The HTC Desire

HTC Desire - The DesktopA while ago, I blogged about my second attempt at moving from a Windows Mobile phone to an Android powered, HTC Tattoo.

Overall that attempt failed but it did pique my interest in Android as a mobile OS. Colleagues have since taunted and flaunted with their own Android driven devices; showering me with examples of how awesome the devices can be. And so a couple of weeks after that first blog, I placed an order for the HTC Desire through my employers.

I actually started writing this entry weeks ago but got sidetracked. I’ve probably missed the boat with the Desire’s launch hype but I’ve never been one for bandwagons.

At this point in my original entry I’d written:

I had anticipated a May arrival for my new handset but as luck would have it, it arrived a couple of weeks ago; and I am loving it. I’ve given myself a good fortnight or so to get a real enough feel for the device and now I want to froth about just how awesome it really is!

HTC Desire - Easy to UseAnother month on and very little has changed in my opinion of the Desire. I’ve wiped/reset it once and even upgraded to the latest service pack of the Android OS!

The first thing that struck me about the device was the crispness of the screen. It is bright, sharp and large enough that I can watch Youtube videos without squinting.

The initial setup was child’s play. I’d already set my hotmail to forward all mail to a new gmail account (which is an essential asset if you’re serious about using Android).

Krussell CaseEven Exchange setup was easy. I’ve had a few niggles setting up some of our customers on the Tattoo so maybe I’m a little better prepared this time but I had my work email, personal email, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr set up in no time.

I’ve had fun over the past month syncing all my contacts. Android has pulled in everyone from Exchange, Gmail, Facebook and Twitter; meaning that all my exchange contact images carried over from the HTC Diamond have now been replaced with up to date facebook profile pictures.

Customising the phone has taken a while though. There is just so much to choose from. With 7 separate screens available I actually find myself wanting more. There are full screen or part screen widgets available, along with shortcuts to as many apps as you can download.

HTC Desire - Tricorder AppThe apps are really the icing on the cake, there’s even a Tricorder app. Some come across as trivial, although some, like ASTRO, are genuinely essential; more on these later I think.

In the end I am glad to move to Android and I can’t imagine moving to any other device than the Desire… it’s a shame for the rest of you that they’ve sold out already.

The Weather App in Windows Mobile

Weather on the Touch Diamond
Weather on the Diamond

I remember facing this problem way back in 2007, when I got my first HTC Touch. One of the Touch’s many selling points (to me) was its snazzy “Touch Flo” interface; and one of Touch Flo’s selling points was its built in weather app.

I’d already become dependent on my mobile device for such luxuries as Email, GPS and online price comparisons when out and about. The Touch’s promise of such a shiny gadget was a big selling point to me – shallow, I know.

The application has one pretty major flaw; as anyone who, has used this ubiquitous weather app and who, like me, lives a distance from one of the limited number of UK cities that the app supports, will no doubt understand. As long as you live in London, Leeds or Edinburgh (or in fact any major city in the UK) then the app works for you out of the box; even better if you plan to travel to Paris, Madrid or Tokyo. If, however, you are stuck to infrequent journeys between out of the way places like Spondon in Derbyshire or Bexhill-on-Sea and the jewel of the Pennines then you’re in for a disappointment.

Not only is the starting list of UK “cities” limited but there is also no provision for the addition of new entries. During my first few days of HTC Touch usage I genuinely felt like Microsoft were telling me that it believed my home town of Huddersfield actually shared its weather with either Leeds or Manchester. This is nothing new, for years Facebook refused to accept that there were thousands of users caught between these two powerhouses of the North – unsure as to whether they should classify themselves as residing in either Leeds or Manchester.

I remember googling at the time and eventually trawling the (incredibly useful) XDA Developers Forum and finding a workaround that would allow me to copy the city database from my device’s ROM, edit it and then replace it. I won’t repeat the steps here as the self same forums have since directed me to a far easier way of adding entries to the list of cities.

Now, to be fair to the people who devise the list, the list provided with my HTC Touch Diamond contained an entry for my local council. I still question the accuracy of this as Kirklees is a huge area; it could be snowing in the Colne Valley and raining in Dewsbury – yet my weather app would display what was happening in Huddersfield centre. Despite this inaccuracy, it is still tolerable when compared with the hoops that I jumped through on the HTC Touch to get an accurate weather forecast.

A few weeks ago I bought my partner a new phone; her very first smartphone. Adamant that she did not want an iPhone, she did want to access email, calendar and internet on the move and was eventually torn between a BlackBerry Curve and a Windows Mobile device. In a surprise move (to me) she chose the HTC Touch 2, a Windows Mobile 6.5 device. It arrived, I helped her configure it and the first thing that struck me was its lack of “Kirklees, UK” (or in fact anything remotely close to us) as a weather option.

The Weather Database Editor
The Weather Database Editor

“Don’t worry,” I said “I’ll add the entries you need”

A quick google, to remind me of the process, brought me back to the XDA Developers Forum and a far simpler process. One kind developer has developed a tool that (in short) allows a user to edit the entries in the weather app’s database. The tool needs the Microsoft .Net Compact Framework 3.5 to be installed first and you’ll need to register and log into the XDA Developers Forum to download the tool’s cab.  (Full details here)

Before using the tool, you should decide which cities you want to view. Once you’ve decided, go to AccuWeather and search for your cities. You may be offered a couple of choices but when you select one, you’ll see the code that is unique to that city, in the URL of the results. For example, “Lindley, Kirklees, United Kingdom” has the code “EUR|UK|UK163|Lindley”.

