So I’ve had the HTC Desire for over a week now, and I have to say that it almost sucks as a phone. I rarely use it for calls, and when I diverted my number to go to the HTC, I found it difficult to handle people actually calling me. I also kept accidentally calling random people.
That aside, the HTC rocks as a toy. It’s a great gadget. Not perfect—but great enough. It’s not as intuitive as I’d like it to be at times, and it suffers from menu overload, but on the whole it isn’t too bad. It does some seriously cute things that I’ll talk about later this week.
One of the things I love about the phone is its speed in connecting to the Internet, which I suppose is also a rap for Telstra’s Next G network. I had a browse off with someone who owns an iPhone and the HTC kicked arse. I’ve also noticed that at times it’s faster than my PC.
But the main draw for me are the apps. Not just the tweeting and reading apps, but the utterly trivial and ridiculously useless games and whatnots. After I got over the paranoia of linking the phone to my Google account, it was smooth sailing. I’ve not had to pay for any of my apps—although I would if only the Android Market would accept PayPal, because there’s no way I’m trusting some random company with my credit card details over my mobile phone. Just not going to happen.
Okay, let me start from the beginning.
Out of the box
The first things I noticed when I got the phone were that it was very sleek and shiny and that it didn’t come with a manual. There’s a Quick Start Guide, which was essential because I had no idea where the heck the microSD card went!
Look, I know it’s tempting not to read the manual, but if you’ve never owned or used a smartphone before, you really need to at least flick through the Quick Start Guide to get the hang of the touch screen controls.
The HTC’s interface weaknesses became pretty apparent when I couldn’t figure out how to browse files. The full manual was actually in the memory card, but I only figured it out later when I tried to view the PDF I downloaded off the web.
I had to buy a generic case for my HTC because there were no accessories available as of a week and a half ago. It’s cumbersome but I’m too scared of dropping the phone to risk not having a case at all.
The Telstra HTC Desire comes with HTC Sense, which I gather is the interface or skin on top of the Android platform. It also comes with a set of Telstra apps, most of which are just links to Telstra sites. I’m not convinced they add much value. Better to link to one portal to get to all those links than annoy customers by littering their apps list, I think. But I’m not easily annoyed like that, so whatever.
The first thing I worry about when I get gadgets that will potentially store contact details and private information is security. Forget the well-known Nokia convention of keypad locks—the HTC has no keypad!
To lock/unlock, I had to set up this pattern thingy. Of course, I tried to be extra clever with my pattern, which resulted in about two days of having to fiddle with the unlock pattern. Very embarrassing! The touchscreen isn’t friendly to fat fingers.
It took a while to get used to the HTC’s virtual keyboard. Once I got the hang of how predictive text worked on the device, though, it was okay, although still more error-prone than a proper keypad.
There’s a fairly steep learning curve to using the HTC Desire if you’ve never used a smartphone before. It pays to be a bit adventurous and kind of fiddle with it to see what it does.
And at least read the manual’s table of contents.
Apps, apps, what did I do before I discovered apps?
To get the most out of Android, you need to use a Google account. You can’t access the Android Market to get apps otherwise. The problem is that the first Google account you tell the HTC about is linked to your phone forever unless you do a factory reset, which I wasn’t really keen on doing and which I don’t feel customers should have to do unless they intend to do nefarious things to their devices. If you’re like me, you’ll be thinking, But it’s so pretty and sleek and why would I ever want to reset it ever?
So you might do what I did: dither about for a week before creating a dummy Google account that does nothing but allows me access to the Android Market (and see my Google calendars).
And so I discovered apps. What a wondrous place the Market is! Not as large as the Apple Store, but good enough for a newbie like me. Plus there are lots of free apps for stingy or paranoid people … again, like me.
I downloaded every free, non-dodgy-looking ebook reader app I could find in the Market. More on that later this week, but the short answer is that Aldiko rocks. It’s not perfect—that ugly bookcase interface, for example—but it does very well for me.
For a more comprehensive list of recommended apps, it’s worth checking out the official Telstra Social Review post where the other 24 social reviewers recommend their top 5 apps. I follow the other social reviewers on Twitter, and they’ve helped a lot in terms of weeding out the better apps out there.
Just a warning if you’re here for books and are wondering if you can stand any more smartphone posts: I’m hoping to post a few more times this week about the Telstra HTC Desire. The social review campaign ends on Saturday and I want to get all my thoughts out before then, just so it’s all tied up neatly.
But I’m still reading books—sometimes on the new phone!—and I have reviews in draft. Watch this space!