HTC Desire Review: The Digitall and the Digicool

I spent some time recently with the HTC Desire with my new reviewer hat on, not just wanting to say how I feel products are, but also how they affect our lives. Right now, I am using an old style phone, you know – the ones without predictive text, internet, and touch screens – and it is amazing to see how many habits I have picked up because I’ve been using the iPhone for two years.

So I think it stands to reason that by reviewing technology, we’ll get a better handle on how it’s changing how we communicate and how our minds are working.

The Digitall and the Digicool

I did two reviews for this phone, one with me (a Digitall), and one with my friend Anya (a Digicool). If you don’t know what I mean by these phrases, check out this post where I lay out four profiles of digital users. In short, a Digitall is someone who users the latest digital devices for all they do – your typical innovator and early adopter, like me. Digicool is someone who uses new digital technology because it’s cool, it’s current, and makes financial commitments based on lifestyle and the fashion status of digital devices. So let’s being:

The Digitall Review

So let’s deal with the elephant in the room: as I held it for the first time it felt like an iPhone clone. This of course isn’t true – Apple didn’t invent the touch screen, and the app based view has been around for at least 10 years with the Nokia Communicator – but the iPhone did make touch popular and they canonised many of the ‘laws of touchscreen’ like the gestures, how it should feel and respond, etc.

This is undoubtedly an issue for any touch screen smart phone, because the moment you being to use pinch and zoom, you feel like you’re copying the iPhone. So with the Desire, I felt that whilst some things were similar to the iPhone, others were totally different, as if they on purpose said “let’s make that different so that we’re not the same as the iPhone.” (This is detrimental, and part of the reason why I’m excited about Windows Phone 7 which appears to have created a new UI and way to engage with your phone.)

Another example of this is the fact that a touch screen phone has 5 physical buttons, which confused me beyond belief. I can’t understand why we have to be confused like this – either make it all on the screen (even the iPhone’s top button confuse some people), or make it buttons. Don’t confuse us.

On the other hand, what I really liked when using the HTC Desire for the first time was the beginning tutorial – genius. Helping someone quickly learn how to use your phone is an excellent idea. Trouble is, there are no online videos to back this up (or if there are, I couldn’t find them in 2 searches.) What I totally lacked is a support network to get into this phone. This is an important point for anyone these days. The product is not enough. We need warmth as well as light.

The Digicool Review

So Anya really liked the HTC Desire. What she didn’t like was how long it takes to learn it. After over a week with the phone, she still wasn’t comfortable with it. Having said this, she was fond of the customisable home screens.

The big selling point for the HTC Desire is how customisable it is. Considering I couldn’t find any videos on HOW to customise the phone, HTC have failed in my opinion. My friend Tendai tells me that “if you read the manual, you’ll learn how to use the phone.” You don’t need to say how much that statement tells us about the poor usability and support. If you need a manual or guidance, then the product won’t last in today’s market – a lesson I’ve learnt recently with Like Minds this month.

Anya seemed happy to plug away with it – in a trail and error kind of way – but she didn’t read the manual. I guess I had forgotten about trial and error because I haven’t had a new phone in so long. Now that I have this awful little £10 phone (because my iPhone broke), I’m seeing how horrible it is to have to learn how to use a device again.

What both Anya and I both liked was the Google integration. Our contacts, calendars and email were all synced with one entry of my email and password, without any further options. This is a beautiful thing, and it’s a shame that the rest of the phone doesn’t employ this same ease of use when it comes to settings.

The biggest clincher for Anya though was the price. It’s a very competitive option (both on the price of the handset and the monthly tariff) when compared to the rip off price of the iPhone. If HTC do win, it’s because they’ve done a good job here and they tie into people who just can’t afford £50+ a month on a contract or a £500 handset.

Bonus: A Pirate Review

If you want a far more in-depth review from someone who really knows there stuff, check out the review by my friend Glenn Le Santo. Glenn’s a bit of a pirate and a fantastic writer, and his take is very insightful and useful if you are considering the Desire as an option.

Your Leading Thoughts

  • First of all, if you do own an HTC Desire feel free to speak now and balance this review out. By no means is this complete at all and I’m sure I’ve missed a lot.
  • Secondly, what do you think in general about phone user interfaces? Think back to how phones were to how they are now. How you would you like them to ideally work?
  • Thirdly, how has your phone changed your habits and defined your life?

Archived Comments

  • http://twitter.com/98rosjon Jonny Rose

    Firstly, YES at having a digitall vs digicool model for testing. Far too many sites are use specialists who talk *down* rather than getting ‘digicools’ who can talk *across* to other technophobes.Secondly, I have got a HTC Wildfire which – for all intents and purposes – is a scaled down Desire. As such, I can only comment on the Wildfire which I have found – for the most part – to be a brilliant phone.I made the leap straight from a crummy £20 nokia to this smartphone so I have no transitional phones (e.g. your iphone 2g) to compare it with. This may weaken my points since I haven’t had an iphone to compare it with, but I disagree with you nonetheless.You’re right that the instructional and support network is lacking. However, I really did not find setting up and customizing the phone to be too must of a time sap (30mins MAX). It’s not ‘intuitive’ (that word is overused for everything) but it is logical and systematic.Also, although you’re right that there is a glut of apps on the app page, you can easily pin your top 8 to the homescreen with seconds. I don’t know how simple the app store location is on an iphone, but I really don’t find it challenging cycling down to ‘marketplace’ to make my purchases (My concern if anything about android is not the interface, but the lack of support or regulation for most of their apps). I think you just suffer from a short attention span Scott!Basically, you’re way too hard on the HTC! PS I hope you feel sufficiently shamed for not being able to find the wi-fi button whilst Anya could ;) PPS HTC, I hope you see this and give me a reward for being such a brand advocate. Just sayin’.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Bro.

    Not really compelling arguments from you here are they? ;-)

    HTC markets their phones as phones that you can customise, and so I’m not their target market. I’ve always taken my new phones and deleted all the rubbish. I want things clean and minimal, not highly customised and tons of options.

    I also notice that HTC users are people who’ve never used iPhones, mainly because they don’t want to be mainstream people. So again, I’m not their market.

    A rule of user design is that you have a simple layer to start, and then can add further layers of complexity AS LONG AS they don’t change the simple first layer. HTC doesn’t have that simple start for me.

    PS I hope HTC see this and give you your dues :-)

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