HTC Desire HD review: Most wanted

GSMArena team, 11 November 2010.
Pages: «123456789»

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Phonebook loves to socialize

The Desire HD features HTC’s all-knowing phonebook with heavy social networking integration. It manages to keep things neatly in order, even though it’s juggling everything from SMS to Facebook photo albums.

Selecting a contact displays the basic details: name and photo, numbers, emails and such. That’s just he first tab – the other tabs hold other categories of info and communication methods, like emails or a call log.

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Viewing a contact

The second tab holds the text messages received from the contact – it would have been a lot more useful if it used conversation style view, but for that you’d have to go to the full-featured Messaging app.

The third tab holds a list of emails you've exchanged with the contact.

The next two tabs are what really turn the Desire HD into a powerful networking tool. The first holds Facebook contact updates, and the other called "Albums" pulls the albums that contacts have created on Flickr and Facebook.

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Facebook updates • Facebook and Flickr albums

The final tab shows the call history for the contact.

The entire People app (the phonebook) is tabbed too and with more tabs than the stock Android. You have all contacts, groups (including favorite contacts there), as well as a call log and "Online directories". The latter holds information for all your friends’ online profiles.

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Phonebook • groups • online directories

When editing a contact, you start off with just one of each essential field but you can easily add more fields, including other fields in case you want to write down every last scrap of info you have on a contact.

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Editing a contact • Linking Dexter with his Facebook account

If you’re switching from another phone don’t worry – you don’t even need a computer to pull out your contacts, messages and calendar items from the old phone into your new Desire HD. The Transfer Data app supports many phones from major manufacturers and pulls the data over Bluetooth.

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The Transfer Data app will easily copy your contacts from your old phone

It’s an old trick (Symbian-powered Nokias have been doing this for ever) and most people would probably go with syncing the contacts over the cloud, but still it’s a handy tool to have.

Telephony has many features, including Smart Dialing

The in-call sound quality of the HTC Desire HD is crisp and loud and the signal reception was strong and trouble free.

The on-screen dialer features a keypad, a shortcut to the call log and a list of contacts beneath (you can hide the keypad).

The HTC Desire HD has Smart Dialing. Voice dialing is here too – just press and hold the search key and say, for example, “Call Dexter”.

The alphabet scroll is an alternative as well and has an interesting change: it puts the Recent calls and Favorite contacts just before the contacts starting with A. This has consequences on contact ordering – if you’ve recently called Dexter, he won’t show up under “D”.

Thanks to the built-in accelerometer, turn-to-mute also works like a charm. You can mute the ringer by simply turning the phone face down – if you do that during a call, the phone will switch into loudspeaker mode instead.

Another feature that works thanks to the accelerometer is Quiet ring on pickup – once you move the phone, the ringer will quiet down (but not cancel the call). Yet another option is pocket mode – the ringer volume will increase if the phone is in your pocket (the proximity sensor takes care of detecting that).

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The dialer has smart dialing • calling Dexter

A handy app is the Blocked Callers app – it lets you block certain callers (you can pick from the recent call list or the phonebook) and remove blocked callers from the list. It’s a simple but potentially very useful utility – some Nokia Eseries phones have a similar app, though it has more options (e.g. redirects, only blocked during certain hours, etc.).

Another very handy feature is that when someone calls, their latest Tweet or Facebook update will show up – possibly reminding you what the caller has been up to or is after. We can see how that can be useful.

Here's how the HTC Desire HD fares in our traditional loudspeaker performance test. It scored a Good mark putting it somewhere in the middle among its competitors.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOverall score
Apple iPhone 465.160.366.2Below Average
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S66.6 65.966.6Below Average
Samsung I870066.166.670.6Average
HTC Desire HD69.766.678.3Good
Motorola MILESTONE XT72066.265.877.0Good
Nokia N875.866.282.7Very Good
HTC Desire76.675.784.6Excellent

Messaging powerhouse

The HTC Desire HD is well equipped for all kinds of text messaging – it can handle all standard types of messages like SMS, MMS and email. Social networking is covered by several apps and widgets, and there’s Gtalk, which can connect you to Google’s chat network and compatible networks too (like Ovi Chat).

Like on other Android phones, if you only have one SMS message, a line in the notification area displays the sender and part of the message itself. If you have two or more messages, you are simply informed of the number and the messaging menu is opened once you hit the icon.

SMS and MMS messages use the threaded layout – you see a list of all conversations, each one is listed with the contact’s photo, name and the time of the last message, including a part of the actual note. Tapping a conversation brings up another list – the entire message history with that contact.

It uses contact photos too (yours and the contact’s photo), so the whole thing looks almost the same as a chat app. When viewing a thread, the most recent message is placed at the bottom, just like on the iPhone.

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All threads • viewing a specific thread

The compose text box is big – especially in landscape mode where it takes half the screen. Composing messages is much more comfortable than on the Desire Z where you get a two-line text box.

To add recipients, just start typing a name or number and choose from the contacts offered – the phone will find the contact you want even if you misspell it (e.g. “drx” matches Dexter).

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Adding recipients works even if you misspell the contact’s name

A tap-and-hold on the text box gives you access to functions such as cut, copy and paste. You are free to paste the copied text across applications like email, notes, chats, etc. and vice versa.

Text selection has become very iPhone-like – and that’s a compliment. When you press and hold, a “magnifying glass” appears, enabling accurate cursor movements. Text selection works the same way.

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Copy, cut and paste are very iPhone-like

The text input method that the HD offers is an on-screen QWERTY. While it’s still not as good as a hardware one, it’s the next best thing – the big screen automatically means bigger, well-spaced keys, which are very easy to hit.

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The on-screen QWERTY keyboard in portrait and landscape modes

Going landscape makes things even bigger. The keyboard does limit the screen-space dedicated to typing (unlike the Desire Z, which left the entire screen open for text), but again, this isn’t much of a problem as the Desire HD has plenty of room to spare.

Converting SMS into MMS is as simple as adding some multimedia content to the message. You can just add a photo or an audio file to go with the text, or you can get creative with several slides and photos.

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Attaching a multimedia file turns the SMS to MMS

Email has combined inbox

The HTC Desire HD comes with two email apps – the traditional Gmail app, which looks the same as usual, and the generic HTC Mail app, which merges all your email accounts into a single inbox.

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Batch operations lets you manage multiple conversations

The Gmail app features the trademark conversation style view and can manage multiple (Gmail) accounts. Batch operations are supported too, in case you need to handle email messages in bulk.

The standard HTC Mail app has been slightly tweaked up too. The general Inbox displays the last sync time, the sort order, the current email account and of course the actual messages.

At the bottom, there are several tabs that can filter the inbox: you can opt to display conversations, emails with attachments only, unread mail only or invitations. You can mark emails too – they will show up in the marked mail tab.

The conversation view tries to mimic the original Gmail client threaded view, which is otherwise missing in the generic inbox. The option to only display emails with attached files is a good one to have on hand (they are not automatically loaded by default).

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The standard HTC email app

The HTC email app can handle several accounts and not just from Gmail. When you add multiple accounts, you can view each inbox individually or go into the All accounts section.

Each account is color coded, so you can quickly associate each message with its relevant account.

Email sorting is possible (in either ascending or descending order) by date, subject, sender and size. The currently applied filter is displayed in the top right corner of the display.

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The standard mail with new looks and features • Sorting email and viewing email folders

There's hardly anything the HTC Desire HD lacks in terms of email capabilities. The settings for popular email services are automatically configured. POP/IMAP accounts and Active Sync accounts are supported.

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