The HTC Desire HD. Let’s get the specs out of the way eh?
None of which tells you anything useful. Well, there are loads of things to talk bout with this phone so lets go.
It’s a 4.3 inch screen and it’s a bobby dazzler. Despite sounding massive it feels really natural in the hand. It’s noticably bigger than the iPhone but the weight and smooth contours make it easy to hold. The camera lens protrudes from the back a good few millimetres. I really thought that it would catch my palm and do my head in, but not at all. Ergonomically it’s a decent phone. Typing is tough with one hand unless you use the excellent, yet love it or hate it Swype. Swype lets you type with swipes, moving from one letter to the next without taking your finger off the screen. If it sounds weird it is at first, but now it’s a ‘how did I do without i?’ app for me. It’s predictive and lets you add to the dictionary. Provided you’re not typing nonsense words it is seldom wrong. There are no hard keys as such. They have been made in to touch sensitive buttons for Home, Menu, Back and Search. Gone completely is any trackball or trackpad. I don’t miss it.
Apps look great on screen and the touch screen is unintrusive and useful. Call quality is good but the bundled hands free kit is predictably crap. Terrible sound and earphones that fall out of your ears.At the bottom are the SIM and Micro SD slots, with a hatch that slides off so no need to turn the phone off or take the whole back off to remove either. Left side has a volume rocker, which can be hard to operate, rather irritatingly, and top left is power, again, irritating to access. Minor points but they do annoy me.
Lightning fast apps, switching, animations and functions make this phone a joy to use. However, the big issue. Battery life. When I started using this phone I was horrified at it’s 6-7b hour standby time. I thought it was faulty at first until I did some research, and here is how you get 30-40 hours out of it.
- Accounts sync. I had a total of 11 accounts syncing, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, News, Weather, Stocks etc. They set themselves to sync every 15 minutes by default. Massive drain. I killed all bar the Google and Facebook accounts. Google updates every 2 hours and Facebook daily. This alone extended the life to a days’ use.
- Install a task killer, kill all tasks that do not need to be running. This makes a huge difference.
- Get rid of pointless apps. They are usually badly written and drain power. Apps like this are the price of the more open Android market, as opposed to Apple’s ‘Dolphin’s Butt’ approach.
There are other optional steps that I took.
- I rooted the phone using VISIONary, a free app that needs no restart and doesn’t flash the phone.
- Installed Titanium Backup free and deleted all the crapware that came with it. I dumped a load of pointless widgets, HTC bloatware apps that offered wallpapers etc and, astoundingly, there are two bundled Twitter apps with the phone, the official Twitter app and the HTC one called Peep. I use the far superior Tweetdeck so I have no use for those, off they went. A factory reset puts all of this back on the phone so you need not worry about that.
- After this run the phone as normal for ten days, then drain it completely and calibrate the battery.
My battery clocks in at 30-40 hours business use now so it can be done, Don’t believe the propaganda. I am the sort to plug my phone in whenever possible anyway, always have been. It’s hardly Apple’s ‘It just works’ appeal but I like Android for playing with it so I’m not bothered, you might be.
Running widgets, particularly live feeds will drain it but it’s nothing to worry about.
Music is well played, no skips etc but you’ll need decent headphones as cheap ones sound tinny. The screen is perfect for iPlayer/YouTube and the playback is very good indeed. Sharp, vibrant and well-balanced with intuitive controls. YouTube lets you sign in to a different account from the phone which is a useful idea. Photos look crisp and sharp too. Flipping between landscape and portrait is snappy and works perfectly. The music app displays album art and controls music whilst the phone is locked without having accidental presses. Clever. You can install different ones if you like, notably Tune Wiki, but I see no need. There is some sort of Dolby sound thing going on here, but I have to be honest, in my experience the rule is spend a few quid and it sounds good. This phone doesn’t convince me otherwise. It sounds good, but if I am supposed to notice some sort of sound revelation, sorry. It sounds good provided you don’t use a terrible bit rate on MP3 files.
