Monday, January 18, 2010

First few days with the HTC HD2

Take the big screen with you

That's what HTC has to say about this monster and by no means are they exaggerating. With a 4.3 inch display at a mind-boggling resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, this phone boasts of the largest screen on any handheld till date. The cinematic screen certainly is intimidating and it doesn't end just there. The list goes on with a powerful 1 gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 448 MB of RAM, a 5 megapixel camera, dual LED flash and Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional operating system. The phone is definitely big due to it's screen, but is very slim at just 11 mm, 1.3 mm slimmer than the iPhone 3GS. While iPhone-killer it quite isn't (yet), it is a step in the right direction by HTC. It is evident a lot of hardwork is behind the device, and the HTC Sense UI is simply brilliant.

What is HTC Sense? Sense is essentially a user interface based on HTC's earlier TouchFLO 3D, developed for devices running Windows Mobile and Google's Android. According to a press release, HTC Sense is a “design experience, an architecture that is all about how people use the device, making their content personal to how they use the device.” HTC have built the Sense UI around 3 principles - Make It Mine, Stay Close, and Discover the Unexpected.

"Make It Mine"
The device can be customized to a large extent by adding phone features, favourite websites, applications and contacts directly onto the home screen. The phone also finds your location automatically and sets the weather and time accordingly.

"Stay Close"
The phone emphasizes on communication, and all e-mails, SMS, call-logs and Facebook updates are all under each respective contact card.

"Discover the Unexpected"
The ringer volume lowers itself once the phone detects that you've picked it up, the ringer volume increases if the phone is in your pocket or bag, the screen brightness adjusts itself according to your surroundings and turns it off when you're on a call. Yes... Discover the unexpected.

I was amazed with the first-time setup. As soon as the phone is switched on, it lets you setup the GPRS / EDGE data connection. Once this is done, the device finds your location, sets up the weather app AND it sets the local time and date as well. Moving on, you can add your e-mail, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts seamlessly. So your phone is up and running almost completely once this is done at first-boot itself.

The phone is extremely responsive with absolutely no lag or sluggishness, courtesy the mighty processor and RAM. It maybe because of this that HTC have omitted the conventional task-manager tag on the top right of the phone. This cannot be added as a shortcut either and is sorely missed as there is no way of multi-tasking. A few other shortfalls need to be looked into, and fast. The default browser is Opera and not Internet Explorer (IE) which is a blessing in a way since IE does not support multiple tabs and pinch-to-zoom. However, Opera fails to completely display some websites which contain plain text, and it supports only a maximum of 3 tabs. The default e-mail client is Outlook and this is not customized by HTC at all except for the layout. It finds settings for Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL automatically, it still has a few issues with Gmail and Yahoo accounts (I haven't tried it with AOL as yet.) What happens is that it downloads all the folder headers like Inbox, Sent Mail, Drafts and Personal Folders from the server, but it fails to download the e-mails present within these folders. It grabs e-mails present only in the Inbox, and does not save even e-mails sent from the device itself which is very, very surprising. A few major fixes are needed quickly. Battery life is an issue as well, but hopefully a future firmware update should fix this.

Enough said about the niggles, more about the bling-bling now. And trust me, it doesn't disappoint in this department. The features are exhaustive, the OS is much lighter on the CPU and faster compared to it's predecessors, and HTC have added some amazing stuff to complete the experience. The weather app needs to be seen to be believed. It is so realistic with thunder, rain, snow, wind and sun all over the screen to make you actually feel the weather around you. The music is good with a landscape interface thats better than the iPhone's, and what needs to be said about watching videos on a screen this big? Internet browsing is a pleasure and Opera hides out the menu bars to take full advantage of a full screen experience. YouTube is a native application in the HD2. Speeds over Wi-Fi and even EDGE are great, and I rate the browsing experience better than the iPhone's. This is largely due to the fact that the 1 GHz processor and 448 MB RAM together prevent any sort of chequered or distorted pages to create a beautiful browsing experience. While the touch isn't as sensitive as the iPhone, it's almost as good and it feels good to create or reply to e-mails from the phone. A large virtual keypad in both potrait and landscape with XT9, full QWERTY and Compact QWERTY support make fast typing a breeze, even if the almighty has blessed you with large fingers. Spell-correction and Word-completion help things along and the absence of a real keypad is rarely felt. Microsoft Mobile Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint and One-note) lets you create, view and edit documents with the pinch-to-zoom interface.

HTC have added a very interesting Digital Compass. All you have to do is tap on "Set Destination" below the compass, up pops Google Maps, click on your desired destination and follow the green dot on the compass. Apart from Google Maps there's GPS with Co-Pilot for navigation. Yet another cool feature is the Wi-Fi router. Other laptops and wireless devies can connect to the phone and use it's data connection for the internet, and this is definitely useful if you're on 3G. There are a whole lot of other goodies in the phone like Remote Desktop Mobile to view and control your PC from the phone, MP3 Trimmer for making ringtones, Audio Booster, etc. that make things exciting. As Windows Marketplace gets bigger and more exhaustive, a lot more applications and games will be available but as of now there really isn't anything much there though third party websites do offer a lot of stuff.

I'll soon be covering the camera, camcorder, HTC Sense UI and other features in the phone I've mentioned earlier. Until then, enjoy a host of pictures of this revolution. See you soon...

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