The HTC Desire Google Android smartphone has more been compared to Apple's iPhone 4 and, whilst the latter has been associated with long-queues outside Apple's stores, the Desire has suffered from poor distribution leading to many frustrated potential owners. (It took me six weeks of hard work to extricate one from the T-Mobile system.) Updated 10 August 2010.
We’ve had the HTC Desire phone for three weeks now, and a recent extended business trip provided the ideal opportunity for a concentrated test of its capabilities.
At first sight the HTC Desire is stunning. It measures 119x60x11.9mm, of which 94x48mm of the front is the 3.7in touchscreen. There are four buttons on the front which are pretty much flush with the rest of the sleek frontage as well as a touch sensor which can detect finger movements over it.
Before we had this phone we had a T-Mobile G "Google Phone", and both of these phones use the Google Android operating system, the set up of the HTC Desire phone from the front, at least at first, looks similar, give or take the screen size. Instead of the G1’s slide out keypad there’s an excellent screen based qwerty keyboard.
We were at first anxious that this move to full touchscreen would drive us up the wall - to type anything meaningful on a screen is usually accompanied by profanities uttered under one's breath. However, this is not so with the HTC Desire, which provides reassuring little vibrations which register your key taps. More importantly there’s an idiot proof text recognition system that learns as you type your own words/friends’ names etc. Say you want to type the word "Hello" but your banana fingers instead type (and you will have to look at your keyboard to fully appreciate this) "Jrlko", it will know.
In fact the HTC Desire soon starts to become somewhat uncanny as it almost feels it knows more than you do what you're trying to say.
The first function we noticed when using the HTC Desire phone was the Time and Weather widget, it knows where you are at all times (although, so do we, thankfully) and it automatically changes to the correct time, eg in America it will change accordingly. It also tells you what the weather is like outside with a natty little animation which makes you feel affection for your phone and it's ever optimistic viewpoint. Crucially, if you tap the weather icon, it gives you the weather forecast for the next four days at your current location or indeed any other location you specify.
Other than this, the HTC Desire's main homepage is intuitive. With a flick of the finger left, there is space to have streamed news headlines as well as other additional applications of your choice. Another flick to the left and you have live update to all your social networking accounts, facebook, twitter et al. Flick again and you have your internet bookmarks. If you flick right from the main page you have more space for more apps including calendars and mp3 player (with, praise be, a normal headphone jack at the top of the phone.)
Another excellent feature is the HTC Desire phone’s synchronising ability. Tell it about your Facebook account and it automatically synchronises your contacts with your facebook friends, their profile pictures appear in your contacts list, along with details of birthdays, addresses, etc. It all happened seamlessly and rapidly, without any intervention on my part.
The long list of applications available from the Android library means the HTC Desire phone can cope with pretty well anything, from viewing PDFs and opening and editing word documents and excel spreadsheets to 3D computer games.
Next we'll tackle some of the key features that tend to crop up most frequently on smartphones and hopefully provide some insight on how the HTC Desire fares.
Camera – We have recently returned from a business trip to the deep south of America, and we relied entirely on the camera on the HTC Desire. Okay, it is not the same as a fully specced digital camera, and it still relies to an extent on the subjects of any photo standing as still as possible to prevent blurring. The resulting images are sharp however, and more than acceptable. You can zoom in on a photo you have taken and it still looks sharp and the photo browser is very user friendly. We also used the HTC Desire phone as a hard-drive, downloading other people's photos from a computer onto the 4GB SD card for display on the Desire.
What we found really very good is the video function, the camcorder is great. The picture is clear and there is no jumping and again the playback of these on the HTC Desire phone is also very clear, utilising the entire large screen.
Music Player – The music player performs well, and there is a handy regular headphone jack at the top of the HTC Desire phone. If you use the headphones provided you’ll find a handy little controller for the player on the cable. Music played via the Desires inbuilt speaker is of acceptable quality.
Web browser – Having peered over our colleague's shoulders as they use the web browsers on their BlackBerrys we were delighted to find a world of difference when we fired up the browser on the HTC Desire. It displays websites exactly as they are on our PC – formatting is unchanged, and (a nod in the direction of the iPhone here) you can zoom in or out of a section on the page with a pinch action. The browser has full support for Flash content built in; something that was lacking on the G1. Cruising through live markets on Betfair was a cinch.
Email – When it comes to email on the move the HTC Desire means business. Icons in the top left corner of the screen provide a constantly updated notification of all inbound communications. A Quick finger flick provides a summary of text messages, missed calls, and email arrivals in multiple accounts. A tap on any one item instantly displays it in full detail.
AMOLED screen - I have compared the HTC Desire’s AMOLED screen with an iPhone and the HTC wins hands down. Watching one of the two free movies that T-Mobile provided for me to stream on the phone was a pleasure. The display is pin-sharp and colour rich, with no hint of quality loss.
On a sunny day I had no trouble reading the Desire’s display, it’s the perfect screen in all respects except one – smeared finger marks need constant attention. It’s a small price to pay however.
Battery life - Nobody could claim that the battery life on the Desire is especially good. Light users will get two days between charges, but in normal use, with average internet access and reasonable calling levels I find it necessary to charge the phone each night.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>
See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?