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Long before the term ‘smartphone’ was invented, I knew I needed one. I was always lugging around an organizer of some sort and I’ve always wished there was a faster, more efficient way of keeping track of my appointments, phone numbers, and other frequently used data. And I’ve always thought perhaps there was some way of incorporating all that in my mobile phone.

HTC_Desire_collage

The first smartphone I ever owned was a Palm Treo. I loved its fast startup, its stability, its ability to switch from one program to another with ease. But then the screen got damaged and I couldn’t get a replacement for it. So I bid goodbye to my Palm Treo.

Then I had a Dopod 838Pro. It was big and heavy like a small brick but it had WiFi, bluetooth, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a combination of features that no other smartphone had at that time. It had a great dialing feature — I’d dial the first few numbers or letters of a person’s name and the Dopod 838Pro would give me suggestions that matched those criteria, either by number or by letters. Unfortunately, it ran on Windows Mobile, which meant extremely slow startup and constant unexplained freezing.

You can imagine my excitement when the iPhone was first unveiled. Long before it reached Malaysian shores, DH somehow managed to secure one unit. So if you look closely at my unboxing video at the portion where I was putting in the SIM card, you’ll notice that there’s a small cut-out on the SIM. That was to accommodate a wafer-thin SIM-like device that I had to put in together with my SIM just so I could use the iPhone with my local number.

How I loved the iPhone’s slim profile, its crystal-clear screen, and the almost magical way with which one can pinch and swipe to zoom in and out and browse images and documents. But I hated the absence of an onscreen keyboard, made worse by the iPhone’s pathetic predictive text feature. And its 3-megapixel camera is such a disappointment with its grainy images.

Hence, despite the introduction of the iPhone 3Gs, I stood my ground and resisted the temptation to join the iPhone bandwagon. That’s because the camera is still crappy. And so is its built-in predictive text app.

Then came the unexpected opportunity to try the HTC Desire. I deliberately avoided reading any review so as not to taint my perception of the phone. Nor did I read the manual — it’s my litmus test for user-friendliness. And you know what? I was blown away by the phone’s features. By its speed. And its stability. And its user-friendliness. I only opened the manual once and that was merely to double-check the method of opening the cover because it felt kinda stuck and I didn’t want to risk breaking it.

The HTC Desire is not perfect, as I wrote in a previous post. But there are so many things about it that I love.

1. I love its intuitive text input system, which is a thousand times better than the iPhone’s. I send text messages in English, Malay, Indonesian, Cebuano, Tagalog, French or a mixture thereof and it remembers the new words that I use. It even remembers which words I use most often. Somehow, it almost always gives the most logical word choices even as I type just the first few letters of the word. And even though I misspell my words, it’s uncanny how it can suggest the word that I actually intended to type in the first place.

2. I love its uber-cool People program that allows me to link my contact’s details from Facebook, from Gmail, from everywhere…then lists in separate tabs all my emails, calls and text messages for and from that same person. Perfect for refreshing my memory about someone just before a business meeting…and for stalker-type folks 😉

3. I love its gorgeous screen that elicits gasps and wonder for its crystal-clear images and for its wondrous but battery-draining live wallpaper feature.

4. I love its intelligent dialing capabalities, a carryover from its Dopod 838Pro days. All I must do is type in the first few numbers or the first few letters of the name of the person whom I want to call, then it gives me a list of possible contacts who match such criteria.

5. I love its 5-megapixel camera, which can switch from still camera to video camera almost effortlessly; whose settings I can tweak to my heart’s desire — contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness, white balance, ISO, metering mode, self-timer, focus mode; for giving me the options to have my photograph in grayscale, sepia, negative, solarize, posterize. The camera’s not as good as the one in my Nokia N82…but very, very close.

6. I love its removable battery, which means I should be able to buy a spare one somewhere.

7. I love the fact that it comes with a MicroSD card, from which I can get the contents via USB card reader. External memory is always good, just in case something happens to the phone *knock on wood*.

