January 19th, 2011


Android brick again: Do Not Buy a HTC Desire

Further to my previous angry post about the HTC Desire:

After further unsuccessful efforts with HTC's Exchange ActiveSynch, which was unable to synch with my contacts (I have over 4000) without stuffing the phone's memory beyond capacity, I finally found an email solution that did just enough of what I want to give the brick another chance: Touchdown, which at least doesn't choke on my contacts and allows me to read and send emails, though at a cost. Its memory storage is still lousy - I have to take it down to only three days of archive, whereas the old Blackberry was able to cope with a couple of weeks, which means that by Monday morning it has become useless as a way of tracking things.

For non-work email, the Gmail interface really sucks, which is astonishing given that Google are behind both Gmail and Android. It simply refuses to sync the main interface; oddly when I select the 'view all mail' (including sent and pre-filtered) option I do usually get an up-to-date list of what I have recently received and sent, but then if a new mail has arrived in a thread to which I have already replied, it doesn't show me anything in the thread after (and including) my first response, even when I refresh repeatedly. It also doesn't seem to have access to my Gmail contacts when I write emails, which again is a massive fail.

It's also still impossible to sync notes with Outlook, though there I have actually found a better solution which generally suits me more than Outlook notes - Evernote, which allows me to synch across all my computers and phones. I mainly use it for tracking my book reading and planning out the Whoniversaries, so it's not a work-related issue; on the occasions when I do want Outlook notes for work purposes, I have still lost that functionality on the phone.

I keep on coming back to the contacts, because they are a big deal for me. More or less weekly I still get the 'memory running low' message, and looking at the memory usage of various apps the HTC contacts storage are always the second biggest after Touchdown. I can't wipe Touchdown because that's basically what I have the phone for, and I thought that since Touchdown is also storing contacts separately I probably didn't need the HTC system doing it as well. (I don't understand why it does this, and contra a comment on one of my earlier posts it is not possible to move them to the SD card.) That turns out to be true, but what it doesn't tell you is that it also wipes the phone log, so you no longer have a record of the numbers you called or who has called you. That's useful information which is now deleted forever, without warning.

All of this is annoying but at the level of grit-my-teeth-but-get-on-with-it. But there are two more things which now have turned me into an active anti-HTC Desire evangelist. First of all, I suspect it of running data services without my permission when I am abroad, rather than simply being on-line at the moment when I am using it. A former colleague of mine found his was doing this - going on-line in the middle of the night when he was in Russia. Anyway my bills for November, a month when I did six foreign trips, were appalling even after I persuaded my service provider to retroactively apply a better rate.

Second, and this is the final straw, the battery life started off very short and seems to have been getting shorter and shorter. Last night I went to bed with it fully charged, used it to read fifty pages of an ebook (one of its better features, I'll admit) and put it down on my bedside table. At 4 am it woke me with a beep to say that its battery was running low; ten minutes later it turned itself off. I was so angry about this that I have not been able to get back to sleep, and have only now calmed down enough to write this post about it. A phone that you have to keep plugged in all the time is, by definition, not mobile.

So the moral is simple: just don't buy a HTC Desire, if you have a lot of contacts, want to use Gmail, want to use Outlook notes, want to keep records of who you have called and who has called you, and want a phone that remains charged for more than six hours at a time. If you are not in any of those categories, then probably its shiny assortment of apps and decent enough camera may make it a useful purchase. But it fails the basic functionality of doing email well and staying awake long enough for my purposes.

(See similar rant from miss_sb here, interestingly with a different but much more appalling contacts-related experience.)