Recently I splashed out on a new phone and thought some thoughts about it might be worth while. Or maybe not – but the internet has infinite storage and Ben did ask for a “review”. Not quite sure he meant this though….
So my shiny new toy was the HTC Desire obtained after reading various reviews on-line. My old phone was the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music which I thought was a decent all round device but a bit lacking in speed. The web browser especially was a bit fiddly. One of the nice things about the 5800 though was the “home screen” or just the screen you see when you turn on the phone. allaboutsymbian.com has a good over view but my phone looks something like:
It turns out to be more difficult than it might seem to get a decent screen shot… but you are reading a blog entry titled “tips from an idiot” so your expectations shouldn’t be too high.
The point being is that the Nokia has a number of functions that are easy to access from this home screen. At the top right is a touch screen hardware button that allows you to access music, photos, the browser etc at any point during the operation of the phone. At the top of the touch screen you have signal strength, a clock, a date display and a battery indicator. Touching these areas acts as an appropriate short cut. So hitting the clock takes you to a screen where you can set alarms and so on. Generally the Nokia interface is not very flashy but is actually highly functional a bit of a contrast to the HTC Desire. The middle of the screen shows a series four friends set up (so you have to pick your top four buddies) so you can text or call them with just two presses on the screen.
One of the most useful concepts from the Nokia which appears to be lacking from the new shiny toy is the concept of “Profiles” for the phone. So you have General, Silent, Offline and so on which allow you to rapidly change the mode of the phone. A concept that I can’t seem to find on the HTC Desire despite the plethora of shiny widgets.
Another thing of note is the text input. There are lots of ways of doing this, my favourite was the full screen keyboard as I could get up to decent typing speed with this. Note how the controls use up pretty much all of the screen.
- Calendering and other personal information management functions. I use google for my calendar and trying to synch it with the device was something of nightmare. The to-do list functionality was not worth bothering with, it was basically just a flat list of things to be done.
- The e-mail client doesn’t seem to work with the IMAP server at work. You can use the web client but it isn’t quite so phone friendly.
- It’s a bit slow – loading up things like the music player is noticeably slow with lots of blank screen action.
Now we come to the HTC Desire. First impressions are very positive it is fast, the screen is gorgeous to look at and there is a great animation of the current weather when you turn it on. The browser is really fast and the ability to zoom in on text and re-format the paragraph to fit the screen is absolutely awesome. Again el-reg has a good review. A view of my HTC Desire is shown below, which looks like everyone-else’s HTC Desire as it’s on the default settings:
So what’s wrong with the HTC Desire? Well a quick list goes something like:
- Erratically reporting that there is no sim card when there is. Reboot to fix!
- Trying to use the camera for the first time and being told because of SD card permissions I couldn’t store the pictures – technically that makes it a camera phone but not a very useful one. Reboot to fix!
- Occasionally telling me that it doesn’t play any of the music I have installed on the device despite the fact is played just fine earlier! Reboot to fix!
- No concept (that I can recognise) of profiles. You can of course turn lots of things on and off and there is an air plane mode but it took me several days to realise that a long press on the power button accesses a sort of pale imitation of the Nokia profile system.
- Poor use of screen real estate. Although there are seven home screens on which you can put lots of widgets the large amount of virtual space seems to have made widget developers emphasise form over function.
- Default hoover everything into the phone mode. So by default it tells you have lots of e-mails and updates the weather and so on. I’m on on pay as you go, I have wifi at work and home but having the hoover everything into the phone might involve getting data charges on the commute in. You can turn this off but it seems a bit inelegant. Turning off the “Background Data” setting which means that “Applications can synch, send and receive data at any time” is the way to go but then the Android marketplace insists that you turn it back on. Also I don’t want to know about work e-mails at the weekend (if it’s really important someone can call me!) but there seems no easy way of synching on a per account basis.
- Call quality seems noticeably poorer than on the Nokia.
- No volume control on the uncomfortable headphones and on case for the phone in the box.
- A “people” application that sucks in everyone you know from Facebook, Flickr, google and the sim card resulting in at least three entries for everyone. I’m probably being just a grumpy old man here and should go and sort out my phonebook but this seems a bit messy to me. e.g. I was once using google talk to chat with someone on Windows and the second half the conversation ended up on my phone without me realising making the chat a bit one sided.
- A touch screen keyboard designed to look good not work well. I find key-presses inconsistent and much harder to type on than the Nokia 5800. The keys should be bigger, they’ve got loads of space… again style not function!
I’m sure that some of this is just unfamiliarity with Android and the dissonance you get with any new platform. However some of it appears to be a lack of attention to detail in the software design and things not working quite right. On the plus side:
- The calendar and to-do list are top notch. I use the built in calendar and the astrid task manager – very slick.
- Very pretty web browser
To be honest the calendar and to-do list make the phone worthwhile for me, there also seem to be a good range of downloadable applications from the Android market but I haven’t done very much with them yet. So all in all a mixed bag and I’m left with a nagging feeling I might have been better off with a Nokia (The N900 was quite tempting but seems too much of a transitional platform for my liking). For twice the price and nearly two years of technological wonderment over the Nokia I’d like to be much more blown away than I actually am…