It has been more than 3 months since I have gotten myself a Desire HD. Usually I would be excited with the new phone, and would blog about it like I did with my Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S. Somehow, with Desire HD, I have been dragging my feet (or rather my fingers) to blog about my thoughts of the HTC latest flagship Android gadget. It was mostly disappointments that piled up one after another, and I tell you why.
When I first had my hands on the Desire HD, I actually thought I fell in love with it. The overall quality is just what you would have expected from HTC; The use of good quality material (over some cheap plastic material assembly), the polished user interface including the initial set up process. The phone feels heavy but it makes you think of the good solid material instead of the negative aspect of the weight. The tactile feedback on the screen gives a “tight, controlled mechanical” response you would expect from a high quality haptic technology based components. The initial take of the phone then was this should be what HTC Desire was 6 months ago. But it turned out to be more than 6 months gap.
Like all romances, love at first sight is never definitive, and with Desire HD it is a good classic example of that. The quality one can expect from HTC is not just about the positive ones. There were still alignment issues with the housing and casing covers, and the stability of the HTC applications that were bundled with the phone remained questionable, just to name a few. Before this blog entry degenerates into rants, let me just highlight three key areas that had subdued my enthusiasm about this phone.
With all the fantastic technical specifications that Desire HD is carrying, the phone fails miserably in the screen display and camera department (of course in my humble opinion). If Samsung Galaxy S had changed my perception about what a mobile phone can do as far as video recording and playback are concerned, Desire HD proved why the former is the best selling Android phone in the marketplace today. That is despite all the great things you can find about the phone itself. At a first glance, Desire HD screen display looked fabulous. The Super LCD screen appeared to have match the bar set by Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen. But when I placed my Desire HD and Galaxy S side by side, my jaws dropped and I was almost screaming, “What is so super about the SLCD!?”.
From the video below, the display on Desire HD is simply washed out. The display colors looked faded and flat, whereas in the Samsung devices they looked vibrant. Looked at the contrast and brightness! The conclusion I got? I would never want to watch any movie on my Desire HD, if I happen to spot somebody around me carrying a Samsung Galaxy S.
Moving on to the video recording capability. Despite the specification of being able to take 720p video, Desire HD was never able to match the video recording capability I had experienced in Galaxy S. The ghostly motion effect is still there, especially if the video is taken in an indoor setup (flash is a moot point because I could record a smooth video indoor with Galaxy S). If that was not bad enough, there was a severe bug in Desire HD, that resulted in video recorded with random stuttering effect. So when you are trying to take a HD video, this bug becomes a big joke. Incidentally this bug occurred only when I set the video camera mode to 720p. Essentially, the phone had problem recording at 30 frames per second in high definition. There are “dirty” workarounds, but I was never happy with this video recording function since day one.
a sample of video recording using Desire HD. Notice the freeze in 0:16 frame.
Then comes the software aspect of the phone. I remembered when I first got HTC HD2 more than a year ago, I had to endure the buggy SMS application for more than 2 months. If text messaging is an essential mobile function for you, that bug effectively rendered the phone unusable. Despite the bad experience, I remained hopeful when Desire HD was first launched in the market. HTC development team must have learnt a big lesson out from that saga and delivered a better quality product this time round.
How wrong was I again! One of the selling point of Desire HD is that it is “smarter” than before with its Htcsense.com. The latter is essentially a service based feature which enables the phone owner to locate and control the phone remotely. Theoretically one can locate the phone with the help of GPS, or initiate a ringing on the phone so you can locate its presence acoustically. One can even initiate remotely, to redirect phone calls and text messages, or wipe out data in case of emergency. Sounds great isn’t it? And of course I said that is in theory, because until last month, I could do nothing of these, even though these were advertised features. The HTC support acknowledged that the performance stricken services (or applications) in htcsense.com were buggy and the development team was working on it. Being an IT-trained professional, I can understand how software can never be perfectly free of bug. However, the line should be clear between a software in alpha stage versus one that is go-to-market ready. HTCsense.com was clearly at a former stage, so it baffled me why the product was being launched in the first place. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise given the pressure to launch in the market, but it looked like somebody in HTC had done his maths. That the market share gain (through early product launch) will take care of the market share loss (due to the product quality problem).
On the otherhand, the HTCsense.com could also be more smarter than it is. As of now the services become useless when the phone battery get depleted. Imagine you discover that you have left your phone at home when you reach the office. You want to remotely redirect your phone calls and/or text messages, only to find out that your phone is “uncontactable” because it runs out of battery. But I digress.
In all my correspondences with HTC support, it was clear to me that they could not commit a time to fix the problems. I gave up, and was looking to sell away the phone, or to do something about the phone myself. With xda-developers.com, I could save a hell lot of my time from building my own ROM or optimizing my kernel which I did for my previous phones. I found Leedroid custom ROM and kernel, flashed it, and the phone finally became what it should really be in the first place. However, there are things that do not change, such as the hardware limiting issues (i.e. screen display). In other cases, such as the overall product and customer experience with HTC, it is almost like a carbon copy of the previous one when I had HD2.
It is a déjà vu again.