Once installed, the app is simplicity itself to use. Start it up, select your country and “Edit -> Cities …”. Choose “Edit -> Add City”, then name your city in the “City” field and enter the AccuWeather code beneath it. Click OK, back out and exit the tool and your new city will be available to select in your weather app.

I was so impressed with the tool when I tested it on my Diamond, that I installed it on my partners Touch 2 as soon as I had opportunity. Unfortunately the tool was unable to make the device’s weather database editable. Somewhere between Windows Mobile 6.1 and Windows Mobile 6.5 the database seems to have been locked or encrypted in a way that prevents access.

So I’m still looking for a way to edit the database on my partner’s Touch 2; she doesn’t seem to mind, not being as shallow as I can be.

The HTC Tattoo

HTC Tattoo, smaller box than I expected For the past 4 years I have been a devoted user of Windows Mobile, primarily using HTC devices. I am now so stuck in my ways that the thought of moving away from HTC’s comfortable designs and the familiar environment of Windows Mobile is almost frightening; this in itself is an anathema to me.

Whenever I think of myself constrained by habit or routine I feel uncomfortable – I’m neophilic by nature (and no, that does not mean I have a thing for Keanu Reeves). So when I had the opportunity to make a second venture into the world of HTC’s Android (Google’s mobile OS) devices, I jumped at the chance.

I am currently employed within the telecommunications industry; whilst we might not get cutting edge previews of upcoming devices, we do tend to get them as soon as they are released. Knowing that I am a fan of HTC and that my only issue with previous Android phones has been the lack of decent Microsoft Exchange integration, a colleague showed me the Tattoo yesterday morning.

HTC Tattoo, usual HTC presentationWe’ve admired the device specification from afar and were not let down by the device in the flesh. It had the same solid feel of the older HTC Touch and the software responded with an alacrity I am not accustomed to as a Windows Mobile user. Best of all, the mail setup promised me the integration with Microsoft Exchange that I had found lacking in my first foray into Android.

So I ordered one to conduct a better trial, as did 2 other colleagues. Arriving almost immediately, well we did have one in stock, I was surprised at how small the packaging was. I know companies are being coerced into condensing packaging for the sake of our Mother Earth but I was genuinely taken aback at just how small the box was.

As this was the device I had looked at earlier in the day, the box’s seal was already opened. Sliding the cover off, I was happy to see the familiar presentation of a new device; crisp, shiny and new. There is no way anyone could tell that there had been four people drooling over this very handset an hour or so earlier.

HTC Tattoo, nice design, strudy feelOn first removing the device from the packaging, I noted again the sturdy feel of the Tattoo. It honestly reminded me of my first HTC Touch, albeit without the rubbery grip of the Touch. The buttons were both firm and responsive; a genuine ergonomic miracle sat in my hand. I admit to being unable to remove the back cover but I tend to handle devices such as this with the same level of “I must not accidentally crush this” tenderness as I might a small creature or child. Once the back cover was off and the pertinent cards inserted I replaced the cover and booted up.

The initial setup sequence was nothing new, although it somehow “felt” better than the sequence I had encountered on the G1 when I tried it.  It detected our wireless network and after fumbling with the WEP key I instantly regretted the decision, remembering that my Exchange would need to be configured off the network.  Still, the GUI was intuitive and it was easy enough to step back and change the choices I had already made.

HTC Tattoo, Android's front screenThe Exchange configuration was a little more complicated than I felt it needed to be but it worked.  I then configured my hotmail account; a personal email account that I’ve used for almost 14 years.  I skipped past the social networking settings, eager to toy with this new and exciting operating system.

It pleased me to see that the weather app had automatically determined my current location.  Windows Mobile still can’t get this right, the closest I can get to on a WM 6.5 device is “Leeds, UK” – I’ll blog later about how I got my WM6.1 device to pick up specific areas such as “Lindley, UK”, “Bexhill, UK” and “Spondon, UK”.

Having now convinced myself that this was indeed going to be the best phone I had ever possessed, I decided to test the e-mail features; this is where the device fell down. I am used to having a view of all my accounts in one place, Android forces me to select a primary. This is not a huge issue, a little disappointing when you compare it to rumours of the Motorola DEXT and its converged mailbox though. Whilst navigating the accounts, the mail software crashed a couple of times.

Eventually I got to my Hotmail and found that rather than a Push-style sync with my Hotmail, the Android limited my mail synchronization to 5 minute intervals and furthermore did not synchronize account activity. This has been a bug bear of mine with previous smart-phones and PDAs; I almost exclusively manage my Hotmail via my HTC Touch Diamond, losing this functionality was something that I could not accept.

HTC Tattoo, the TattooAnd so, as petty as it might seem, the device was reset and repackaged. The device now belongs to one of my colleagues; one of the others who had ordered the phone yesterday. He loves it, although he did describe it this morning as “like a beautiful woman with an amazing body and stunning face until she opens her gob and she’s a f***ing scouser”; so I guess he’s having some teething issues.

On clarification, my colleague’s only real issue is the camera. The 3.2 megapixel camera doesn’t appear to have the hardware/software support of similar camera phones. My colleague accepts that, he is used to the far superior camera provided by the (far older) Sony Ericsson C902; we agree that the design of most HTC devices do not lead to intuitive photography and we also expect newer devices to keep up to speed with both the ergonomics and the technology of other modern camera phones.

Incidentally, as you would expect, Gmail works a charm. It’s been suggested that I could use Gmail to reconcile my Hotmail and so forth but my feelings on that are perhaps for another post at another time.

I think the difficulty I am facing with selecting a replacement phone isn’t so much my own finicky nature; it is more that I have been spoiled by the sheer awesomeness of my HTC Touch Diamond. With that as my benchmark then maybe I’ll never be able to ween myself away from Windows Mobile.