In a grand experiment, Telstra gave me and 24 others a HTC Desire to review with absolutely no requirement for us to say anything nice about it. It's a brave & clever initiative that leverages the vast world of social media and those who are considered "influential".
I was fortunate to be selected and whilst I feel a little bad about sledging something I was given for free, the deal was for us all to be completely honest about our experiences. So that's what you're going to get.
Lets get it started.
I’ve been both pleasantly surprised and horribly disappointed by the phone – and unfortunately my disappointment is little to do with HTC and mostly due to Telstra.
The screen, camera, speed and functionality of the phone is awesome. I use it in an Enterprise environment and the Exchange connectivity has been terrific – email, calendar, contacts – they just work as they should. The social media functionality is great, I’ve been happily twittering and facebooking with no headaches. The multitasking makes me smile every time I think of it. It just stomps all over the iPhone.
The reception is beyond what I expect of a phone. Places I’ve always known as dead spots now work perfectly. The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth both have an extraordinary range and for me, the battery life has been acceptable even with everything including GPS switched on. It easily gives me 16 hours and that’s all I need.
The HTC Sense interface works well enough. I love the concept of home screen widgets – but I do have an issue with the drawdown bar at the top of the screen being too small – it's ok once you get used to it. That said, the digital clock and weather being on the front face is very pretty indeed. The Live backgrounds are unnecessary but fun and a nice reminder you're using a powerful device.
I also cannot fault the Next-G network. The speed is magnificent, YouTube plays with no buffering and I’ve surfed websites like being in front my desktop PC. The pinch screen gestures allow you to zoom in and out and the auto-sense for phone orientation means you can spin the phone to automatically make web pages more legible.
But then there’s the negatives.
This phone runs Android. Android is cool because it’s open source and customisable. Or at least it was until Telstra got its hands on it.
They’ve managed to change one of the primary selling points of this phone by making it such that Telstra's applications simply cannot be removed. And even more frustratingly, they’re applications that simply don’t work on Wi-Fi – they can only be used on the Next-G network.
I don’t mind Telstra whacking their logo on the back of my phone. I don’t care that they badge my boot screen, but I do care very much when they install applications that I cannot remove. Especially when they’re totally lame things like “Send a Card” and “Sport”. To make it even more facepalmworthy, they've even named some of their apps the same thing as much more functional tools… so you can only tell them apart by icon.
It also appears that I cannot "root" my own phone so I can install my own ROMS. Unlike every other Android phone on the market, I cannot modify my phone to be what I want and need it to be.
It's enough to send a Geek like me into a total Nerd Rage.
Normally when I get a new device, I learn about it, discover the pros and cons and find myself using it in spite of whatever shortcomings it has. You can usually work around things… but removing the ability to modify my UI experience leaves me frustrated, angry and disappointed.
So would I recommend this phone to others? Yes. Wholeheartedly. But with a caveat.
I would only recommend it to non-technical folk. And I suspect that’s not really the market this phone is aimed at.
I cannot recommend the Telstra HTC Desire to anyone with any kind of technical ability because frankly, Telstra did it their way with no respect whatsoever for the end-user experience.
So I now reach out to you Telstra. Release a ROM for the phone that allows us to return to the core of the Android experience. Allow HTC to deliver a non-Telstra branded HTC Desire ROM. You don't have to push it on everyone, but make it available for those of us who know what we want.
It's such a shame. It's a truly great phone on a truly great mobile network.
But I think the Marketing Goons have ruined it for everyone.