HTC Desire Z review: Desires A-to-Z
Android Market and HTC Likes
The HTC Desire Z is running the latest available version of Android and has a WVGA screen, giving you access to the whole Android Market (some apps won’t run on older versions or low-res screens).
The structure of the Android Market is quite simple – featured apps on top and above them, three sections (Applications, Games and Downloads). There is also a shortcut up there for initiating a search.
The Applications and Games sections are divided into subsections (e.g. Communication, Entertainment etc.) so you can filter the apps that are relevant to you. Of course, there is also an option of displaying them all in bulk, but you’ll probably need days to browse them all that way.
There are all kinds of apps in the Android market and the most important ones are covered (file managers, navigation apps, document readers etc.).
HTC Likes is an alternative way to browse the Market, which might prove to be more convenient than the vanilla app. It has tabs for Featured and Popular apps , which are presented as 3D cards.
To view the rest of the apps, you can scroll down. To make discovering apps even easier, you can see what apps/games your friends have commented on, which is a great way to find recommended apps. Or you can use the HTCSense.com site to look for apps from the comfort of your computer and mark them. Later, you can find them in the Market items tab.
HTC Likes pulls apps from the Android Market, but each one comes with an HTC review. You can comment on apps, like and share them via texts or email, even over Twitter and Bluetooth (which just sends a text note with a link to the app).
Not an app store, but the HTC Hub is a good source of widgets, wallpapers, scenes and skins and also sound customizations – ringtones, alarms and notification sounds and entire sound sets (a set is a whole package that brings together the other three categories).
HTCSense.com offers some premium features for free (a bit like HTC Locations). The Phone locator can be used to locate your phone if it’s stolen and you can lock it or even erase all the data from it.
And don’t worry – HTCSense.com will back up your Desire Z contacts and messages (though contacts should already be safe and sound in the Google cloud).
Some other handy features include ring phone (if you’ve lost it in your room and can’t find it), toggles for call and message forwarding. The site also lets you view and edit contacts and view messages. You can compose SMS and MMS messages too – so you can use the big computer keyboard and you don’t even have to have the Desire Z in front of you to send a couple of messages.
You can also view your and your friends’ Footprints. Finally, HTC Hub lets you browse apps and games on the computer and mark them, which makes them easier to find on the phone later (in HTC Likes). You can’t initiate an app download from the site though.
The site is a bit heavy (we tried it in Firefox 3.6.12), so if you’re stuck with Internet Explorer it will feel sluggish.
GPS navigation gets some help from TomTom, Route66
The HTC Desire Z has a built-in GPS receiver, which managed to get a lock in just over two minutes (with A-GPS switched off). If all you need is a rough idea of where you are (within 150 meters) you can use the Cell-ID and Wi-Fi network lock, which is very fast.
Google Maps is a standard part of the Android package and we’ve covered it many times before. It offers voice-guided navigation in certain countries and falls back to a list of instructions elsewhere. You can plan routes, search for nearby POI and go into the always cool Street View.
But HTC recently made an interesting announcement – the Desire HD and the Desire Z will come with HTC Places, a collaboration with TomTom.
What HTC Locations can do is let you download maps for countries for free, or just cache maps as you browse. Google Maps has caching enabled too, but the best part about Locations is that it can calculate routes even when offline – and Gmaps can’t.
If you stray from your course and don’t have a data connection Gmaps can’t do anything, which might be a problem. No such problems with Locations though – that distinction makes all the difference when traveling abroad.
It doesn’t do voice-guided navigation for free like Ovi Maps though – but still, you can use the list of instructions and tap the next and pervious arrows to see the next turn. Not ideal but it’s a great addition, especially since it’s free.
HTC Locations has a regular 2D view and a 3D view, which is convenient because it gives you a better look of what’s ahead. It’s just as easy to work with as Google Maps and has POI too (including your Footprints) and also 3D buildings.
Pinch zoom works in both 2D and 3D modes and you can turn on compass mode – at first it seems choppy, but that’s only to avoid wobbling (digital compasses are not the most accurate things in the world).
One more thing we found interesting – when HTC announced Locations, they said they were collaborating with TomTom. But when we started the app we saw Route66 flash on the screen – it turns out the software is by Route66, while TomTom contributed the maps.
The car panel offers big, easy to hit buttons so that you don’t get too distracted while driving. A handy option is “mark this location” – great for those who often forget where they parked their car.