After the Samsung Galaxy S (SGS) failed to replace the iPhone 3GS in my comparison, this time I tested the Desire HD (DHD). Many of the problems I had were related to the SGS and the way Samsung handled these issues, not to Android in General so I gave the DHD a try.
Though the 3GS is still some years old, I haven't found any better phone. But the DHD comes with an impressive hardware spec. But in the first minutes of testing, I found found to issues and returned the DHD after the weekend, so that this is not the multi week deep dive testing which I usually publish. But I spent enough time with the DHD to give a quick comparison between the 3GS, the SGS and the DHD. So I will go through my usual categories and describe how the DHD differs from the other two phones. As some of the points apply to all Android 2.2 phones and changes also apply to the SGS, I corrected them accordingly.
DisplayMost of the front of the DHD is covered by its impressive 4,3'' screen. Due to Samsungs SuperAMOLED shortage, HTC decided to use a SuperLCD instead. A good choice, the DHD's screen is just brilliant. With it's high contrasts, it is closer to SuperAMOLED, than conventional LCD. If you search for head-to-head display comparisons, you will see that SuperAMOLED is still ahead of SuperLCD. But when using the DHD, you will never complain about its screen. It is just gorgeous.
Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to test the DHD in bright sunlight, but in cloudy conditions it works perfect.
After using the DHD, using an iPhone with its minimalistic 3,5'' screen feels like looking through a keyhole. But there is one major drawback by the screensize: one handed operation gets less easy because of the longer ways the hand has to go. Balancing readability and usability, I think that a 4'' screen like the one from the SGS is the sweet spot. So in summary I rate the DHD's screen between the 3GS and the SGS.
3GS: 7 - SGS: 10 - DHD 9 (of 10)
SpeakerThe speaker is the absolute opposite of the screen. I have never - I repeat: NEVER! - had a smartphone with such a lousy speaker. I often use the built in speaker of my smartphone for listening podcasts, especially when on a trip. The Nokia 5800 has been good even for background music listening, the iPhone is absolutely OK for podcasts, the SGS is, well not good enough but the speaker of is no deal breaker. The DHD's speaker is not only crappy in quality, it is also too silent. So if you plan to listen to an DHD without headphones, you should bring an external speaker with you
3GS: 7 - SGS: 5 - DHD: 1 (of 10)
CameraAs the lens of the DHD's camera sticks out that much, I expected a better than average image quality. But the quality of the still images is the worst I have seen the last 5 years. This camera is mostly unusable, and even mobile phones from the discounter for about € 100,- offer better image quality.
Video is better and with 720p at a higher resolution than the 3GS, so the DHD won't score zero.
In the linked album are shots from the 3GS and a Canon S95 (out of competition) camera as a reference.
The DHD also has a dual LED flash, which could also be used as a flashlight, giving it one exra point.
3GS: 5 - SGS: 7 - DHD: 4 (of 10)
RadiosThe DHD radios are quite comparable to the SGS's. The Wifi signal drops a little more often than I am used to from other devices, but most of my problems have been fixed after I reset my WLAN router. It connected to my car kit within seconds and I had a stable connection all the time, something the SGS could not offer.
3GS: 7 - SGS: 8 - DHD: 9 (of 10)
Battery lifeFrom my short testing, I cannot really judge the battery life of the DHD, so please take this point with a grain of salt. But the battery life seems to be better than the SGS's, but lower than the iPhone's. Especially the battery drain when the phone is in sleep mode, which drove me nuts on the SGS, does not show on the DHD. For example: when the SGS has been fully charged and I forgot to switch it to airplane mode over night, then the SGS has been nearly uncharged at the morning. This is better with the DHD, where the battery drop a bit over night but remains mostly charged.
When leaving the phone on airplane mode, but Wifi enabled over night, it is mostly uncharged in the morning, so no advantage here. The iPhone remains more than 60% loaded under the same conditions, so Android has still a way to go when it comes to power management.
A 1200 mAH battery is quite small for a device with such a large screen. And in this big body, there should be enough space for at least a 1500 mAH battery.
3GS: 5 - SGS 2 - DHD: 3 (of 10)
Interfaces and MemoryThe DHD only comes with 1,5 GB internal memory, but no extra mass storage like the SGS which had 2 GB internal memory and additional 6 GB mass storage. But my DHD came with a 8 GB micro SD card to start with. On the other hand, most apps could not handle the way, the SGS organized the internal mass storage and the SD card, which made it less usefull. But at least, storage can be expanded to 32 GB by a micro sd card.
