HTC is a company yet to take a backwards step. You can say what you like about specific releases, but each generation of HTC handsets has improved on the last with superior physical design and notable improvements in the software. The HTC Desire is this case in point; it features the most up-to-date Android software, the slickest iteration of HTC's Sense user interface and is one of the most attractive touchscreen handsets available today.
There's no denying the similarities between the Desire and the HTC-manufactured, they look like identical twins who get different haircuts to assert their individuality. There are a few obvious differences in detail, but overall you have a very similar shaped and sized handset with a similar two-tone colour scheme and matching 3.7-inch WVGA touchscreens. For our money, we like the Desire better, the optical trackpad works nicely, and we prefer the mechanical buttons below the screen over the touch-sensitive ones you find on Google's phone.
Once you fire up the Desire, the comparisons end and the Desire streaks ahead. HTC's Sense UI gives Android something you can't find on the competition's offerings: a mixture of usability and style that truly sets it apart. HTC Sense features seven customisable homescreens (as opposed to the standard five on Android 2.1), to which the user can apply a wide range of widgets and shortcuts. But as owners of the iPhone will attest, scrolling back and forth across seven different screens can be a laborious task, so HTC has implemented a new tweak to Sense called 'Leap': a pinching touchscreen gesture that displays all seven screens as thumbnails, allowing you to 'leap' from one screen to the next without scrolling across the screens between.
Sense doesn't totally overwhelm the homescreen functionality; in fact Live Wallpapers, one of our favourite features of the Nexus One (and of Android 2.1 in general), is still active. Live Wallpapers are animated homescreen backgrounds, and in some instances are touch-active too, which really helps to make your phone feels somewhat alive, if at the expense of your battery life.
If you've followed the progress of Android, and you've read our, then you're basically up to speed with the capabilities of the HTC Desire. It sports all the smartphone hardware you'd expect; it supports Telstra's 850MHz network plus standard 2100MHz HSPA data transfers; it has a GPS receiver, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, supported by the standard suite of Google apps; and it has an excellent Webkit browser. Out of the box you'll find a comprehensive mixture of apps and web shortcuts to play with, representing the three corporations behind this release: Google, HTC and Telstra (in Australia), but any service or tool not on the phone when you receive it is likely to be found on the Android Market to download.
HTC has made sure the Desire is as capable a business smartphone as it is a phone for fun, extending its usual support for Microsoft Exchange email to include the ability to search a corporate database for contacts, a feature rarely seen on even the most advanced smartphones. Quickoffice is also installed for viewing and editing Microsoft Office documents, and the pre-installed HTC calendar is a winner with its clean UI and the integration of the weather into calendar entries over the upcoming five days.
Staying in touch
All new smartphones now support a wide range of communication methods. From Facebook and Twitter, to old favourites like SMS and email, staying in touch with contacts and the wider web is one of the highest priorities to those of us searching for a new phone to buy. The Desire ticks all of these boxes, and does it in some really innovative ways. Previous HTC Androids, like the Tattoo, featured HTC Peep for Twitter and integrated Facebook with the phone's address book. The Desire maintains this functionality and adds to it with Friends Stream, a new homescreen widget that aggregates Facebook and Twitter updates into one place and gives you the ability to update either profile without launching an app or the browser.and
On top of this, the Desire also sports HTC Footprints, a geotagging app that tags photos you take with a location it generates using your current location, and Google's Latitude widget, which lets you see where your friends are using Google Maps. Within the phone's address book you can view photos via a contacts Facebook or Flickr stream, and you can merge contacts from a variety of sources into a single address book listing.