HTC Desire on U.S. Cellular

It took half a year, but, finally, the HTC Desire has come to America. Announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2010, the Desire -- codenamed the Bravo -- brought an all-new interface -- Sense -- to Android 2.1, all tucked into a phone that essentially is the Nexus One, with a few tweaks.

Come Aug. 27, the HTC Desire will be available on U.S. Cellular, with its 1GHz Snapdragon processor, Sense UI -- and the new SLCD touchscreen, which replaces the AMOLED screen that's seen shortages of late. Is it worth the wait? Find out, after the break.

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U.S. Cellular HTC DesireThis is going to be a slightly abbreviated review. We've covered HTC Sense at length (read our initial review) and have reviewed it on a number of phones (HTC Aria, Evo 4G, Droid Incredible, HTC Legend). And aside from minor tweaks, Sense is Sense, and it's Sense on the Desire.

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What you get with the Desire is basically a Nexus One with Sense, physical buttons, and a trackpad button instead of the trackball. Really, that's about it, as far as noticeable differences go.

OK, that's not entirely true. The U.S. Cellular version of the Desire has a 3.7-inch SLCD touchscreen (at 800x480 pixels) manufactured by Sony, instead of the Samsung AMOLED screen seen on the original version of the Desire, Nexus One and Droid Incredible. The reason for the change, quite simply, is that Samsung has had problems keeping up with demand for the AMOLED screens, leading to major shortages and backordered phones. So, HTC made the switch.

Using the SLCD Desire on its own, you likely won't think anything of it. Colors are well-reproduced, though there's still a slight bit of banding on gradients, but definitely less than the Nexus One. Put the SLCD Desire alongside a Nexus One and its AMOLED screen, however, and differences are a little more apparent. Colors are a little softer, more muted. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I'll trade softer colors for less banding.

HTC Desire with SLCD (left) and the Nexus One with AMOLED
Desire with SLCD (left), and Nexus One with AMOLED

Take 'em both outdoors, and, well, sunlight is sunlight.

In your hand, the Desire and Nexus One feel nearly identical. There's a an extra facet on the side bezels of the desire, giving it a slightly less rounded feel. But unless you're looking for it, you probably won't even notice.

HTC Desire (top) and Nexus OneHTC Desire (top) and Nexus One

The physical buttons are a nice change, given that the Nexus One's capacitive buttons have had a bit of an accuracy problem -- you'd need to tap slightly above where you'd expect. I find the Nexus One's trackball to be a little more accurate in selecting text than the trackpad, but that might just because I'm more used to it.

Missing from the Desire are the charging contacts on the bottom bezel, so you won't be using your Nexus One desktop dock or car down with the Desire. (Actually, it fits in the car dock, but just barely, and you won't be charging with it.)

HTC Desire (bottom) and Nexus OneHTC Desire (right) and Nexus One

Under the hood you have a 1GHZ Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM. Surprisingly, the phone is only reporting about 123MB available, which really isn't that much. That'll burden be lessened slightly once the Desire gets an Android 2.2 update and you can move apps to the SD card, but still, it's surprisingly low. The phone comes with a 1400mAh battery rated at up to 5 hours' talk time.

HTC Desire (left) and Nexus One

The Desire has a 5MP camera with autofocus. The video camera records at VGA (640x480) resolution by default, though you can up it to 800x480 or 1280x720 for better quality.

HTC Desire (left) and Nexus One

U.S. Cellular hasn't loaded too much of its own software on the Desire. There's a Telenav-powered navigation app (in addition to Google Maps), the My Contacts Backup app, Tone Room Deluxe (a stub app that takes you to a U.S. Cellular Ringtone repository) and the ubiquitous (but still pretty worthless) City ID app. The other usuals -- Facebook, MySpace, Peep (HTC's Twitter app), Quick Office and all the HTC widgets are there.

So should I buy the U.S. Cellular HTC Desire?

If you're on U.S. Cellular, it's kind of a no-brainer as to whether to get the Desire, or the Samsung Acclaim, its other Android phone, especially with a data plan that starts at $30, and available tethering.

The hardware isn't next-generation, but neither is it long in the tooth. What you're getting is a sleek, speedy phone with one of the newer versions of Android, and HTC's slick Sense UI. And for most people, that's going to be just fine.