3GS: 6 - SGS: 9 - DHD 5 (of 10)
Hardware ButtonsThe DHD has nearly no hardware buttons except for the power switch and the volume rocker, which is one button less than the SGS offers. And this is a real disadvantage in usability. On the iPhone and the SGS, the central menu button can be used to wake up the phone from sleep mode and this one is missing on the DHD. So you always have to use the little power button on the top which is a little recessed and a bit fiddly to press, whereas the menu buttons of the SGS and 3GS cannot be missed even when the phone is in a car mount and you keep your eyes on the road.
Though the DHD has all four Android buttons as touch buttons below the screen, compared to the SGS which has only three, it scores the lowest in this comparison.
3GS: 5 - SGS: 6 - DHD 4 (of 10)
Body & Build QualityThe DHD is a very solid device in your hands, made out a massive block of metal. The screen nicely fits into the body. The only aspect some people dislike about the DHD are the asymmetric pieces of plastic on the back. But they fit well into the metal, though the iPhone is built is even a little nicer.
Interestingly, though the DHD has got an enormous screen size, it's body is only slightly larger than the 3GS. This is because the DHD's screen mostly covers the whole body whereas the 3GS's screen is surrounded by a lot of chrome an plastic.
But there is one drawback of the massive body: it is just too heavy. For my taste, the weight of the 3GS is the maximum I want to carry for an every day working device. I loved the lower weight of the SGS, though it comes for the price of a lower build quality. The iPhone is much heavier than the SGS, but OK for me. But when using the DHD, I always feel it's weight. Nokia shows, that a well built device does not have to be that heavy.
3GS: 10 - SGS: 5 - DHD: 8 (of 10)
Hardware EcosystemJust the same as for the SGS, there is no second phone with the same hardware support as the iPhone.
3GS: 10 - SGS: 5 - DHD:5 (of 10)
MultitaskingSame as 3GS
3GS: 10 - SGS: 8 - DHD: 8 (of 10)
Storage Support and BackupSame as SGS, but now Google offers a cloud backup functionality, so the Android devices should recover after system reset and they are at least on par with the 3GS (corrected the rating for the SGS also). None of the systems will score 10 points: the iPhone is missing a cloud backup and the Androids are missing a complete local backup without hacking the phone. I have not had the time to test Google's cloud based backup, so I just assume that it works.
Additionally, HTC offers htcsense.com, a cloud service to locate and remotely wipe your phone. Apple answered this by offering the according mobile Me services also for free.
3GS: 7 - SGS: 7 - DHD 7 (of 10)
User InterfaceMainly, what I wrote about the SGS also applies to the DHD. But the DHD comes with HTC's own UI called Sense whereas the SGS came with Samsungs TouchWiz. Though much criticized, I personally prefer Samsungs TouchWiz over HTC's Sense. TouchWiz is makes better usage of the screen space, whereas Sense sacrifices screen space to it's non-configurable buttons. But these are minimal differences and mostly a matter of taste. Sense for example offers easy customizing features with predefined scenes.
Both UI's are very good, both are a generation ahead of the iPhone. And as the DHD does not have the rotation issue of the SGS, it scores the full 10 points here.
3GS: 4 - SGS: 9 - DHD: 10 (of 10)
ResponsivenessThe DHD has the same impressive speed as the SGS, but without the annoying lags. I installed all my apps I have listed on AppBrain and there wasn't the slightest slowdown. So the king is dead, if have to rescale my rating and drop the 3GS down to 8 point, giving the DHD all 10.
3GS: 8 - SGS: 1 - DHD 10 (of 10)
RingtonesSame as SGS
3GS: 2 - SGS: 5 - DHD: 5 (of 5)
Phone ApplicationSame as SGS
3GS: 5 - SGS: 5 - DHD: 5 (of 5)
On Screen KeyboardIn general the same as SGS. It does not come with Swype, but the Sense keyboard is also superior to the iPhone's
3GS: 7 - SGS: 9 - DHD: 9 (of 10)
PIMSame as SGS, but the Androids have evolved in the meantime. There are some ToDo or GTD apps which now offer cloud sync to Android devices, most of them sync with Toodledo.com. But there is also a Toodledo client for iOS, so it is a draw now.
The built in calendar of the iPhone is better than the DHD's for just one, but important reason: in monthly view it shows the agenda for the selected date at the bottom, whereas the DHD's calendar requires to open the daily view.
