HTC Desire S review: Droid cravings
Excellent web browser, plays HD Flash videos
The HTC Desire S has the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread web browser. Some performance improvements are notable over the Froyo and Flash 10.2 is already out. The HTC desire S is taking full advantage of both.
The user interface keeps mostly out of sight, which leaves the entire screen to the web page. The minimalist UI is still quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up.
There are back and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out yet more options – anything from finding on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).
The Desire S browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which makes it extremely easy to read even longer texts on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.
Once you select some text, you can copy it, launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share the text over a message or social networking.
The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history. Tabs are displayed as 3D cards too – a really neat trick is that if you pinch zoom out beyond the minimum zoom level you go straight into the tab selector. This may be a cool way to manage tabs but too many of them open at once will seriously slow down the browser.
The HTC Desire S comes with full Flash support and YouTube videos (up to 720p) played quite smoothly. We even decided to try out a few Flash games and they worked fine as well. You can play the Flash content in full screen and landscape mode, which makes the most out of the display.
HTC Desire has similar hardware as the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc and Neo, but it’s the only one that can handle 720p videos within the browser. It seems HTC has done better optimizations than Sony Ericsson.
Say what you will about Flash, but still most video streaming and game sites use it – so it’s a major advantage for a browser.
You could use the YouTube app if you find navigating YouTube in the browser hard.
Mind you, the Android 2.3 browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag but that is a few years (at best) away from becoming the norm.
The usual set of organizer apps are aboard the HTC Desire S, with a mobile Office app to boot that can both view and edit documents.
The Quickoffice app has support for viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, including the Office 2007 versions and it can create Office 2003 Word and Excel documents (but not 2007 docs).
There is also a PDF viewer to handle PDF files. The on-screen keyboard does cut down the available space in half but if you zoom out you can still fit a reasonable amount of text.
When editing a Word document, you get plenty of formatting options (more than you get on Windows Phone 7). You get text effects (italic, bold, etc.), you can change the font and its size, color and highlight (from a color picker, not just 3 pre-selected colors like in WP7).
However, when you tap Format, you get a long list with all the options in it – usable but not quite user friendly. You can’t create tables (or edit existing ones) or lists either. The situation with spreadsheets is similar – enough features, but not presented in the most user-friendly way.
The doc viewer integrates with the Gmail app, which makes viewing attachments a cinch. You can’t download them to the phone’s internal memory however. Attaching saved files (and we mean all kind of files) is possible though.
The calendar has four different types of view: daily, weekly, monthly and agenda. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to serve as a reminder.
The Agenda view shows a list of all the calendar entries from the recent past to the near future. It’s a very handy tool when you need to check your appointments for the next few days.
There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized with big, easy to hit buttons. Flipping it horizontally enables some more advanced functions like logarithms.
The HTC Desire S features an alarm clock application, which can handle multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The Desk clock app turns your Desire S into a… well, Desk clock. It displays the current time and date and allows you to switch off the display backlighting to save battery power or not disturb at night.
The World clock app lets you quickly check the time in different time zones, while the stopwatch and timer apps might come in handy if you plan to take the phone with you when doing sports.
The Stocks application gives you quotes from Yahoo finance. The Voice recorder might be quite useful for making audio notes and the weather app brings Yahoo’s weather forecast for your area a click away.
There’s an HTC-branded flashlight app too – it uses the LED flash and you can set it to 3 levels of intensity. Nice and all, but the Android Market is full of this kind of apps already.