HTC has for many years impressed us with its smartphones. From the days of enormous slide-out keyboard- equipped Windows Mobile models like the TyTN2 through creating the first Android phone, the G1, to the recent arrival of stunning touch-screen models like the Legend, they've seldom failed to produce one of our favourite phones of any given year. Leading the charge for ever grander accolades is the HTC Desire, the company's latest full touch-screen Android smartphone.
After the jaw-dropping single-piece Aluminium chassis of the Legend, the Desire's somewhat drab brown metal and matt black plastic frame is a bit underwhelming – this is, after all, supposed to be the flagship device of the range. However, the soft-touch finish does feel very nice in the hand and provides a more secure grip than glossy devices. In fact, despite hefty dimensions of 119 x 60 x 11.9mm, this is an easy device to handle. Our only complaint would be that reaching the power/screen lock button on the top edge can be difficult when using the phone one-handed. Overall build quality also seems excellent with no wobbly, flexible, or creaky sections and the enormous 3.7in glass screen is perfectly flat and smooth, and should resist scratches well.
The phone's build quality is also reflected in its buttons that are firmly seated yet have a nice light action with a reassuring defined break so you know when you've pressed them. Said buttons consist of a volume rocker on the left edge, that combined power and screen lock button on the top, and a set of navigation keys under the screen. From left to right we have the Home, Menu, Optical Trackball, Back, and Search buttons. The trackball is set flush with the body of the handset and detects your finger movements using an optical sensor, which works very effectively though it doesn't quite feel as accurate as true trackballs. Pressing it in selects the item you've highlighted.
As we've found with all Android devices that have some sort of trackball or D-pad, it only really seems to have one use which is to quickly and accurately move a cursor through blocks of text. Everything else is just as easily performed using the touch-screen. In fact, the same can be said of the Menu, Back and Search buttons. While you do get used to using them, ultimately on a well designed touch-screen device/operating system they should be superfluous. Likewise, the aforementioned lock button issue could easily be alleviated by having any of the front buttons also activate the screen – after all, a touchscreen gesture is still required to unlock the phone so you shouldn't accidentally activate it. These button issues combined with the underwhelming design leave us thinking there's definitely room for improvement for the Desire, regardless of how well it actually performs.
Nevertheless, with a proper headphone jack on the top edge, a micro-USB socket on the bottom for charging and syncing, and a microSD slot under the back cover, at least the Desire doesn't make any silly slip-ups with proprietary connections and the like (though you do have to remove the battery to get to the microSD card, which is a tad annoying). Also, with Wi-Fi, 7.2Mbps HSDPA, 2Mbps HSUPA, GPS, and quad-band support all on-board, connectivity is also cutting edge.