, upgradeable to 32GB. Even then, the iPhone could double that with the 64GB model.
The battery life on it is horrible. From fully charged at 9AM on a morning, send a text, float on the tubes for about 10-20 minutes, check the time on it a few times and the battery is below 50% by 5PM. Multiple times have I forgot to charge it at night and it be completely dead by the morning. I am used to my Samsung D500 lasting around 6 days without a charge under use described above. The reason? The battery is Lithium-ion, whereas Apple products and old Samsung phones use Lithium-polymer. Polymer is more expensive, but lasts around 5x longer than lithium-ion.
The moral of the story is to never go anywhere without a charger. If you go somewhere regularly, buy a second charger to keep there in case you forget the first one. Even turned off it seems to suck up power for something.

The (Paranoid) Android (of Notre Dame).
The Android operating system is not iOS4. Far from it. It tries, but falls short in so many places. There appears to be no easy way of doing things, such as changing the wallpaper, selecting your ringtone, deleting text messages, finding contacts, making new contacts, typing a text to someone who you have not already texted recently... All involve multiple menus and buttons just to get working. I don't like reading instruction manuals. I can usually work out phones and computers pretty well, but a lot of this seems to be designed by masochists or The Riddler.
There are a few easily noticeable glitches in the OS. I'm running the newest version, 2.2 I think (No easy way to check, can't be bothered to Google how to do it). Firstly, I get a lot of mysterious error messages in the menu bar, which look like random phone-related words arranged in random order.
Also, it suddenly decides it no longer wishes to text people. Despite having signal, unlimited texts, and the other person having signal, it will sometimes say "Cannot deliver message after multiple attempts". That's it. No error log, no reason, nothing. What does that mean? The only way I've found to solve this is by deleting every single text you have from that person in the recent conversation thing and start again.
Often the lock gets stuck with the slider at the bottom of the screen, and to fix this you need to turn the screen off and on again with the sleep button on the top.

The Time-Wasters.
Downloading applications is an arduous affair. The Android Market is their version of the App Store. It seems to have about 3% of the Apps of the App Store, most of which either need paying for or suck, or both. I have often had apps crash the entire phone whilst downloading, and the only way out is to un-battery the phone and turn it back on. I have also tried to download a coin-flip widget, which has been claiming to be 'Installing' for the best part of two weeks now. The 'Cancel Download' button is blocked, so it's always there, stuck floating in Application Purgatory.
Lastly, the most annoying this is that HTC and Android have filled the phone with their own terrible apps. I thought: "Fair enough, I'm getting a non-Apple product, it will be filled with demo bloatware." The problem is, though, that bloatware can be uninstalled. HTC and Android apps can't. This means I'm stuck with two sets of almost every app, GMail/Mail, Calendar/Google Calendar, Twitter for Android/HTC Peep. I can't uninstall any of them, and they are just taking up loads of space with their turdness. There are also Facebook apps I can't get rid of, which really annoys me. Worst of all, none of these apps can be programmed. They are exactly how HTC/Google wanted them. They all open on their own, using up the phone's already limited RAM and sucking up my not-so unlimited internet. So yes, that annoys me, especially since I only use the GMail app, which sucks itself.
The GMail app is unbelievable, really. It's pretty counter-intuitive, to be honest. I can't find anything in the settings to allow it to automatically check my account for new mail, and alert me when there is. When I first got the phone, it worked well, and it alerted me whenever a new email came. Now, however, it never alerts me. I need to manually click 'Refresh' when in the application, even then, it will say there is no mail when I know there is, because I can see unread messages on my computer. When it does find emails, it will sometimes say 'Inbox (5)' but not load the 5 unread messages. I don't know how to fix it.
As for the Android OS's ability to use Flash, well, I will say that it needs work. Flash barely functions on the Internet browser. Often the phone will revert to the home screen and close the browser app when it encounters Flash objects. I have the option to not load Flash unless I touch the object, but it doesn't seem to like that at all. So, I do like the option of having Flash on my phone, but I want it to work.

The Verdict.
So there it is. The Definitive Review of the HTC Desire. I might add more to it as I think of more ways to creatively say it's not as good as an iPhone, but I probably won't.
Overall, it's a good enough phone. If you can live with Facebook apps and multiple of everything else, and have access to electricity 24/7, then it's great.
If you've used an iPhone, ever, you will instantly see endless limitations.
Finally, it could be a lot worse. Non-Apple phones still suck as a whole, only a few make it through the suck-pipe unscathed.

The Pros :
  • Pretty well built
  • Good enough screen
  • Flash capability
  • Physical buttons on the case
  • Better than the Samsung D500 in most aspects
The Cons:
  • The Android OS is buggy
  • Poor battery life
  • Very little internal memory, MicroSD limited to 32GB
  • Technically not very powerful
  • Can't sync with iCal, iTunes
  • Very few useful Apps on the Android Market, not many developers support the platform over iOS
  • Inability to delete unwanted HTC/Google Apps

Is it recommended?
Well, if you want a new phone, ask yourself this:
Can I afford an iPhone?
If the answer is Yes, then get the iPhone. Without question. If the answer is No, then I think the Desire an alright runner up.

4 comments:

Tim said...

Hi Alex
One of the main reasons I got an iPhone was that I couldn't find a smartphone that synced reliably with iCal/ Address Book or even Entourage.
How does that work with the Desire?

Wierdostomps

Alex said...

As for this, the is a way of syncing iCal to Calendar using Google Calendar. I tried it and did get my things off iCal and onto the phone, but it back-published everything into iCal, meaning all my stuff was doubled. I also couldn't add new items to iCal and have them sync with the phone, either over the internet or by USB.
This is really annoying, actually. I would like to see Apple release an Android pack, although it would never happen.
Also, the sync-software which came with the phone is Windows only, so if I need to plug in the USB I have to mount it as a disk drive, which looks dangerous because I don't really know what I'm doing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,

Although I agree that the iPhone is still superior in many areas I've not had any problems playing movies on my Desire, or experienced the same auto-correct issues, though I suspect maybe I have something set slightly differently.

I've never had Apps crash the phone while downloading either, though I do agree that many of them are very poor compared to what you can get on iOS.

I have managed to improve battery life by using Juice Defender and messing with various settings.

P.S I also own both an iPod Touch, iPad and a few Macs - I'm not an Android fanboy :)

Alex said...

Hi, thanks for reading. I use an app called Advanced Task Killer which basically closes running apps in the background. It works, but the inability to stop certain apps from loading up again in the background makes it kind of pointless. Still, the battery is lucky to go a full day without needing to be charged, which is a serious drawback.