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A biased comparison of HTC Desire and iPhone

I’m not going to lie. I am an iPhone user, and I do love it. So why bother to hobnob with the enemy? Two reasons:

1. My boss was pulling his hair trying to fix his voicemail, so he left the phone on my desk.

2. Well – how can you truly appreciate what you have, before knowing if something better is out there?


iPhone and HTC Desire side by side

First glance

HTC Desire’s interface fades in comparison to the extremely intuitive and user-friendly one of the iPhone. iPhone does everything you’d expect it to do, and has only one main navigational button. Desire has several buttons with various and unclear functions.

Already after trying to accomplish just a few fairly simple tasks, I felt a bit stupid. I’m sure that a lot of well-meaning developers have spent a lot of time making this a user-friendly phone, but it’s like they had a big bucket of logic and just stuffed it in there, hoping for the best.

I did manage to complete the tasks I had in mind, but I didn’t quite understand the process until it was actually done.

Logic should be conceived before, and not after completing a task!

A tailored suit

HTC Desire provides a lot of opportunities for personalization, and this will definitely increase the ease of use, in the long run for the individual user. This is one of the major downsides to the iPhone; the degree to which you can customize it. HTC Desire (and other Android phones) are different.

Whereas iPhone is the Swiss knife – a slick multi-tool with great and diverse functionality – HTC Desire is a whole toolbox. You get to decide exactly which tools you carry and exactly how big your hammer is. It might be a big mess in there, but you can always find a screwdriver bit that fits if you look hard enough.

I see this as a huge advantage for the power user, but probably more of a distraction to the user who just wants to make calls, browse and listen to music.

Although logic may not be Desire’s trademark, I stumbled across one thing that it does way better than the iPhone; the browser automatically re-shapes text, according to the width, when zooming. This means that you only have to scroll one way while reading. This is very valuable, since browsing is one of the core features of these kinds of phones.

I probably wouldn’t even have noticed this, if it wasn’t because I’m used to the double-scrolling on my iPhone. And this is what great usability is all about; making things so easy that you wouldn’t even consider it to be “a solved issue”.


By default, HTC Desire comes with seven different home scenes. Seven! Quite intimidating when you’re first trying to figure out what’s going on. I like iPhone’s approach better, where you create screens as you go along.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Desire has several navigational buttons – real physical buttons outside the screen. In my opinion this creates more confusion than value to the user. One of the things I love about touch-screen phones is that the navigation is contextual. This creates instant comprehension of your options because buttons are labeled exactly to the given situation, and not with a generic icon. Introducing five permanent buttons like HTC has done with Desire, simply breaks this great convention.

A specific example of where this can end wrong is when you have to scroll down to find the button you’re looking for. You might not even get to the scrolling part because you are unaware of the fact that the screen holds more information. Left with a bunch of buttons to push, you might end up loosing all the info you’ve just typed in, because you choose to push the button with the sweet little icon, which is actually the home button. By keeping the navigation strictly on-screen and strictly contextual, this will never occur.

Much like iPhone’s Spotlight, Desire has an internal search function as well. To me, Spotlight has proven to be one of the most powerful and fast ways to navigate. By typing just a few characters, you are able to find contacts, emails, songs, calendar posts and much more. Desire has extended their search function to include suggested web searches. In my opinion, this decreases the efficiency because it broadens the search so much that you have to type at least twice the amount of characters to find what you’re looking for.

With a great name comes great responsibility

As stated in the dictionary: ”Android = a robot resembling a human being”.

We can all agree that even the most advanced cell phone on the market is far from being human. Nonetheless, Google has chosen to name their mobile operating system as if it is exactly this. Overkill? I actually think Android is quite a clever name. It passes through the message well, that this system has more to it than just standard cell phone capabilities.

The problem is, that if I should put a head on the human being, whom the system resembles, and hence HTC Desire, it would be a software developer. Considering it is in direct competition with the iPhone, a slightly broader target group seems appropriate.


There’s no real right and wrong here. It all breaks down to your specific needs. A good example is the way it works together with Google. If you are a Google user, you will benefit greatly from the integrated synchronization features, if you’re not, it’s just more noise on the line.

I think HTC Desire is a great phone, and I would recommend it anytime – but only to the right persons.

Personally I’m going to stick with my iPhone. It has the functionality I need, and it lets me access it quick and easy. And it still is, the sweetest piece of eye candy out there.
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