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?