HTC Desire review: A desire come true

GSMArena team, 16 April 2010.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

HTC Sense likes it on big screen

HTC Hero pioneered the Sense UI on Android handsets to tap the company’s existing user base. The Tattoo was the next HTC-customized device, but Sense just didn’t feel natural on the QVGA screen.

HTC Desire is Legend’s bigger brother upping the CPU and RAM, along with screen size and resolution. It runs the latest Android v2.1 and takes full advantage of its performance boost and full color support. As a result, the pre-loaded Sense UI is faster, more attractive and fluid.

The main differences between this Sense UI version and the one back on the Hero are the new context icons, a bunch of new wallpapers and the unified Widget section. Whether you are using the People, Mail, Music or Gallery Tabs, the scrollable icons at the bottom will please you with new color skins. We like it this way – the old ones looked a bit dull against the otherwise graphically rich and colorful UI.

We should also acknowledge the role of the AMOLED display in making the new Sense UI look even more attractive compared to HTC Hero’s.

But let’s take a closer look for those who haven’t met the latest Sense UI yet.

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The lock screen • some of the homescreen panes

The arrow button at the bottom of the screen that used to pull the main menu up is now gone, replaced with three virtual keys and an arched scrollbar.

The left key launches the main menu. This time around you simply tap to get to it, you can't drag the menu out, though you can drag it back in.

The middle key is a shortcut to the Phone app and the right key brings up the "Add to Home" menu. And there's plenty to add to the homescreen but more on that later.

The scrollbar at the bottom is just an indication of which homescreen you’re on - it can't be used for actual scrolling. HTC have extended the homescreen to a total of seven panes instead of the usual three (in stock Android). Even if it sounds too much, with all those widgets (which are quite useful too) it may not even be enough.

In addition, they’ve added a fancy new way to access any homescreen without scrolling. A press on the home button will show all the seven desktops in small thumbs. Tapping on a thumb will get you right on it.

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The seven homescreen panes in the thumbnail view

HTC Sense UI revolves around Scenes, which are essentially six custom homescreen setups (Work, Travel, Social, etc). Each scene changes the wallpaper and the widgets on the homescreen - for instance, the Work scene has a stocks widget, while the Social offers a Twitter widget.

You can't modify the scenes but if you rearrange the current homescreen you are prompted to save changes as a new scene.

The Clean slate scene in turn lets you start from scratch - it's just the default Android setup with a Clock and a few shortcuts underneath.

Switching between scenes takes a couple of seconds but sure allows wide customization - the business and personal modes that some competing phones offer seem quite limited compared to the HTC Scenes.

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Predefined scenes • saving a new scene

Scenes are far from perfect though: the Travel scene has the HTC Footprints widget but nothing on GPS or maps. And as we already mentioned, you can’t edit the default scenes. Your only option is to save a new modified Travel scene under a different name along with the original.

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Social scene on the left, Play scene in the middle and Travel scene on the right

Now back to the other stuff beyond the homescreen and the available Scenes. The changes brought by the Sense UI go deeper than just the homescreen.

For instance, the main menu has the typical icon grid layout, but you can switch it to a list similar to what you see in TouchFLO in HTC WinMo phones. With it, you can use an alphabet scroll, which makes locating apps faster.

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The grid layout • the list layout

The widget section has been revamped since the HTC Hero and now both types of widgets (custom HTC and stock Android) are placed in one page. There are so many of them that you may find the seven homescreen panes short.

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Plenty of HTC widgets • you may also add a program shortcut

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