Technology: Does the shiny new HTC Desire S beat Apple’s iPhone?

There are two types of handheld technology these days: that made by Apple, and that made by a company Apple is putting out of business. With iPads, iPhones, iTouches (sp?) as well as the device which launched Apple into the mainstream consumer electronics market – the iPod.

Now I’m not a fan of Apple (a fact which I’ve made very clear in this previous post in particular), but there’s no denying its dominance on the phone market. The question is, can HTC’s latest effort – the Desire S – compete, particularly with a new iPhone already in the works.

As far as iPhone 5 rumours go, this article from TechRadar is a very good place to start. The gist of it is that there are tentative rumours of its arrival in July, but no concrete details have been announced. There are likely upgrades such as better graphics (1080p even?), better proccessor – reportedly the one in the iPad 2 – and longer battery life.

All of these things are speculation of course, but with the masses due an upgrade on their contracts in June and July, HTC has only a few months to make the most of its advantage.

HTC Desire SSo, to the phone. The technical advantages over the original Desire include a front facing camera, a beefier processor and HD video. The real icing on the cake is the latest version of HTC Sense, which links all your contacts from countless different places together, so unless people have random nicknames on their Facebook profile, you will find their phone, email, Facebook and Twitter all knitted together in one entry. It makes you realise just how many people you are connected to, and an even bigger surprise is how many people have their mobile numbers on their profile and they don’t even realise.

Sense makes an easy task of porting everything from you’re old phone though, no matter what make and model, and also keeps you up to date with everything effortlessly – just keep an eye on how much updating you want to avoid those pesky data charges though.

The phone’s design is slimmer than the Desire, but not as giant (and iPhone-like) as the Desire HD. The weight is enough so that you know it’s there and aren’t left checking your pockets every 30 seconds and the latest version of Android (2.3 – Gingerbread) makes it run like a dream.

One thing you should be careful of is messing around with the battery compartment. The phone is very robust, for the most part a single piece of material, but the drawback is that to keep the design solid the battery compartment is incredibly difficult to get off, so don’t plan on changing SIM, battery or Micro SD very often – though the phone does support a cool 32GB (not) removable storage.

The biggest gripe for me is the fact that during phone calls the speaker is reasonable, but as soon as there’s a fair amount of background noise it becomes very difficult to hear, though often you’re distracted by the fact that as you call someone you are greeted with their Facebook profile picture and latest update, which you spend your time reading instead of listening to the other person pick up. Otherwise there are the usual issues which come with all smartphones such as limited battery life – though the Desire S manages to comfortably make a day with backlight and WiFi on, I wouldn’t push it.

The phone comes pre-loaded with some fancy apps, and the integration of Twitter and Facebook through Sense is seamless, though you do find a few things repeated due to the battle between hardware and software, such as their being both an HTC and Android calendar available.

The home screen, of which there are seven, can be populated with all manner of widgets, shortcuts and feeds, and pinching the screen displays them all in an easy to navigate radial pattern, which actually feels like it’s breaking the fourth wall the first time you see it.

Internet browsing is simple and the Adobe Flash and PDF support is very welcome, putting all out-of-date PC browsers to shame (looking at you internet explorer), and the general interface is very quick, I haven’t noticed any hanging or slowdown so far and I’ve fiddled with most of the features at the same time.

Out in sunlight the phone struggles with glare somewhat, due to the lack of a AMOLED screen, which the original sported, but are you really ever going to be in full sun for that long in England?

A nifty tool, hidden on the micro SD shipped with the phone, is HTC Sync, which does exactly what you might expect – though if you (sensibly) have your contacts on Google in any case it mostly helps with photos and the like.

In summary then the HTC Desire S is a worthwhile upgrade and certainly the best phone HTC have brought out to date. The ingenuity of HTC sense is what will push the device into must-have status, but whether that will be enough to challenge Apple’s dominance on the market is anyone’s guess.

The bottom line this is a fantastic phone and unless you’re head-over-heels in love with Apple you’d be foolish not to choose it over an iPhone 4, once the iPhone 5 comes out however, the tables may turn once again.

James Michael Parry

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