HTC have finally released the Desire here in Australia on the Telstra network. Sporting a UMTS 850/2100 radio it is perfect for those of us using the “NextG” Network - excellent coverage & speed. Here’s my story so far on moving to it from the iPhone 3GS.
Why I’ve moved from the iPhone
Some may ask why I’ve moved from the iPhone 3GS, which whilst a very capable phone & I’ve loved using it (and continue to recommend to people that just want a phone “that does other stuff too”) just isn’t doing everything I need from it. Even with the upcoming iPhone 4.0 software which I am testing as an Apple developer, it is still lacking things that I want & need such as better Google & social integration & more flexibility in applications. Has the HTC Desire met this challenge so far? Mostly.
First few Days:
So the first few days have passed and lessons I’ve learnt are:
1. The Music playing abilities aren’t as good on Android, but are mostly good enough.
2. Integration with iTunes (if that’s where your music is stored) requires 3rd-party tools.
3. Not all of the apps you love from the iTunes App Store are available on Android - yet.
4. It is a more technical product - settings aren’t centralised and there is some lack of consistency which can be a trap for less technical users.
Lets go into More Detail:
1 & 2: Music Player & Integration with iTunes
Android (and HTC) have a reasonable music player called “Music”. It has a coverflow interface (limited to 100 albums, the rest can be seen via a list) as well as support for album art, playlists and listing by genre, artists, albums or composers. Note you’ll need to ensure your MP3 files have this data in them for this to work properly.
Unfortunately it’s lacking in two things; one computer-side and one phone-side.
The first is there is no “iTunes-like” app that is ready for prime-time. DoubleTwist exists, but it is still lacking in features and stability, and exhibits some UI confusion. I’ve actually chosen to use Missing Sync for Android which is available for Windows or Mac. It fills most of the needs of a syncing tool that can handle media like photos & music, and will actually tie-in with iTunes directly (no DRM content though).
The second is for me a little annoying, but for you may mean nothing. That is Podcast support. There is no native capability for this, although Google Labs have released Listen it isn’t tied in with the in-built “Music” app, so headphone control or USB capable car receivers can’t play them easily. There is also a third party tool called DoggCatcher from SnoggDoggler, which can link in with the “Music App” to a certain extent and is quite good, but currently has issues detecting the Wireless network on the HTC Desire.
There is no easy answer for Podcasts - at the moment I am using Missing Sync to sync a playlist in iTunes called “Podcasts” and play them in the “Music” app via the Podcast Genre. I’ll take another look at DoggCatcher when they fix the bug.
3: Apps from the App Store - Equivalents
Finding Apps is quite easy using the Google Android Marketplace App. There are 50,000+ apps available today, which whilst a 3rd of the Apple App Store in quantity is by far better than any other phone marketplace from any companies other than Apple.
On my iPhone I had some apps I couldn’t live without. Below are those apps with equivalents on Android:
iPhone: Tweetie 2
Android: Tweetcaster Pro ($4.99US). The black theme is better :)
Android: Evernote (yes they have an app, even though it needs a polish)
iPhone: Now Playing
Android: Movie Finder (these two devs should get together as I like the Now Playing UI better)
iPhone: 1Password Pro
Android: Nothing that can sync with 1Password on the Mac :(
Android: Google Talk comes with the phone - haven’t tried others yet.
Android: Nothing even comes close. wish the developer Bjango would port it across.
Android: Droidbox Pro ($1.99US), at least until Dropbox do something themselves
Android: Facebook for Android (not as good as iPhone but good enough) as well as FriendStream from HTC built into the phone.
Android: Gowalla (native app is just as awesome as iPhone one)
iPhone: WhatsApp Messenger
Android: Nothing available yet. I want to be able to chat with my iPhone friends. WhatsApp developer has stated they are working on an Android version.
Android: NewsRob. Nowhere near as beautifully crafted but syncs well with Google Reader.
iPhone: Tripview Sydney
Android: Nothing yet. Be great if developer Grofsoft ported it to Android.
Android: Tapatalk Pro (great Android version $2.99US).
iPhone: Flight Control
Android: Flight Director (Free demo version & paid for $1.99US) yes a blatant rip-off , but adds actual satellite imagery of real airports instead. (Good thing is you can still get your FC fix).
iPhone: Flight Update Pro
Android: FlightTrack by Mobiata ($4.99US). Needs another $4.99US upgrade to add TripIt integration support, which I think is a bit rich, but nice app.
4: A more Technical Product
This doesn’t bother me, but it means my kids are less likely to want to play games on it (not a bad thing!). To pick up and use it’s a treat - very responsive, and the HTC Sense UI is quite intuitive. It’s when you delve below the surface to settings etc it can confuse people more used to the simplicity of the iPhone.
So far so good. As you can see, most apps I use I’ve been able to find a suitable replacement for. Developers are quite open if you find them on Twitter. I’ve already messaged the developer of Angry Birds and they aren’t making a commitment today, but are keeping an eye on things.
The Android Marketplace is a great place to try things - even better than the iPhone App Store as unlike Apple’s store, you can uninstall any purchased app from the Android Marketplace within 24hours of purchase and you are completely refunded, automatically. Why have demos at all when this is in place?
One last tip. If you’re a corporate user with an Exchange email account, you may find your lovely swipe-pattern unlock screen disappears to be replaced by the Android keyboard upon unlock. This is because your IT team have (rightly) required a lock code on your handset. Good news is the swipe-pattern can be brought back with a tool called LockPicker. Brings back the convenience of unlocking like the iPhone.
As it stands I’m very happy with the HTC Desire and will continue using it over my iPhone for the foreseeable future.