HTC Desire smartphone

HTC Desire review: Telstra's first Android smartphone in Australia, the HTC Desire is a superb handset.

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HTC Desire
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Desire
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Superb display, excellent build quality, fantastic user interface, high level of customisation with HTC Sense, super-fast performance, excellent Web browser

Cons

  • On-screen keyboard not as polished as the iPhone's, somewhat limited multimedia capabilities

Bottom Line

HTC's Desire is the first Android phone to be released by Telstra, and we think it's the best Android phone period. A highly impressive design, a superb, customisable user interface and all the features and capabilities of the latest version of Android combine to produce an excellent smartphone. It will only get better with software updates.

Would you buy this?

Jointly unveiled by HTC and Telstra at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, HTC's hotly anticipated Desire smartphone has finally arrived down under. The first Android smartphone available through Telstra, the HTC Desire is the best Android handset yet and a worthy challenger to the iPhone 3GS.

Check out our HTC Desire vs iPhone 4 smartphone showdown.

The HTC Desire smartphone has a very similar design to the Google Nexus One. Its outstanding feature is the 3.7in AMOLED display, which dwarfs the iPhone in both size and quality. The screen is amazingly crisp, bright and clear, though it is hard to see in direct sunlight. The Desire's build quality is also very impressive — HTC has used a combination of brown plastic casing on the rear and a metallic brown finish on the front. This superb combination makes the HTC Desire a delight to hold and use.

The HTC Desire doesn't include a physical QWERTY keyboard, but it has an optical track pad. It's more responsive than the trackball found on some HTC smartphones, and it can be pressed to select menu items. Alongside the track pad are four touch-sensitive keys — home, menu, back and search.

Combined with the latest version of Google Android (2.1 at the time of publication), the HTC Desire's touch screen is slick, responsive and is every bit as intuitive as the iPhone. Importantly, it's also super fast — there isn't a sign of lag or slowdown, even when running multiple applications. This is largely due to the 1GHz Snapdragon processor that powers the Desire, the same processor used on the Google Nexus One and the HTC HD2 smartphones.

The extra screen real estate means the HTC Desire's on-screen keyboard has more room, but this is one area where the iPhone remains supreme. Typing on the Desire's keyboard involves a steep learning curve and even after four full days of use, we were constantly typing a full stop instead of a space. The presence of haptic feedback and excellent spelling correction are benefits, but the iPhone's on-screen keyboard remains more polished than its Android counterpart.

A big benefit of HTC's Android smartphones is the presence of the HTC Sense user interface, and the Desire benefits from the latest upgrade. Two new features include the ability to pinch the home screen to quickly display and select one of seven screens — called Leap — and a new widget called HTC Friend Stream. The latter integrates all of your social-networking contacts, including from Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, into one organised "stream" of updates. This effectively negates the need to access separate applications to view this information, and you can update your status on Facebook and publish a tweet simultaneously. Though this feature looks superb and integrates seamlessly into the Sense UI, it lacks some more advanced features, such support for multiple Twitter accounts and URL shortening when tweeting.

Other HTC-exclusive widgets include People — which combines all forms of contact with an individual in your phonebook — as well as News, Facebook, Web Bookmarks and HTC's much-loved weather widget. The last of these offers fantastic animations, including a windscreen wiper that swipes across the screen to wipe away raindrops. Another widget worth mentioning is Footprints. This allows you to take a geotagged photo and store the image in a particular category; for example restaurants or shopping. You can then instantly share the content with others via e-mail. Overall, HTC Sense has a strong focus on customisation, and the ability to completely change the interface's look and feel is a huge advantage the Desire holds over the iPhone.

Underneath HTC Sense, the Desire offers the regular features and functions of Android, including the Android Market for third-party apps, an excellent notifications taskbar and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services. The phone automatically synchronises your Google calendar, mail and contacts over the air. Unfortunately, you still can't choose to save downloaded apps to the microSD card, and the Desire remains an inferior multimedia smartphone when compared to the iPhone. For example, the music player interface is intelligent and attractive, but there is no way to synchronise an iTunes playlist and no real advanced settings beyond basic playlists, repeat and shuffle modes.

As it's launching in Australia on Telstra's Next G network, the HTC Desire includes shortcuts to a range of BigPond services and applications. Interestingly, the Foxtel, WhereIs and Yellow Pages services are full mobile applications — a first for Telstra on Android. These Telstra apps ship preloaded on the HTC Desire, but the telco will soon publish them on the Android Market. The HTC Desire has Telstra branding on the rear battery cover, but the Telstra apps can be effectively hidden when you edit a "scene" using HTC Sense.

The HTC Desire is a 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable smartphone and operates on Telstra's 850MHz Next G network. Telstra has noticeably superior network performance and coverage and much faster data speeds than any other network in Australia, so the Desire on Next G offered a better experience than any other Android smartphone we've reviewed. Combined with full Flash capabilities, browsing the Web on the HTC Desire is superb. The pinch to zoom function isn't as smooth as the iPhone's, but double tapping or zooming in on a block of text automatically reformats the text, making it easier to read.

Other features of the HTC Desire include a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, a built-in accelerometer, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The Desire also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, though this is annoyingly located behind the rear battery cover. Battery life is about what we expected and on par with the iPhone 3GS — the HTC Desire will barely last a day with push e-mail, location services and background data enabled.

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