Google’s superb web browser is present and correct and it’s as easy to use as ever. Complicated web pages are properly rendered and thanks to Flash support, you can even watch online video. Double tap the screen and you zoom in by a predefined amount or perform a pinching action and you can zoom in and out to whatever level you like. Once resized the text will then squash in to fit the width of the screen, meaning you don’t have to scroll left and right to read the whole paragraph. Comparing it to the much vaunted iPhone browser interface and the pinch actions feel a little less intuitive, the set double-tap zoom level can feel restrictive, and the squashed text can be annoying as it can break formatting. However, the latter two features are in fact preferable to the iPhone’s way of doing things in equal measure. All told we think neither platform quite has the perfect browser navigation solution yet.
The 1GHz Snapdragon processor means Flash video framerates are better than we’ve ever seen on a mobile device, though they’re still someway short of a desktop experience – you seem to get every other frame whereas the Legend, say, struggled to show half as many. Overall browsing speed, though, is stupendous. In fact, the whole phone zips along like you wouldn’t believe, loading games, apps, webpages and emails almost before you’ve thought to press the icon. Despite this, though, some actions can still make the Desire struggle. Things like scrolling a long list can result in jerky motion. It’s only aesthetic but it’s takes the edge off an otherwise impressive performance.
Fans of filling their smartphone with millions of apps (unlike me) will be pleased by the number now on offer in the Android marketplace. It’s still nowhere near the level of the Apple app store but you should seldom be left wanting for most genuinely useful apps. Basics like the ability to open Microsoft Office apps are already inbuilt so even relatively enthusiastic users should be ready to go straight out the box.
When it comes to the day to day duties of this phone, it performs very well with good call quality and reception, though the loud speaker is a little weedy. Battery life is also surprisingly decent considering this phone’s capabilities. By all means you’ll need to charge it at least every other day and all those widgets can certainly drain the battery even in standby, but with sensible use it’s no worse than most large touch-screen phones.
Comparisons between the Desire and Nexus One are inevitable as they share the same basic features of a 3.7in OLED screen and 1GHz Qualcomm “Snapdragon” processor. However, the Nexus One has a physical trackball and touch-sensitive buttons, and also has clever noise-cancelling for calls and a powerful voice-recognition feature – both of which we certainly didn’t feel ourselves craving when using the Desire.
Any true comparison falls down, though, when it comes to price. The cheapest we’ve found the Google Nexus One for £499 (SIM free) while the Desire can be had for a truly bargain price of £380 from a number of shops. At this price it is clearly the choice smartphone of the moment. That doesn’t, however, mean we’d recommend it to everyone. You see, despite being a superb device, the Desire doesn’t really bring anything new to the market and it certainly lacks that wow factor that makes us want to grab one now. Sure, if you’re dead against an iPhone, can’t afford one, or just want something now then the Desire is the pick of the alternatives but we would be inclined to wait and see what Apple’s fourth gen phone turns out to be like before making any decision.
The HTC Desire is a truly wondrous smartphone. It’s 3.7in OLED screen looks amazing, its 1GHz processor makes it super fast, and its Android operating system is easy to use and powerful. It does lack the visual impact of some alternatives and doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but if you’re in the market for a smartphone right now this is the pick of the bunch.