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November 27, 2010 / douglasac

HTCs Desire and Mozart

Left: The Mother’s HTC Mozart, Right: My HTC Desire in its red jacket

Yesterday I went into the T-Life store to have a look around. I’d been wanting to get myself a HTC Desire for some time now, deciding that once I’d turned 18 (which I have now, yay!) I would sign onto a contract under my own name with a nice(r) phone. In the end, I settled on the HTC Desire, because it could quite possibly be one of the best Android handsets available in Australia today. That, and it was also arguably the best network for data speeds and coverage (not necessarily value for money though, but we’ll get to that later). At $49 a month, I decided that some time after my birthday I would go and get myself one.

Then they went up to $79\month from $49\month on the Telstra website.

Fuck. There goes that idea. So I started looking at other Android phones, the only two which seemed to be in my price range were the Samsung Galaxy S, which I didn’t like because their TouchFlo interface is a bitch, and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 which was shipped with Android 1.6 when 2.1 was common and is only now getting 2.1 when many phones are going up to 2.2. The Motorola Milestone 2 looked like it could be a winner, alas it was coming in December and was on some rather pricey plans, and the Desire HD, although huge, was also out of my price range. Drat and double drat.

Anyhow, back to the start, I went into T-Life and said to myself if they had it for $49\month I was getting one there and then. And they did. So I got one. Some questions, a signature and the purchase of a cover later, I was walking out rather quite happy.

My mother then proceeded to like my Desire very much, and decided that she too wanted a new phone, so we went to T-Life together this morning and I showed her the phones that were on the same plan as mine. There was a Blackberry Bold, which she had wanted initially but decided that it was not for her, the HTC Desire, which we inadvertently broke trying to make a call (I think the security pad was covering the proximity sensor which shut off the screen which wouldn’t come back on), the HTC HD2 (which is actually an extra $16\month on top of the $49, besides, it runs Windows Mobile 6.5 so there’s a dead-end there). The first one I showed her was the Mozart. She kept going back to it and she got one.

So, as the title and spiel suggests, I’m writing today about the HTC’s Mozart and Desire. We’ll start off with the Desire because I’ve had more of a chance to play with it.

The HTC Desire

Ever since I first played with the HTC Desire, I had loved it. HTC Sense works brilliantly and the whole Android system behaved in a manner I expected it to. And what didn’t is changeable, easily or otherwise. For example, the default keyboard had keys that were too narrow for my liking by default. So I changed it to a QW\ER\TY layout, where two letters share one key. And when it’s on its side, the regular QWERTY keyboard is perfectly sized for typing.

(I had hoped to have included some screen dumps of how it’s set up at the moment, but unfortunately, for some stupid reason, it is insanely difficult to take screen dumps in Android for some reason. Google, get on that, it’s one of the only things that makes me miss my E63 where it was a key combo away)

The seven home screens are useful: at the moment I’m using four fully and one sort of (it only has one widget on it). Depending on your tastes, you can have seven pages of icons or have some gadgets thrown in for some variety: for example on the main home screen I have a large clock which shows me the weather for my current location which is not always accurate as it only uses AGPS, a calendar widget showing me what I have coming up, and four icons I use the most: Messages, TweetDeck\Twitter, People and Internet. Swiping to the screen on the right shows a variety of programs: DoubleTwist for music, Opera Mobile for a different browser, Engadget for my tech news fix, a calculator, a calendar, Gmail, Facebook and Jawbreaker, which is addictive. You want that game if you get an Android phone. The next screen has my internet usage in a widget, which was an extra download: Telstra should have included this in the package along with their links to all their services, but they didn’t. Go figure.

To the left of the main screen, I have the DoubleTwist music control widget which lets me pause and skip songs as well as open DoubleTwist when needed, the power control widget for easy access to turning on and off Wi-Fi, GPS, syncing, Bluetooth and screen brightness as well as the Google Search widget. The very leftmost screen simply contains a clock and the same calendar widget on the main screen for when I just have it sitting somewhere.

On the note of the screen, it is stunning: it’s very crisp and clear, with the only way to start seeing individual pixels is to hold it about six inches away from your face, which isn’t an ideal distance to hold it anyway: it’s too close to be comfortable. I run mine on mid-brightness (as opposed to off or high brightness) and find this to be good for everyday use: having said that though there is an option to allow it to decide what level of brightness is best for the current situation, I have turned this off because I hate it when the brightness of any screen suddenly changes for a seemingly random reason. The screen is also very responsive, too: with a screen protector on I can glide my fingers across it to get it to do what I want to do: no excessive pressure is needed. Pinch to zoom and other related gestures also work too. (Protip: if you ever play with one, pinch your fingers together on one of the home screens. Trust me when I say it’s a nifty and clever feature)

It comes preinstalled with a variety of Telstra crapware, possibly the only useful piece being the My Account link, which opens your preferred browser and shows you the My Account page which lets you check your bill, data usage for the month so far and so on on your phone. Preinstalled HTC Software includes replacements for some of the default Android applications (notably the Calendar and Music programs), a fun little game called Teeter in which you angle the phone to move the ball into the appropriate hole, Peep, a Twitter client which I promptly replaced with three others (TweetDeck, Touiter and Twitter for Android, all of which have their quirks and I am still trying to figure out which one is better: so far, TweetDeck wins for handling Facebook along with Twitter in a partially competent manner, Touiter wins points for it’s cute chirping bird sound, and Twitter for Android has a pretty good interface: none of them seem to be able to approve followers though, if they can, do tell me how this is done).

