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HTC Desire review

Barry de la Rosa
22 Apr 2010
HTC Desire
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
387
inc VAT

A beautiful and powerful phone, however the Desire can't rival the iPhone's build quality, and HTC's Sense software has some annoying quirks

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Specifications

Android 2.1, 3.7in 480x800 display

The HTC Desire is well named, as it's probably at the top of every Android fan's wish list. With a 3.7in AMOLED screen, a 1GHz processor, a 5-megapixel camera and room for up to 32GB of storage, it's got the specs to compete with anything on the market today.

Its headline features are very similar to Google's Nexus One, which isn't surprising as HTC manufactures both phones. However, there are a few differences: unlike the Nexus One, it doesn't support US 3G bands, so if you travel to the US you'll be stuck using EDGE or hunting for WiFi hotspots. It also lacks the voice-to-text abilities of the Nexus One, which includes the noise-cancelling microphone. It does however include an FM radio, something the Nexus One lacks.

Of course, the phone many people will compare the Desire against is Apple's iPhone, which will get an update later this year to add multi-tasking - a feature Android handsets have had from the start. In terms of build quality, the Desire isn't as attractive as the iPhone; unlike HTC's Legend, with its aluminium body, the Desire has a largely plastic casing, and the battery cover feels especially flimsy.

It lacks the nearly edge-to-edge screen of the iPhone too. There's a thin black bezel around the display, and there's a slight gap where this meets the case which, over time, can collect dust and grime. The rubber finish on the rear of the case is bound to rub smooth over time as well. There's no oleophobic coating on the 3.7in screen, so greasy fingers will cause unsightly smears.

That's not to say that the Desire isn't attractive: it has a slight chin, in a nod to previous HTC designs such as the Hero, but otherwise it has smoothly rounded edges that make it slip comfortably into your pocket. That rubberised finish makes it feel secure in your hand, and it's pretty much the perfect size and weight – being almost identical to the iPhone.

With a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 576MB of RAM, the Desire speeds through anything Android can throw at it, and you'll find the only bottleneck is the speed of your internet connection. Even with multiple apps open, the Desire is smooth and responsive.

HTC's Sense interface is a great improvement on the standard Android interface. The most visible difference is the large clock and weather widget that's installed by default on the home screen (plus tapping it reveals many other functions such as a stopwatch, alarm clock and timer). However, it's the collection of apps, widgets and clever touches - such as the ability to pinch to zoom out to see all your home screens - that sets Sense apart.

Sense's People app brings together all your contacts, across multiple services such as Google, Exchange, Facebook and Flickr, and automatically looks for duplicates and lets you merge them - it's just a shame it doesn't integrate more services, or add contacts from Twitter. The Friend Stream app shows updates in real-time from Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, while the Footprints app lets you post geo-tagged comments and pictures of places you've visited. There is also a dedicated Twitter app called Peep, and a collection of clever widgets for your seven home screens, such as the email widget that lets you flick through a pile of emails.

We found some annoyances with Sense, however. The most conspicuous is the inability for Sense apps, such as Friend Stream, to work in landscape mode, which makes text entry that bit more frustrating. To make things worse, Sense uses its own keyboard and copy and paste software, which is inferior to Android's own. While Android's software uses clear handles to drag your text selection, and pops up a small magnification of the area you've selected, Sense's text selection starts from the current cursor position, which isn't easy to pinpoint.

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