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It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. There I was online Monday morning, holding my breath as I waited for the clock to strike 11 am, staring at the computer screen, refreshing my Twitter page every 10 seconds or so. Finally, the big moment came…and I stared in disbelief at Maxis’ official announcement that all ten of us, reviewers, get to keep the HTC Desire test units.

Rezeki (English: blessing). Rejeki in Indonesian. From the Arabic rizq (which is also, curiously, where the word ‘risk’ comes from). That’s what this phone is. Pure, unexpected rezeki. I am grateful. And humbled. And thankful.

But between you and me, the real winners are the twins. Because they get to continue playing with Kids Connect The Dots, Paint Joy, and Zebra Paint on the HTC Desire 🙂

twins_playing_with_HTC_Desire

For those of you who are curious, here’s how the Maxis10 review system worked:-

Maxis tweeted an announcement that they were looking for ten people to review the HTC Desire. They provided a link to an online survey that you had to fill up. The questions were pretty simple: stuff like ‘What social networks are you on?‘, ‘How many followers do you have?‘, ‘Do you have a blog? What is its URL?‘.

Prior to the official announcement of the winners, I already received an email from a Maxis rep, telling me that I’m one of the lucky ten reviewers. We then exchanged several emails and text messages on the terms and conditions of the review because I was in Jakarta at that time and discussing it over the phone would have cost an arm and leg. I can only assume that it was a simple pre-screening process before they announced the winners officially on Twitter and Facebook.

The terms and conditions were simple: we only had to tweet and blog about our impressions of and our experiences in using the HTC Desire. The only specific thing that they required of us was an unboxing video. Everything else was very general — there were no guidelines whatsoever. We were given complete freedom with our review — nothing was said on when we were supposed to do it (other than the deadline: 20th of June), how to do it, or whether to highlight its good points or bad points.

Originally, testing the HTC Desire itself for two whole weeks for free was the reward in itself. That and being one of the ten chosen ones, naturally.

Then Maxis upped the ante and announced that the top five reviewers would get to keep the units for free, waking up the competitive streak in all ten of us, resulting in more reviews posted online. But again, take note that there was no mention of any specific criteria on what constitutes a ‘good’ review.

The announcement Monday morning that all ten reviewers get to keep the phone came as a total surprise to all of us. I had to re-read the tweet several times then double-check Maxis’ Facebook page to make sure I didn’t misunderstand the announcement.

Some bloggers claim that the whole setup was rigged, that Maxis bribed us with the units to get ‘good’ reviews. That is so untrue. As I mentioned several times in this post, Maxis gave us a free hand on what to write, when to write and how to write it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how they’d take my ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’ post; at some point, I was worried it would affect my chances of being one of the top five reviewers.

In retrospect now, for me, the point of the whole exercise was for Maxis to get publicity from bloggers who cover a huge spectrum of readers. Even if our reviews covered the HTC Desire’s shortcomings, in the marketing world, bad publicity is still publicity. And having been launched via Twitter, with updates via Maxis’ fan page on Facebook (which only has, oh…50,000-something followers!), it was a social media experiment unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

The result: reviews that ranged from ‘normal’ blog posts, tweets on its features, ‘proper’ technical reviews accompanied by tonnes of photos and videos. It got people talking and tweeting and commenting. And convinced many a consumer that the HTC Desire is a good alternative to the leading smartphone in the market today. Because studies have shown that the best advertising is word-of-mouth advertising. And this is word-of-mouth advertising, except that it’s now on a different platform — the world wide web.

Now that you know how simple the process is, now is your chance to be a Maxis10 reviewer for yet another Android offering: the Samsung Galaxy S (only if you live in Malaysia). Click here for the details. But hurry! Video submission deadline is 25th June.

I’m talking about you, HTC Desire. Yes, you, with that dazzling AMOLED screen of yours disguised as a fingerprint magnet. Ever since you came into my life, you’ve completely taken over my thoughts, my dreams, my waking hours, my spare time. Heck! You even got me stroking you in the middle of meetings.

