When the Nexus One launched in January, I purchased one, and while I found it to be a nice high-end device, I found myself missing HTC's Sense UI experience. The whole "customization or no customization" argument is based on personal preference, but I've always enjoyed the experience you get from Sense. One February evening while on business in the San Francisco Bay Area, I remember thinking to myself "what if the Nexus One had Sense UI out of the box?" Two days later, the HTC Desire launched in European markets. I spent some time with it at CITA in March and came away quite impressed, but was frustrated that it wasn't available in the US market.
Then the summer came, and in the midst of the smartphone craze, rumors began to swirl about the Desire coming to the States. After months of waiting, an announcement was made - but it shocked everyone. Out of all of the possible carriers, the Desire was debuting on US Cellular. The Desire is, in the closest way possible, a successor to the Nexus One, so while there are some overall design changes and software tweaks, overall functionality is very similar. It ships in the same box as the unlocked device, save for a US Cellular logo and revised specifications sticker on the back. Inside, you get an AC adapter module, USB cable, pair of earbuds, 8 GB microSD card (installed in the phone), and instruction manuals.
In a world of plastic devices, the Desire's metal trim around the display is gorgeous. It accents the phone well, and the two-toned metal/plastic appearance is quite nice. Unlike the Nexus One, the Desire's battery door extends all the way down the back of the phone, and offers a red trim around the camera. US Cellular's HTC Desire ships with a 3.7-inch Sony Super TFT screen due to the AMOLED display shortages that have plagued the HTC DROID Incredible. I was eager to test it to see if there were differences, and as far as I can tell, it looks exactly the same. More importantly, it beats waiting weeks for a device at launch because there aren't enough display units to go around.
Having spent the past few weeks with the EVO, DROID X, and Galaxy S variants, I wondered whether I would find the Desire's display to be small. There's a place for all shapes and sizes in today's market, but 3.7-inches is the perfect sweet spot between the "tiny" 3.2-inch devices and the "giant" 4+-inch phones. At 4.7 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.47 inch thick, the device weighs 4.76 ounces, so it fits perfectly in a hand, pocket, or purse.
I haven't conducted official battery life tests, but it seems to be on par with other Android devices. Keep in mind that I have been roaming 100 percent of the time, but in unofficial testing, I've been able to make it through a day with moderate use that involved calling, text messaging, e-mailing, and surfing the web. I'll have more concrete numbers in the review.
Since I'm not in a US Cellular market, I haven't been able to snag official data numbers just yet. What I will say is thanks to US Cellular's new EVDO roaming agreements, you can use 3G while roaming (in select markets). Having tested US Cellular devices that migrate to 1X as soon as you enter a roaming area, it's a huge improvement. With data-centric devices like the Desire and Acclaim landing on the network, it's necessary.
When I opened the Desire's box, I thought back to February of this year, when Android development was just taking off and the Nexus One was the hot device to have. The Nexus is a great device, but given my fondness of HTC's Sense UI, I always hoped that the Desire would come to the US. Sure, high-end devices like the Incredible, EVO, and DROID X have launched since the Desire's Stateside debut, but its specifications are by no means outdated. It's a great high-end Android device for US Cellular, and it bucks the regional carrier's reputation of getting desirable devices (pun intended) after everyone else. For the first time in recent memory, I'm jealous.
The HTC Desire will be available on August 27th for $199.99 after a $70 mail-in rebate and new two-year agreement. Stay tuned for the full review!