First announced at Mobile World Congress 2010, we've had to wait seven long months for the HTC Desire to land Stateside, and admittedly, we were worried that it would come up short compared with some of the smartphones that have come out since. We were wrong. Sure, it doesn't have some of the latest and greatest features found on other smartphones, like a front-facing camera or an HDMI port, but it offers a solid feature set, top-notch design, and great performance. It's a particularly great and important addition for U.S. Cellular, whose smartphone lineup has been lacking and whose only Android offering up until now has been the Samsung Acclaim. In our book, it's hands down the best smartphone that the carrier has to offer. The HTC Desire will be available from U.S. Cellular starting August 27 for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $70 mail-in rebate.
As a close cousin to the Nexus One, the HTC Desire sports a similar design, and we have no problem with that since we love the N1. The handset measures 4.7 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 4.76 ounces, so it's not too big and not too small. Like a number of HTC's Android devices before it, the Desire has a slight chin at the bottom but it's much more subtle and doesn't get in the way of slipping the phone into a pants pocket. The rounded edges also make it comfortable to hold in the hand. It's a solid-feeling phone all around--not plasticky or cheap.
The Desire features a 3.7-inch, WVGA (800x480) capacitive touch screen that's beautiful and sharp, so whether you're reading text, Web pages, or viewing photos and video, you're getting a great experience. In addition, the display is responsive and has pinch-to-zoom support, a built-in accelerometer, and a proximity sensor. The zooming capabilities are smooth and quick, and there was very little delay when switching screen orientation. We were able to quickly launch apps and scroll through lists with ease as well. HTC's onscreen keyboard is pretty decent, though slightly cramped in portrait mode.
U.S. Cellular packages the HTC Desire with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, an 8GB microSD card, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The biggest difference between the Nexus One and the HTC Desire is that the Desire runs HTC Sense instead of the stock Android skin. We like the standard Android experience and, of course, it makes getting updates much easier. However, out of all the custom skins, Sense is easily one of our favorites as it provides features that enhance the phone's capabilities and usability without overcomplicating things or being too obtrusive. For more on the features of HTC Sense, please check out our review of the HTC Legend.
The HTC Desire ships running Android 2.1 but will be upgradeable to Android 2.2. As of this writing, U.S. Cellular didn't have a specific time frame for the update but said it would be later this year, so you'll have to wait a bit for Flash Player 10.1 and some of the other Froyo features. Still, you're getting a very full Android experience and even a few extras from HTC and U.S. Cellular, including Your Navigator Deluxe, My Contacts Backup, and HTC's Twitter client, Peep.
Like other Android phones, the Desire can sync data from multiple e-mail accounts and social networking sites, including Gmail, POP3, IMAP, Exchange, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and merges info into a unified calendar and contact list. HTC Sense provides a somewhat different interface in the e-mail and People apps. For example, the mail app features a tabbed interface at the bottom that lets you view unread messages, attachments, meeting invites, and more with a simple touch, whereas the standard Android experience provides just a single view of all your messages. Similarly, the People app provides you with a tabbed selection for all contacts, group contacts, online directory, and call log. It's a handy way of easily filtering messages and contacts.