REVIEW: HTC Desire

Not so long ago the business smartphone sector was dominated by Microsoft. Then Apple’s iPhone came along and managed to attract corporate customers as well as consumers. Google’s Android operating system followed in short order and although it quickly appeared in a wide range of handsets, adoption by the corporate sector was initially slow. With the introduction of Android version 2.0, Microsoft Exchange support was added natively rather than having to be provided for by third parties, and with that the operating system became business-friendly.

HTC’s Desire is arguably today’s flagship Android-based device. As well as Microsoft Exchange support it has other attractions such as a large screen and a finger-friendly user interface. The follow-up to the well-received HTC Legend, the Desire is a high-end, functional and stylish handset for the businessperson. The Desire is available from T-Mobile, O2, Orange and Vodafone and costs around £330 (ex. VAT, SIM free).

What is it and who is it for?

HTC’s Desire is a high-end smartphone running Google’s Android 2.1 operating with HTC’s very user-friendly Sense User Interface on top of that. It has a large, high resolution screen (3.7”, 480×800 pixels) whose Active-matrix OLED (Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode or AMOLED) technology makes it clear, sharp and bright.

The Desire has a very strong range of smartphone features including a 1GHz processor (you won’t find faster), GPS, Wi-Fi, HSDPA and a 5-Megapixel autofocus camera. It is well built and solid, with a physical design (119 x 60 x 11.9mm, 133g – the same weight as the iPhone 3GS) that won’t make an executive look like they’ve brought their home phone to a high powered client meeting.

There are seven home screens which you can fill with ‘widgets’―shortcuts to applications, data, individual contacts, Web pages and more. This means you can easily set up separate home pages for work and leisure, and could even allocate home pages to specific clients or projects. With this range of features the Desire is suitable for the businessperson who wants a capable smartphone for work which can double up for leisure time use and won’t look out of place in either setting.

Does it do it well?

The Desire is a superbly engineered smartphone and its large screen is ideal for Web browsing, which is ideal for looking at your clients’ Web sites. Swivel the handset in your palm and the screen moves from tall to wide mode, offering an excellent on-screen tappable keyboard which makes it relatively easy to send e-mails while you are on the move. The screen supports multi-touch―just like the iPhone―so you can pinch inwards with two fingers to zoom in and out when viewing Web pages.

The Desire will also help you find locations thanks to Google Maps, and the recently announced UK point-to-point navigation aspect of Google Maps for Android means it will even get you between business meetings. The camera shoots a good picture and benefits from an LED flashlight, face detection and geotagging.

Built-in readers for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents work in combination with the large screen to make reading e-mail attachments as easy as it has ever been on a smartphone. Microsoft Exchange support runs to security features such as password protection and remote data wipe. This should please technical support staff who can ensure privacy is managed and deal with lost and stolen devices easily, making the Desire appropriate for deployment across the enterprise.

Where does it disappoint?

While the large screen of the Desire is one of its key plus points, an inevitable consequence is that those with smaller hands may not be able to reach right across the screen for one-handed use. This can make accessing e-mail and data tricky when you are standing on the train at the end of a working day.

Battery life is a little disappointing too. Any businessperson is likely to want to make good use of 3G data to access Microsoft Exchange (along with POP3 and IMAP accounts), while the GPS and built in Wi-Fi are likely to come in handy too. Moderate to heavy use of these features are likely to mean that the battery needs a charge every day. Another downside is that to get to the battery, SIM card slot and the microSD slot, you need to rip open the back cover using the top slit―what’s wrong with a slide-and-pop mechanism? There’s only one microphone too, and the handset lacks voice-to-text input.

Would we recommend it?

There are plenty of other devices running Google’s Android platform, and an increasing number which include Microsoft Exchange support. However, the Desire’s large screen makes it potentially very useful for businesspeople who need access to complex data such as Web sites and PDF/Word/Excel/PowerPoint documents on the move. Its touch-sensitive keyboard benefits from the large screen too, and may be beneficial for those who need to do a lot of mobile e-mail. Our major concern is battery life, but all modern smartphones suffer in this respect and the HTC Desire is no worse than most―better than most in fact! [9]

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