I recently “side-graded” from the Motorola Milestone to another Android 2.1 smartphone: the HTC Desire. My contract with T-Mobile was up for renewal, the quirks of the Milestone were beginning to frustrate me, and I’d had a go on a friend’s Desire and instantly… well, desired one. There’s loads of great Desire reviews around the web, so here’s a post about how it rates against the Milestone.
Spec-wise, there’s not too much to differentiate the Motorola Milestone from the HTC Desire. They were both released about the same time, they both have the same screen size, both run Android 2.1, and both have a 5 megapixel camera. The key differences on paper are:
- Desire’s processor is 1 GHz; Milestone’s is 550 Mhz
- Desire has 576 MB RAM; Milestone has 256 MB RAM
- Desire’s screen is AMOLED; Milestone’s is TFT LCD
- Milestone has a physical keyboard; Desire is touch-screen only
- Milestone has a dedicated GPU (graphics processor); the Desire doesn’t
- The Desire has an FM radio.
The Milestone also came with an 8GB card compared with a 4 GB one with the Desire, but I quickly whipped that out and put in my 16 GB microSD.
Weight – The first thing I noticed is how much lighter the Desire is compared with the Milestone. With its slide out keyboard and metal shell, the Milestone was a rather hefty 6 oz, whereas the Desire is only 4.8 oz. I carry my phone in my front pocket, and found that this difference is quite noticeable. Dimensionally, the Desire is pretty much exactly the same size as the iPhone 3Gs.
Display – The Desire’s AMOLED seems brighter, like comparing a current-generation LED TV screen with earlier LCD efforts. I’ve read that the Desire’s AMOLED is inferior to a TFT LCD, but with my (admittedly myopic) eyesight it appears the reverse is true. The Desire’s screen is perhaps a bit over-saturated – skin tones sometimes tend towards the orange – but I’ve not had a proper play with the brightness settings yet. I’ve kept the Auto-Brightness option enabled but may end up switching it off. When I’m sitting using the Desire on the bus to work, the screen’s brightness sometimes auto-adjusts too quickly as the bus moves through lighter and darker areas.
My Music screen, with HTC Music and Spotify widgets
Battery Life – Very impressed with this so far: I’m currently easily getting a day between charges and with light use it looks like over 30 hours is not uncommon. I’d never managed a day out the Milestone and had gotten into the habit of trickle-charging it whenever sat at a PC.
Speed – The extra speed of 1 GHz Snapdragon processor is immediately obvious: perhaps I’d gunked up the Milestone will resident apps along the way, but the Desire is just so much snappier and speedier; scrolling through lists and pages is smooth and not subject to the micro-sticky lags I found on the Milestone.
HTC Sense UI – This is my first experience with a non-stock Android device and I must say, the Sense UI is pretty good so far. I love how you can pinch to view all screens, and the deep integration of Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr into the stock apps (Image Viewer, Contacts) is logical and commendable. Opening your picture gallery then having a slider to switch to “photo albums from Facebook friends” just makes so much sense (see what I did there?). Google may be planning to make custom UIs obsolete, but they’re going to have to work a bit to match the Sense UI for slickness and usability. I’ve not tried to “de-sense” the Desire back to a stock Nexus One style interface so I don’t know how much faster again the phone could go. Suffice to say, I’m used to both and haven’t felt the urge to disable Sense yet.
Friendstream – HTC’s Twitter + Facebook status update widget and app, I had expected this would be the first thing I removed from the Desire. Surprisingly then I still use it as I’ve found I quite like having updates from both social networks in the same place. The Twitter app Peep isn’t too bad, but I may move back to the official Twitter app soon.
The lock screen on the HTC Desire while music is playing
FM Radio – With iPlayer clone beebPlayer going AWOL recently, it’s nice to have a radio on the Desire. Controls are rudimentary and it doesn’t seem to remember the presets, but this still came as a nice surprise to find amongst the pre-installed apps.
Notification LED – I thought my Desire’s LED was broken until I discovered that it stops blinking after 5 minutes. On the Milestone and other Android phones, the notification LED blinks until you clear or view the message. I expect this is some sort of battery saving “enhancement” that HTC put in, but it really needs to be configurable. Apps in the Market will let you change the LED’s colours and flash speed, but not their duration.
Speaker – A bit tinny and quiet, but better if you put the phone down or hold a finger near the speaker grille.
Headphone listening – The biggest problem on the Desire so far for me is the volume level of audio from the headphone jack: it’s far too quiet, even on maximum volume.
Music App – It doesn’t add much feature-wise, but the HTC Music player is a lot slicker than the stock player. There’s an option to browse by genre or composer (as well as a Purchased Music screen), all selectable using the slider ball that’s common to Sense apps. I also particularly like how the album art and player controls appear on the lock screen.
Camera – I don’t really use the camera much, but it seems on a par with the Milestone i.e. OK but not brilliant.
Browser – The first app I installed was the Dolphin HD Browser (which totally rocks btw) so I’ve not seen the regular browser.
Gaming – The Milestone has the dedicated GPU, and tests seem to prove that its performance (especially with 3D games) is the best out of the current batch of Android phones. I don’t really game much on my mobile, so this isn’t that important to me.
So far, I’m very happy with the HTC Desire and will probably stick with it for a while. My initial worries that I really needed a physical keyboard have been swept aside by the superb Swype app, and it’s refreshing to have a smartphone that’s so light in my pocket.