Every year, there is always a phone that hits the market and wows consumers across the country. A phone that makes consumers ignore the fact that they’re spending £500 on a phone and just throw a credit card at the nearest sales person they can find.
In 2007, that phone was the iPhone (although to be honest, the iPhone has people spending money with each refresh and in ever greater numbers, but that’s a discussion for another post). Then came some other big names, such as the recently released EVO 4G, and Motorola Droid in the States.
For me, the HTC Desire HD could have very possibly been that phone. At first glance, I thought “EVO 4G without the 4G, that could work I guess”. In theory, it has a slew of eye catching specs, a solid build and Android 2.2. In real use? Well, there are issues, but how detrimental are they considering the wider picture? Actually, more detrimental than you may originally think…
Ever since the HTC Desire HD was announced and we saw the specifications, we thought it would rival anything on the market, and right now you won’t find anything much more powerful. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, which is paired with a whopping 768MB of RAM, ample for any smartphone, an important point given some Android handsets struggle for storage space for certain apps which still can’t be stored on the memory card.
Aesthetically, it is one of the better looking phones on the market too. The 4.3″ display (which we’ll take a closer look at in just a second) dominates the frame of the device, with four touch buttons at the bottom of the screen allowing you to access various functions and menus whilst using the phone, without the necessity of true hardware buttons. Above the display you’ll find a notification light sitting to the right of the speaker.
On the back of the phone, the 8MP camera capable of 720p video recording – upgraded from a 5MP in the original HTC Desire – is accompanied by a dual flash, and a secondary speaker.
Despite the encouraging internals, there are a few issues with the hardware of the device that I found to really bug me whilst I was using it. As I’m right handed, I tend to hold a phone with my right hand wrapped around it, so I can toggle the power button easily with my index finger. For some reason, when designing the Desire HD, HTC took the decision to angle the power button downwards from the back of the phone. Although it’s a little thing, it means that unless you have pretty large hands, you have to toggle the power on and off with the other hand that you’re not using to control the device.
Unfortunately, although the display has been enlarged to 4.3″, 0.6 inches larger than the Desire’s 3.7″ WVGA display, the resolution remains at 480×800, which confuses me given that the phone has been given a “HD” tag. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the screen has simply been stretched, with the same amount of pixels, resulting in a pixel density far worse than that in the original Desire, and it’s far from HD.
Whilst testing the display of the device, I was using it with a few other phones that I had for comparison, including the iPhone 4, the original HTC Desire, and Google’s Nexus One. Whilst navigating the operating system and browsing the web, and unfortunately, the other phones didn’t go easy on it.
When browsing the web, pages were visibly clearer on the iPhone 4 than any of the other devices I had to hand, with the incredible 640×960 retina display. The Nexus One and Desire were fairly similar, but all three were far clearer to the Desire HD. Put simply, the hardware of this phone would have been as good as it gets with a few minor tweaks to a few issues I mentioned earlier, and a far superior display. Quite simply, the phone doesn’t live up to the ‘HD’ tag it has been given, a more apt name would have been the Desire x 2.
Fortunately, the one way for a manufacturer to win major bonus points with consumers in the market for an Android phone is to ship your latest and greatest hardware with Google’s latest and greatest software. This is exactly what HTC has done, with the Desire HD coming with Android 2.2 Froyo, and HTC’s Sense UI.
I usually detest Android skins of any kind, as I think they’ve become somewhat unnecessary and often make Android look worse than it does as it comes as stock. HTC Sense, however, may be the one exception to that view, as it does add a few nice touches to Android.
You can customise up to 7 home screens, many of which contain just a single, large widget, such as the messaging widget or social widget. This is a complete contrast to the interface of a purely app driven OS, such as iOS, and it works well.
Of course, you have all the latest goodies that Sense has to offer, such as the ability to pinch in and view all of your home screens at once, which is good to have, especially on a large screen.
Coming with Froyo, you can take advantage of Adobe Flash when browsing the web, although it isn’t quite as polished as I would like it to be. In all fairness, this isn’t a HTC issue at all, as Flash performance is very similar across the board on Android 2.2 devices. I haven’t seen Flash as smooth as it is on the Desire HD, so hopefully Adobe can continue to work with manufacturers and make the experience even better.
There are a few bugs present, and at one stage I couldn’t view thumbnails smoothly in the Gallery app, which is far from ideal, but after a reboot everything was fine and working.
Given my initial complaints over some aspects of the hardware, I’m glad to say that the software came a long way to making up ground for the HTC Desire HD. All things considered, it doesn’t ‘wow’ me as I think it could have done had some of these issues been addressed, but it’s a very solid Android phone.
That said, the next time HTC next make a 4.3″ smartphone, I think it’s crucial for them to include a higher resolution display, because I really can’t see any point in introducing a screen that is so much bigger than previous models, and keeping the same number of pixels. Pixel density is key on smartphones, and HTC need to know this.
The HTC Desire HD will be available from 3 Mobile or various other mobile networks or alternatively costs £499.99 unlocked (sim-free).