8. I love its smooth integration with Google — emails, contacts, calendar.

9. I love its amazing visible pattern security system in lieu of a password. And I love even more its backup plan: when I forgot my visible pattern, it gave me the chance to unlock it by logging on to my Gmail account.

10. I love its seemingly magical way of auto-adjusting the width of the text when I zoom in and out as I browse the internet.

All in all, the HTC Desire is a great device for someone who values practicality over branding, for someone whose job can benefit from the HTC Desire’s Calendar, calculator, Quickoffice and numerous productivity apps, for someone who wants his/her online life simplified — Twitter, Facebook, email, browsing the Net, sharing photos online. The HTC Desire is beauty and functionality in the same package. Yes, there are some compromises — that’s why I call it ‘great’ instead of ‘perfect’.

And so my two-week test drive of the HTC Desire comes to an end. Thank you, Maxis, for giving me the opportunity to take part in this amazing social media marketing experiment. It’s been a real blast. Should you need my services again, you know how to find me 😉

As for all of you who have been following my blog from the beginning, thank you for putting up with my HTC posts. I realise they’re not the usual topics usually covered here but gadgets ARE close to my heart and, just like any other gadget geek, whenever I get a new toy, I just can’t help but talk about it for weeks on end. That’s how I ended up writing mostly about the HTC Desire during the entire review period instead of writing such articles in between my usual posts. My apologies for that.

For whatever reason you are reading my blog right now, I hope you’ll find yourself entertained with this short feature film that I worked on during our usual two-hour lunch break last Friday, which I edited Friday night and most of Saturday morning under the watchful eyes of my most unforgiving critics — my children. (‘Feature film’ sounds so much more exotic than ‘short movie’ right?) Enjoy! 🙂

Ahh, my Desire… how can I possibly live without you now, after having known what life is like when you’re with me?

My 20th-June deadline is looming and the past few days have been hectic like nobody’s business. So in lieu of a long, wordy review, here’s a quick mano-a-mano comparison on the key features of HTC Desire vis-a-vis those of the iPhone 3Gs:-

Features HTC Desire iPhone 3Gs
TouchscreenYesYes
CameraYes, 5-megapixelYes, 3-megapixel
Ability to shoot videos?YesYes
Built-in video editing softwareNoYes
Built-in sharing from Photos app
Yes, to Flickr, Facebook or TwitterNo
Live wallpapersYesNo
GMail integrationYes, built-in programYes, can easily be set-up in Mail
Native syncWindows; needs 3rd party app to sync to MacMac but can sync with Windows via iTunes
Auto text predictionYes, very intuitive no matter what language you useYes, but sorely lacking once you type in shortened forms or in different languages
AppsYes, but limited.Yes, there’s an app for everything!
Free appsYes, download & install using Market program. No need for registration.Yes, download & install thru iTunes/App Store. Must have Apple account (free registration).
Built-in music programYes, but suckyYes, still the industry benchmark
SpeakerphoneYes, but tinnyYes, and sounds much better than the HTC Desire
Built-in Facebook appYesNo, but can download from App Store
Built-in Twitter clientYes, Peep. Can easily attach photo, links, or GPS location.No
Removable batteryYesNo
External memoryYes, microSDNo
PasswordYes, pattern or textYes, numerical PIN
Text MessagingYes, chat formatYes, chat format
Built-in document viewerYes, QuickofficeNo, but can download from App Store
*Update 30-June-10* BluetoothYes, send/receive mp3s, photos & other files with easeGOOD LUCK! *sarcasm* Can’t even pair iPad with iPhone! 😛
Operating SystemAndroid™ OS, v2.1 (Eclair)iOS 3.1.3 (build 7E18)
RAM512 MB256 MB
Processor1 GB600 Mhz
Retail price in Malaysia (phone only)RM2,199From RM1,990 (8MB)

After an objective assessment of the features and after having used the HTC Desire for almost two weeks now, I can look you in the eye and tell you that I’d pick the HTC Desire over the iPhone 3Gs anytime. And not just because I got to play with it for free 😉

My next post about the HTC Desire: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways… Watch for it!

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!!!! :((