HTC Desire vs N900

I’m lucky enough to have been an owner of a Nokia N900 for quite some time now, and my wife has just bought the HTC Desire – so I thought I would put this article together to give others a better idea of what the differences are between the devices. When I first received the N900 I didn’t really get my full usage out of it, however it has now become the centre of my mobile communications and I use it all day, every day.

I bought the N900 because I was interested in the increasing uptake of smartphones 2.0: smart phones have been around for a long time and I believe the new generation of phones are such a step up that they can’t even be put in the same category as old ‘smartphones’ like the Nokia N96 or E71.

The smartphone 2.0 marketplace

The thing that differentiates the smartphones of 2010 is the operating system – there is Android, Maemo/Meego and the iPhoneOS. I bought the N900 in the full presumption that Maego would be a better OS than Android/iPhone – and as far as I’m concerned it is… However that never stopped the general populace going for the others (remember Betamax/VHS!).

In my (humble) opinion, the reason why the N900/Maemo hasn’t taken off yet is that it is seen as a niche OS – in comparison to Android/iPhone there’s only one phone offering it – it’s quite big in comparison to other handsets and it’s more of a geeks dream rather than a cool phone to be seen with. Also there are only a handful of apps for Maemo and these are (sorry) still quite hacky compared to Android/iPhone apps. (Good for IT guys – bad for consumers)

What’s good about the HTC Desire?

The screen is great, the brightness and colours beat the N900 handsdown, this is presumably down to the AMOLED screen employed by the HTC Desire.

The menus are really nicely constructed, though the Sense UI widgets are more like ‘fill my whole screen’ than small building blocks, but you can easily switch back to the normal Android widgets which use much less screen space.

What’s bad about the HTC Desire?

It’s a linux OS, but not as we know it… based on my usage of the phone, it’s quite locked-down – I would expect to be able to drop into a terminal, but you’ve got to hack around on the device before you can do that. It’s pretty clear that they are try to keep you away from any internals.

The software keyboard is difficult to type on in comparison to other phones I’ve tried.. The keys seem a little narrow, and worse, my wife finds it difficult to type on because of her fingernails (no such problems with the N900!). I do have to reiterate what others have said which is that you should calibrate your touch typing as soon as you get your device because it works much better once you’ve done this.

Maybe it’s me, but I can’t get my head around leaving apps running on the HTC; Android doesn’t have a close button on apps – they sit around and the OS closes them when it decides they are no longer needed. However this clearly is going to use more battery life than necessary.

Again, maybe it’s me, but the N900 interface allows you to do everything via touch – you can browse the web etc without sliding out the keyboard. On the other hand, the HTC offers 4 buttons and an optical scroll button (or whatever they call it) – which is OK but it’s difficult to know when you should use the buttons rather than click the screen

Sometimes difficult to achieve simple tasks; on the N900 to set a ringtone you click Settings>Profiles>Ring tone and you can set an MP3 or whatever. On the HTC Desire, you can’t set an MP3…. Unless you go via the Music app and then click Menu and then choose to set it up. Again, it might be me, but some things seem far less intuitive than they should be on the HTC Desire.

What’s bad about both?

The battery life is shocking on these new phones, compared to phones of a few years ago. Both the N900 and HTC Desire will rarely last longer than a full days usage. The reason why is they are running 1Ghz+ processors with 500+ MB RAM. GPS, wifi and bluetooth all munch that battery life.

You can get extended life batteries like this video shows – but do people seriously expect me to make my pocket brick into a pocket slab? (nice fingernail decoration BTW – I doubt you’re a real N900 user!).

The phones are so expensive that you have to sign up for a long contract, typically 24 months in the UK.

The phones are nickable, so if some chav spots you with one – you might not have it for long!

I’ll post back about any other downsides of the HTC Desire I spot when I see them!

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