If you know me, then you’ll know that I wasn’t really ever into flashy phone hardware. To me, a phone was something to make phone calls and send text messages. Even though I would consider myself an early adopter of most computer technologies, I just never really had that with mobiles. About fourteen months ago I finally traded in my old Motorola for an Android phone. Specifically, I bought the HTC / Google Android Developer Phone. I love that phone, and have hacked it many many times over the last year. I installed new ROMS from jesusfreke and cyanogen, and even cooked my own ROM with the applications I wanted installed.
The hardware in the Developer Phone is wonderful, albeit very slow. The processor runs at 528MHz and there isn’t enough memory to easily allow the newer versions of Android. The screen is also showing its age as it only runs at 320 x 480. With that in mind I decided a month ago to update it to a new model. So I bought the HTC Desire. I’d imagine you’ve seen this phone advertised or on the internet somewhere but don’t know as much about it as you should. First of all, it has a huge 16.7 million colour AMOLED touch screen. At 480 x 800 pixels the 3.7” WVGA screen is incredibly crisp and dominates the front of the phone. The entire phone isn’t much larger at 119mm x 60mm x 11.9mm, and it feels light but strong in the hand. The case is metal and hard plastic and it doesn’t feel particularly fragile which is a great thing. I have accidentally dropped it, but slowed it with my foot before it hit the ground and it escaped unharmed.
It is incredibly fast. The ARM Snapdragon processor runs at 1GHz and has no problems with anything I’ve run on the phone so far. Screen transitions are crisp and smooth, and CPU-intensive tasks such as Flash video run without stutter. HTC have enhanced the Android experience with what they call Sense, and it changes the operating system from something functional and good looking into something very user centric and highly visually appealing. One of the things that pissed me off with the Dream was that I couldn’t play background music at the same time as doing pretty much anything else. That just isn’t a problem with this processor. I have used Google Tracks to track my movements continuously in the background while playing music and looking through maps. That’s a huge win for me, and supposedly the operating system is going to get even better when HTC release froyo in a couple of weeks. Froyo is short for frozen yoghurt and is Google’s codename for Android 2.2.
As is typical for Android phones these days it has a 3-axis accelerometer,digital compass, proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as the ubiquitous A-GPS receiver. It also has a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera with a LED flash on the back of the phone. The camera has the ability to detect faces, though I have to admit that there is no indicator for that feature and it doesn’t seem to change the depth of field when taking a portrait. The A-GPS can tag photos with the exact location they were taken, which is a great feature, though one that would be a battery drain should you take a lot of photos with it enabled. The photo quality is pretty nice, and several examples of photos from this phone can be seen here, or on my Flickr page.
I haven’t had any problems with the phone quality. I can’t really type a whole paragraph about it as it just works. It’s quad-band so will work everywhere on earth except large swaths of North America. Data connectivity comes in the form of 3G (HSPA / WCDMA / EDGE), GPRS and WiFi (up to 802.11g). It has Bluetooth which I’ve never used, and internet tethering for a laptop through a cable. When Froyo comes out it’ll get the ability to act as a wireless access point which means I can power my laptop from it when on the road.
The model I bought isn’t carrier dependant. Our carrier is Alice, which is a MVNO on the O2 network, which was later bought out by O2. I don’t “have root” (the ability to install programs that require privileged control), but that’s because I just haven’t needed to root it yet. That’s how good sense is on it… there just isn’t a need to root the thing to install extra software. Anyway, when I upgrade to Froyo I’ll either root it or not, depending on my mood. The process is relatively easy, though a little time consuming. The nice part about it is that (unlike some other phones) the software I install won’t invalidate the warranty. Its my phone and I can install whatever I want on it!"
I gave my old Dream to Anna, who is completely addicted to the hard keyboard on the thing. Unfortunately she just doesn’t use it for anything except texting and phone calls. I think there’ll be an upgrade for her to the HTC Vision in the future, which will have the same (or better) specifications as the Desire but with a larger and more comfortable hard keyboard!
So. Fast? Check. Great screen? Check. Connectivity? Check. Sensors? Check. Open and upgradable? Check. What are you waiting for then? Go get one!