Google Maps and Navigation is there. It works snappily and the voice search is brilliant. No complaints. With it being a cloud based app there’s nothing new here that isn’t on other phones. What is new is HTC’s proprietary Locations application. It has several features. Free maps and mapping but navigation is a premium feature. Unless you’re a heavy user then navigation is free with Google. If you use it daily then buy the premium as Vodafone only give you a measly 750 MB data plan. I think this is taking the proverbial a little now. One gigabyte is not a huge amount so it’s clear they’re looking to squeeze a few pounds out of us on data.
Fortunately, the free element of Locations is offline mapping. No data usage, but sadly the database of locations is absolutely hopeless. It’s empty compared to Google Maps and as far as I can see it does not accept postcode searches. They had better update that pronto. If you search then every space sees a lag as it tries to match what you just typed. That is extremely irritating and a flaw that needs to be addressed. However, most of the time, if you give it the data it will find what you need. If so, then the maps have 2D and 3D views – very nice indeed – and they work with the compass so that the map turns wherever you are pointing it. No more walking for a bit to see which way you should be going. Very nice feature and one iPhone has had for ages. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Google haven’t done it with maps. Locations also does general keyword shops. You can select whatever category of place you want, e.g. pubs, and find the ones in the area along with ratings and reviews. This is very good and means no worries about using your data up on Google Maps. As an aside, as these apps move to the cloud then networks need to be fairer on data allowances. I would happily compromise on say, mapping and browsing only, no downloads or streaming, in exchange for unlimited 3G data. I think that is a better way to keep everyone happy. No nasty surprises in our bills and the networks don’t have to worry about media streaming brining 3G networks to their knees. I am sympathetic as the traffic on 3G has exploded since iPhone changed things, but then they’ve had three years to beef up their infrastructure. If they keep this up it will stink of profiteering. Having expensive data tariffs on always-online devices is a gun to the head scenario in my opinion.
GPS signal acquisition is lightning fast and as accurate as I have ever seen. Any thing like maps or navigation looks brilliant on that 4.3 inch screen.
Location services on this work really well. I know there are real concerns regarding privacy but I am all over location services like a fat kid on cake. I love them and can’t wait until they gain wider acceptance. Why, for example, can’t 20 Foursquare check-ins at a restaurant equal a free meal? There is an opportunity to make money here, and hopefully the right sort of thinkers will drive this. Foursquare is a great idea, but the app on here needs refining. It works fine, but searches can often be slow and it’s a little buggy. Not the phone’s fault, but a thought. Facebook works well and includes Places. Tweetdeck (or Peep/Twitter if you prefer) all permit location updates in tweets and geotagging photos os available too. This phone will stretch the possibilities for locatoin applications. It has the capability and the screen to be extraordinarily useful. We just need some original thinking from developers for apps and services. Bring it on.
The camera is 8 megapixels, twin LED flash and shoots HD video at 720p.
Here is a sample video from bonfire night:
Pretty good, I am sure you’ll agree. A couple of stills from the same night:
The OS is the bang up to date Android 2.2, smooth and fast. There is a vast array of sharing options, Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Mail, YouTube. Uploads are a couple of taps and go just fine.
Internet and Mail
Gmail on this is great, push updates and notifications. The mail client works well with loads of options, including a unified inbox for all accounts. Nice touch. The browser works very well with smooth panning, zooming and pinching there, and in the rest of the apps too. Google search and voice search integrates brilliantly, giving local results for the device and net results too. I did install Firefox beta but for a beta release it has some terrible bugs, notably being the capitalising of the first letters of passwords, meaning you type it, then your full password, then go back and delete the capital. It’s easily fixed but that is a real balls up for something of Firefox’s standards. Quick look up works when you highlight text, you get the usual cut and paste options. The menu also gives ‘Quick Look Up’ as an option so you can get web and Wikipedia results for the highlighted text. Very good idea.Bookmarks are tiles and multiple pages are supported. plus map links and so forth open the relevant app rather than viewing in browser. Perfect touch there.
The market now allows auto-update and update all for installed apps. It restricts that by forcing manual update if application permissions have changed. That stops developers sneaking in data mining and sharing that you did not originally agree to. Thank you Google. The market is simple to browse and the app selection is huge. Not quite up with Apple and there is a fair amount of crapware in there, but there are some great pieces of software. Be wary that quality control is non-existent, which gives app developers freedom but also allows more seedy tactics like apps that are just there to serve ads, thus generating cash, and apps that don’t work properly. Read comments before installing.