We review the HTC Desire, which has everything the Legend has and more
Verdict: A fantastic Android smartphone with well integrated social networking, large AMOLED touchscreen intuitive UI, fast processor and a decent 5-megapixel camera
Price: Free with contract or £440 SIM-free
Pros: Stylish looks, multitouch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, FriendStream, 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, HSDPA, A-GPS, 1GHz Snapdragon processor
Cons: Battery life could be better
Design: Full face touchscreen with dinky buttons
Operating System: Android 2.1
More Info: HTC website
When we reviewed the HTC Legend a couple of weeks ago, we thought it was the best Android smartphone we'd seen. But now it looks like HTC has raised the bar yet again with a media-centred handset that includes all the good stuff from the Legend, but adds a bigger screen and faster processor.
The Desire is a little bigger than the previous HTC handset, the Legend, measuring 119mm x 60mm x 12mm and weighing 135g. The large touchscreen dominates the front and has the usual four hard buttons at the bottom: home, menu, back and search. These are arranged around an optical trackpad which is fine for navigation, though the touchscreen is so good you'll probably have little reason to use it. Incidentally, the Desire is meant to be HTC's own version of the Google Nexus One (also made by HTC) but the buttons are a crucial difference, since the Nexus has a track ball and a touch sensitive strip rather than hard buttons.
The 3.7in capacitive AMOLED touch screen is a thing of genuine beauty. It has 800x480 pixels and offers strong colours, sharp definition and distinctive clarity, even in sunlight. Like the Legend it's also multi-touch so you can do the iPhone-style pinch to zoom thing. It's beautifully sensitive too, interpreting all our brushes and presses easily, though you can calibrate the sensitivity to suit yourself.
Operating system and processor
The Desire runs on the Android 2.1 Éclair operating system and features the latest Sense user interface, delivering seven home screens eager to be populated with widgets and icons. Among HTC's own widgets is FriendStream, which pulls all your Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates into one scrolling list but there are also nifty interpretations of contacts (it will pull all your contact details in from your Facebook account), email (all displayed as a scrolling list), news feeds (with prompts for dozens of web-based sources) and the weather.
It's got a powerful 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (as opposed to the Legend's 6MHz model) which helps with the larger screen – we never had any lag problems whether we were changing apps, browsing the web or watching video).
Social networking and messaging
We saw it before on the Legend and were chuffed to see that FriendStream makes a return on the Desire, unlike Motorola's faux pas with its impressive MotoBlur social networking app, which debuted on the DEXT and was inexplicably left off the Motorola Milestone.
FriendStream marks which network your updates have come from and when you press one you'll be taken to related posts in Facebook or your full Twitter feed.
Both versions of the on-screen QWERTY keyboard are very easy to use too – we found the portrait version fine for entering passwords and banging out quick texts, but the landscape version is positively luxurious, with letters flagging up when you press them and assisted by a little bit of haptic feedback. The screen multi-touch capability means you can get up some decently fast typing speeds too.
For once, we don't have too much to complain about with an HTC camera. In most cases they've tended to be the fly in the ointment that's scuppered some otherwise impressive phones, but with the Desire, the 5-megapixel model offers decent colours and a reasonable degree of sharpness. There are certainly better models out there, but HTC seems to finally be getting its act together with this snapper which launches in about four seconds and offers flash and autofocus, though there are no macro or panorama modes. There is geotagging though, using the Desire's A-GPS supported by Google Maps and HTC's Footprints feature, which allows you to add additional info to your pics.
The large AMOLED screen does wonders for movies and there's the option to stretch their dimensions to fit the screen. The processor seems more than capable of handing films for the larger screen size and we never encountered any lag. It will play MP4 or WMV files but not DivX or Xvid.
The standard Android music player is a decent one though we'd have liked to have seen a graphic equaliser on there. Sound through the supplied headphones was distinctly light on bass though it's easy to add a better pair via the 3.5mm jack or stereo Bluetooth connection. It will play MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and OggVorbis files and there's an FM radio on board too.
There's only 512MB of memory on board but it comes with a 4GB microSD memory card and can handle cards up to 32GB if you need it to.
There's fast web access via HSDPA or WiFi and the browser is a joy to use thanks to the pinch to zoom feature. Turning the phone on its side flips it into landscape mode and you can use the trackpad to navigate if you don't want to brush the screen. Other features include multiple pages, text selection, copy and paste, word search, password storage and Flash video support.
There's a basic version of QuickOffice on board which allows you to view, but not create Word, Excel or PowerPoint files, as well as a PDF viewer, plus a YouTube viewer and of course lots of additional apps available from Android's ever-growing Market store.
As with all smartphones, battery life is hardly extensive, but we did manage to get a day and a half of fairly heavy use out of the Desire. Dimming the screen and switching off the constant updates on FriendStream should help extend its life though.
Just when we thought we'd seen the best-ever Android phone in the Legend, along comes the Desire to make us think again. Not everyone will appreciate the bigger screen, and some may prefer the Legend's all-aluminium look and slightly cheaper asking price, but for our money, the Desire has everything the Legend has, and just a little bit more.