My Desire had Facebook preinstalled however I’m not sure a) if this is standard or b) who was responsible for installing it regardless. It goes without saying, though, Facebook for Android is a bit silly: there’s seemingly no push notifications, meaning either you have to refresh it or get it to refresh itself every however long, the minimum being half an hour which is far too long: fifteen minutes would have been better. Having said that though, the updated version of the Facebook program is a far better version than the one it came with, which didn’t appear to have auto-update at all.

The People application (or Contacts as it’s called on just about every other mobile) partners up with HTC Sense and talks to Facebook. This is handy because if your friends have Facebook profiles it will download pictures and extra information to go with their contact details, but you must go through and add each one individually: it does suggest links that are appropriate but it won’t link them for you should it be wrong. When I went through to do it, one contact seemed to get “stuck” in a way in that every time I linked a contact after this one person, either their details would be added to his on my end or their name would change to his. The good news is, after a restart all the malformed contacts had disappeared, the bad news is that after the restart this person disappeared completely from the People program completely. I don’t know why.

There is an update to Android 2.2 (Froyo, short for Frozen Yoghurt, following the delicious treat naming convention of all previous and upcoming Android releases) available but I have yet to download it as it is of a ridiculous size. This is said to be a speed improvement and also allows for installation of apps to the SD card: something desperately needed in the Desire which has a limited amount of internal memory.

One last gripe of mine is how the Desire, and Android in general, handles multitasking: that is to say, badly. I’ve come from Symbian where Multitasking is ordered: you use applications, when you want to use another you hit the Home key and use that, and when you’re done you close them. With Android, applications are running until the OS decides that it needs to kill them (I don’t know what its criteria are for killing an app), however if there is quite a few running this is detrimental to battery life. There is no Close button in applications, so they run wild until someone says no, stop, you have to go now. I downloaded Advanced Task Killer to remedy this, and it was interesting to see what happened after a while: many seemingly random applications kept popping up: Messaging was a particular favourite, and Voice Search didn’t seem to want to bow out when I’d done with voice searching (which works well). Having said that, it’s a far cry better than Apple’s suspend the application and let it do only one of our selected services in the background system which is stupid, backwards and retarded: what I’ve come to expect from Apple, but there you go.

It only comes with a 2GB MicroSD card for some reason, however bigger ones can be found on eBay for reasonable prices (SanDisk cards from Australian Sellers are your best bet), as can cases, many of which are around $2-$5 with postage.

In any case, with my day and a bit so far with the Desire I’ve enjoyed it. Apart from the couple of quirks I’ve mentioned, it really is a good phone. I think I’m going to enjoy using it over the two years I’ll hopefully have it for.

The HTC Mozart

I was initially quite interested in Windows Phone 7 myself. I’d been reading about it before it came out, because come new phone time it would either be a choice between a WP7 phone and an Android phone.

Then I used one for a few minutes. I felt no “wow” factor there), and it just seemed a bit “meh” to me. However, this could be because I didn’t spend too long with it, only about five minutes.

Having said that though, what I liked was irrelevant, but my mother seemed to like it. My belief is that it is aimed at those who are new(er) to the Smartphone market, or those who are looking for something different: something that summed my Mother up pretty well. She played with it in the store and tried some basic things, like sending a message (or trying to, there was no SIM card in it for some reason), attempting to call someone and changing a few settings. She liked it over the Desire, which was complex for her in comparison, so she got one.

I’ve yet to use it that much myself, but what I can say is that the build quality is superb: it is made from a single block of aluminium a la the Legend, with rubber parts on it for antennae and battery covers. As a result it feels heavy, especially compared to the Desire which is soft touch plastics while still managing to feel sturdy, but also feels rather strong.

One thing though that has impressed me is the layout of the Marketplace: it takes advantage of the Hubs in Windows Phone 7 and has a stunning interface. Once I explained to my Mother how to download an application, she had set herself up a Windows Live account she had downloaded a few games and was happily playing them, and then downloaded the HTC Attentive Phone which enables settings such as flip when ringing to silent, ring louder in pockets\handbags and flip for loudspeaker during a call.

In any case, Once I’ve had a bit more of a chance to play with it I’ll either tweet about it or post about it here, so don’t fret, you’ll hear more about Windows Phone 7 soon.

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