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High Technology Product Trends | Best phone US for HTC Desire
The HTC Desire ($199 direct) is US Cellular's best cell phone. It's about as powerful as the HTC Droid Incredible ($299.99, 4.5 stars) on Verizon, but it's cheaper to own. The Desire is also similar to the unlocked (and now discontinued) Google Nexus One, but in some ways, the Desire is even better. HTC's slick Sense UI, combined with the Desire's beautiful screen and fast processor, make this handset our new Editors' Choice for US Cellular smartphones.

Service Provider
US Cellular
Screen Size
3.7 inches
Screen Details
480-by-800, 262K-color, TFT LCD capactive touch screen
850, 1900
High-Speed Data
1xRTT, EVDO Rev 0
Processor Speed
1 GHz
Design and Call Quality
The HTC Desire measures 4.7 by 2.4 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.8 ounces. The soft touch housing is a mixture of black and dark grey, and looks a bit rounder than the Incredible's. The Desire feels expensive, and it's comfortable to hold for long periods. The striking 3.7-inch glass capacitive touch screen features 480-by-800-pixel resolution, and supports multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom. An optical sensor replaces the Nexus One's mechanical trackball. It was a little fiddly in operation, but you won't need it often, thanks to the touch screen.

The HTC Desire is a dual-band EV-DO Rev. A (850/1900 MHz) device with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. The nation's sixth-largest carrier, US Cellular offers service in 26 states, but roams on Verizon otherwise; be sure to check the coverage maps before deciding on this carrier. Voice calls sounded good but not great overall. HTC has been at this a while, and it shows in the Desire's clear sound. However, the tone was a little hollow in the earpiece. One caller said there was a pronounced "speakerphone" effect that wasn't present through a Samsung Acclaim (also on US Cellular) in a back-to-back comparison. Reception was fine.

Calls sounded clear through an Aliph Jawbone Icon ($99, 4 stars) Bluetooth headset. As with many Android devices, there's no voice dialing over Bluetooth, which can be a deal-breaker for some. The speakerphone sounded harsh and tinny, but it had a decent amount of gain. Battery life was average at 5 hours and 3 minutes of talk time.

User Interface and Apps
HTC Sense, the company's unified interface and application layer, makes another appearance on the Desire. The home screen features HTC's trademark large rolodex-style clock and animated weather widget, plus three soft keys on the screen above the touchpad. It allows for seven customizable home screens with preview thumbnails, and includes numerous full-screen information panels and other widgets. As with other recent HTC devices, I found Sense to be attractive, fast, and easy to use.

Underneath the Sense UI layer is Android 2.1. That means you can choose from over 70,000 apps in Android Market, and you'll likely run into fewer compatibility issues than on a handset with the older Android 1.6. HTC includes Friend Stream, which aggregates Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr updates. It also groups contacts and combines your Facebook and Google address books. The Web browser did a fabulous job with desktop HTML pages. Unlike a nearby Samsung Captivate ($199, 4 stars), the Desire's browser didn't have redundant brightness settings and zoom controls, so the browser worked exactly as expected.

Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
This is a stellar multimedia device, with one exception, which I'll get out of the way quickly: the microSD card slot is buried beneath the battery cover, and you have to pull the battery to swap cards. HTC throws in an 8GB card, and my 16GB SanDisk card worked fine; there's also 117MB of available internal storage. Here I'll recommend DoubleTwist (Free, 4 stars) for syncing music files and iTunes playlists with PCs or Macs, since swapping microSD cards isn't practical with this handset.

Music tracks sounded clear and full over Motorola S9-HD ($129, 3.5 stars) Bluetooth headphones. The standard-size 3.5mm headphone jack makes finding third-party wired ear buds easy; HTC tosses in a thin-sounding pair to get you started. The music player was easy to navigate and displayed medium-sized album art thumbnails. Standalone MP4, 3GP, WMV, and even 720p HD videos looked stunning on the Incredible's screen in full screen mode. Oddly, the video player itself is tucked inside the photo gallery, and doesn't get an icon of its own.

The 5-megapixel auto-focus camera includes an LED flash, face detection, and geotagging. This is reduced slightly from the HTC Incredible's 8-megapixel sensor. But in the real world, camera phones' optics matter more than megapixels. The Desire took sharp, colorful pictures both indoors and out, with no perceptible shutter lag or save times. Indoor shots with modest lighting were noisier but still usable, though the focus was a bit softer. The camcorder recorded slightly dark 1280-by-720-pixel videos that averaged 17 frames per second. But the real-time frame rate jumped around a lot at this resolution, and seemed to depend on the lighting conditions.

All told, if you're buying a smartphone and U.S. Cellular's coverage maps work for you, the HTC Desire is the phone to get. If you'd rather save another $120 up front, the Samsung Acclaim is a worthy second-tier option. It's slower, has a smaller screen, a poorer camera, and loses the HTC Sense UI. But it adds a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, has better battery life, and sounds a bit better on voice calls. Still, we'd save up the extra $120 for the Desire; it's that good.


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