HTC Desire & its dazzling AMOLED screen

Oh how I hate you, Desire. I hate how you’ve possessed me, despite knowing that you’ll only be in my life for two short weeks. Yes, HATE. It’s a strong word, I know, but there’s just no other way to explain how I feel about these ten idiosyncracies of yours:-

1. Out Of Sync. You. CANNOT. Sync. To. My. MacBook. Pro. Unbelievable! I mean, come on! You’re no Windoze device. You’re an Android! How could you possibly give Mac users this ultimate snobbery?! Good grief! Good thing fellow geeks out there have worked out some kind of workaround for people like me: they advised that I export my Address Book contacts into my GMail account, then sync it with your People program. (Why’d you have to call it ‘People’ anyway? What’s wrong with ‘Contacts’? :P) That saved me hundreds of hours of inputting my contacts again into your memory. Now if only I can get iCal to export properly (I still keep getting that annoying ‘Failed to import events: Unable to process your iCal/CSV file..’ message)… But the point of the matter is — this is not syncing per se; it’s just a geeky workaround. Can somebody at HTC do something about this very important issue pronto? Because of this little glitch, I totally forgot about an important meeting last week just because I had it in my laptop but not in that beautiful memory of yours.

[Update: 15-June-2010 15:19 hrs: There’s a software called Missing Sync for syncing an Android with a Mac. If I get to keep the HTC Desire after this 2-week assignment, I’ll buy it! In the meantime, I’m downloading a trial version here.]

2. Low Battery Life. What was I thinking? With your dazzling screen, your amusing animations, and all the clever things that you can do, of course something’s got to give at some point. And that’s your battery. *Sigh* It doesn’t even last a day. Good thing I can charge you via USB. And miracle of miracles, I can use the Nokia N97 Mini’s charger on you! It’s about time these darn mobile phone manufacturers decide on a common charger. But that’s another story altogether.

3. Music To My Ears…NOT! The sound from your built-in speakers is so tinny, it gives me an earache in less time than it takes for someone to pronounce supercallifragilisticexpealidocious. And those earphones that came with you in that beautiful white box of yours? They’re a joke. The sound quality is awful and they don’t work properly as the antenna for your FM Radio program to work as it should.

4. No Video Calls. Desire, Desire, oh my dear Desire…with those looks of yours, why didn’t your creators equip you with a secondary camera so that I can make video calls with you? I mean, video calls aren’t exactly cutting edge technology — Nokia’s been producing mobile phones that are suitably equipped for video calls for the past couple of years now. I travel a lot and I go home quite late on evenings so those short video calls to my children mean a lot to me — they help me keep my precarious career/motherhood balance. And I can’t make any such calls with you! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! (Or as Upin and Ipin would say, ‘Ish! Ish! Ish!’)

5. Limited Apps. In this digital day and age, it’s the tiniest details that matter, Desire honey. When I browse your market, I see an impressive enough amount of apps (including awesome free stuff like games for my twins) but the selection’s not quite as extensive as those of Apple’s App Store. It’s all about choices, my dear. People. Want. Choices. You also get to make a lot of money that way, i.e. by making people feel they have a false sense of control over what goes into their smartphones.

6. SD = So Difficult. Sure, you’re sleek and slim. But why do you have to hide your microSD card inside the back cover AND require me to remove the battery first before I can access it? Please take some pointers from my oldie but goldie Nokia N82, whose microSD card can be removed easily from a tiny slot on its side. *Shaking head*

7. Music, Schmusic. Your built-in Music program needs a lot of work. I especially hate the way you sort my songs. Helllllo?? HTC people, are you reading this? 😛

8. Screen Scream. I did mention how much of a fingerprint magnet your smooth screen is, right? Yes, right up there — the second sentence of this heartfelt missive of mine. Your screen is beautiful, true, but only indoors. It’s completely unusable once I’m outdoors.

Okay, okay…so I can only come up with 8 things that I hate about you. But I’m keeping the title anyway just because “Ten Things I Hate About You” sounds way catchier than “Eight Things I Hate About You”. (It doesn’t hurt that I loved that 1999 movie. Heh!)

So there. I feel cleansed. Purged. Relieved to have done this confession of sorts about how much I hate you. But I do love you, you know. And in fairness to you, I will also be telling you very soon all about the things that I love about you. And why my life has changed because of you. And how I can’t imagine living without you when I have to return you to Maxis on the 20th of June. *Sniffle*

Now please excuse me while I go look for a tissue to wipe away my tears and blow my nose. All this talk about parting ways with you in less than a week is just making me so sad… Waaaaahhhhh!!!! :((