Apple does not allow calendar apps on iOS whereas there is a good number of calendar alternatives for Android, especially useful for professionals who heavily use their calendars. And though Android still does not natively offer support for CalDAV, there is now an app for that.
So in summary, Android is now ahead of the iPhone.
3GS: 6 - SGS: 7 - DHD 7 (of 10)
Audio PlayerSame as SGS
3GS: 8 - SGS: 9 - DHD: 9 (of 10)
Video PlayerSame score as SGS
3GS: 6 - SGS: 10 - DHD: 10 (of 10)
Web Browserdto. same score as SGS
3GS: 7- SGS: 10 - DHD: 10 (of 10)
Email Clientdto. same score as SGS
3GS: 8- SGS: 8 - DHD: 8 (of 10)
Software EcosystemHalf a year later, the software ecosystem on Android matures, in numbers and also in quality which will give them an additional point since the last comparison. And though I still rate the average software quality on the iPhone higher than on Android, some apps are not available on iOS. Apples latest annoyance is their rejection of the Sony Reader client on iOS. This really made me angry, as I am a Sony Reader user for years and hoped for a client on iOS to read my Sony Reader library also on my iPad. And it also made me more confident, that my next phone won't be an Apple device as long as they don't change their business practices, which already costs the iOS devices a point.
3GS: 7 - SGS: 7 - DHD: 7 (of 10)
Desktop SoftwareSince my last comparison, the need for a desktop based backup became less important because of Google's cloud based backup. But there is still some need to sync music, movies and photos from and to the phone. Samsungs Kies desktop suite required a lot of witchcraft to make it work, HTC Sync just works, if you want one. But you will probably not need it, because the DHD supports over-the-air (OTA) updates. And to sync your media, you won't need a special desktop suite for Android phones. For example, I can use Adobe Lightroom, which is my favorite desktop photo suite to directly export the pictures I want to the DHD. And I can use Lightrooms import Wizard to import photos and movies shot on the DHD. The only thing that is missing is a tool which transparently sync dynamic playlists of music with the device. There is some 2nd source software available, but you will have to fiddle out how to make them work and these do not work as transparent as iTunes, so this is minus 1 point. And as both Android phones do not offer a Mac desktop client, this will cost a 2nd point.
3GS: 10 - SGS: 4 - DHD: 8 (of 10)
CostsThis is just a simple calculation. The 3GS with 32 GB like mine is down to € 650,-, so it gains a point since the last comparison. If you don't need the memory, you could go for an iPhone 3GS with 8 GB for € 525,-.
The SGS comes at 443,- right now, also with 8 GB. So this is close enough to the 3GS, that the decision should not be made by the price. It becomes different when more memory is needed. A SDHC 32 GB micro SD card is right now down to € 60,-, so about under € 500,- you would get a SGS with 40 GB in summary. The DHD comes at about 500,- with an 8GB SD card at nearly the same price as the iPhone 3GS with 8GB. With a 32 GB SD card, the DHD costs about € 560,-, so it is between the 3GS and the SGS
3GS: 5 - SGS: 7 - DHD: 6 (of 10)
ConclusionWhen I tested the SGS last summer, it has been quite a mixed bag. It had a superior display and a super fast CPU. But also a below average camera and speaker as well as low build quality and an lagging OS which felt unfinished and a vendor with no clue how to fix this. It just felt, as if it has not been ready for production. And also Android has not been such mature as iOS
Now half a year later things changed. HTC's Android implementation feels very mature and the DHD is much more a fully production ready device, than the SGS has been. But though HTC is a maker of smartphones for years, they struggled to make this device complete. The heavy body might be a matter of taste, but the lousy camera and speaker don't fit into a high-end, highly priced smartphone. We are all used to certain standards and for it's top-of-the-line device, all components should be at least average. In a cheap, entry level phone, I would accept these components, but not at this price tag.
Unsurprising, in my rating below, the DHD scores highest and this reflects how I feel about this device. But as I need a usable camera and speaker, these issues are deal breakers for me. But if these are not important for you and you won't mind the weight, then the DHD migth already be the perfect smartphone for you.
So I return the DHD and continue to use my 3GS for some more months. But from the SGS to the DHD, it has been a major step in maturity, the Android platform evolves fast and if the vendors will sort out the remaining problems, my next phone will probably be an Android device.
|Interfaces & Memory||6||9||5|
|On screen Keyboard||7||9||9|