Rating: ★★★★☆

Names say a lot about who we are, or what something is. It’s just a simple one or two words which identifies everything, without defining. And yet, a weird name arouses suspicion, ridicule, laughter, and many other instantaneous reactions. That may be judgmental human nature, so why, knowing this, would any phone company name their phone outrageously? Simple names like iPhone, Flip, Sidekick…these are neutral and purposeful. Give a phone an intrepid title, and that name had better be backed up by a winning piece of hardware.

Thus, our review of the HTC Desire.

The HTC Desire, like the HTC Wildfire, is an Alltel Wireless phone (in the US) running off of Android 2.1. The Desire, while similar in software, is more akin to the majority of Android devices. It’s thin and long, has a meaty weight and an almost futuristic design. The receiver is broken into two sections, both with a tiny chrome outline that always sparkles in the light. The LCD display has a black coating finish around the screen while a purple-burgundy bezel sits around the glass. A slightly textured rubber coating makes the rear panel easy to grip and comfortable in the hand, and continues around to the front of the device near the bottom, where the silver Android buttons are.

Along with those four buttons is an identical scroll laser and selector button as we saw in the HTC Wildfire. A volume rocker is set on the upper left side of the handheld, the 3.5mm audio jack on the top right, and the power/standby button on the top left. The micro-USB jack is on the bottom of the Desire. On the back, above the chrome HTC logo is the 5MP camera and LED flash, and the speakerphone beside it. Removing the battery panel reveals the thick 1400mAh battery and MicroSD card slot, which the battery blocks. By now one would imagine cellphone makers could actually make all phones without blocking any card slots. Alltel Wireless does not require SIM cards so there is no slot for one.

Picking up the Desire for the first time makes one acutely aware of its stable weight. It feels good to hold in the hand. It feels solid. The volume rocker and power/standby button are well placed and easy to press in either right or left hand.  All of the Android buttons are equally easy to press except for the search button when held in the right hand. Because the search and back buttons are connected, it’s difficult to accurately press it when holding the Desire in the right hand alone in a normal grip.

Three HTC phones, from top to bottom: Wildfire, Desire and HD7

The back panel is a dry but soft surface, which makes it good for grip. It does, however, pick up fingerprints and dirt too easily, and it’s more difficult to clean than the front glass. Not that it would need cleaning often, if ever.

Unlike the HTC Wildfire, the Desire is a smartphone where most 3rd party applications will run just fine. The operating system is fast, though it does tend to stutter. HTC’s Sense Android overlay is smooth and easy to use, though I do prefer Samsung’s Touchwiz as seen in the Fascinate and Epic 4G. However, the Desire and those two devices do not directly compare.

I ran a number of basic and strenuous applications on the Desire, and was pleased to see most applications run smoothly and without issue. The touchscreen, however, is a little insensitive. Some phones are too sensitive and read when a finger press before the screen is actually touched, or reads fingernails because of the heat transfer. The Desire is the opposite, where slight presses don’t always register, and for some games if you don’t press hard, the screen will not register any press at all.

As with the Wildfire, Alltel Wireless is not great to use in Los Angeles. I dropped calls and lost my 3G connection consistently while driving, and often when standing in place. After the Wildfire poor service wasn’t unexpected, though the more powerful Desire does not fare any better. European users will undoubtedly enjoy their models much more than US customers.

Camera quality is good in well-lit scenery. As you can see in the pictures above (click the thumbs for full-size images), shots outdoors and in good light have mostly accurate colors and proper tones. Night and low-light photography is slow to focus and the flash washes out colors far too easily. Overall the 5MP camera offers steady shooting for the day, but take a real camera when out on the town after sunset.

HTC’s Desire is a good, solid phone. I can very easily recommend it for anyone interested in a simple, sleek Android device. It’s a low to mid-range device, and while I cannot recommend Alltel Wireless as a service provider (though based on my research their main area of service is in fact in the southeast corner of the US) other users throughout the world can be satisfied with the Desire as a strong, decent device. But as I said in the beginning, a name means a lot, and the Desire doesn’t quite live up to that name. It runs Android 2.1, and likely won’t upgrade. The hardware is relatively weak when compared to competing devices. The Desire is solid…but I won’t be dreaming about one anytime soon.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.