18 August 2010

HTC event 15 September, HTC Desire HD launch?

HTC mystery event on 15 September, new HTC devices inbound?

Well, well, well, an invite for a HTC event on the 15 September has just dropped into the Pocket-lint inbox, teasing us of the possibility of more handset launches.
With no title, but just the words "Come see what HTC has dreamt up" the invite is about as telling as us throwing you in a dark room without a torch.
The image shows what we think looks like smoke from a fire; so are HTC about to release an internet tablet, a new mobile phone like the HTC Desire HD that will stoke the fire of the smartphone world, or are they about to set the world alight with its new announcement?
We've been playing with the image quality of the invite and revealed the back handset hiding in the smoke, but unfortunately it doesn't show the name or give anything away. What it does suggest though is that it's likely to be a phone. 
Interestingly the event comes just 1 day after this year's Nokia World, and the day after what is currently being rumoured as the time Apple will announce its new iPod range for 2010.
Your guess is as good as ours, either way Pocket-lint will have all the news as it happens.

What do you think HTC will announce at the event?

HTC Vision Could Be the Android-Based Slider HTC Fans Have Been Looking For

HTC is supposedly prepping a smartphone with the feature set many have been looking for: a high-end model with Google's Android OS and a sliding keyboard. The HTC Vision will supposedly be a version of the HTC Droid Incredible with a physical keyboard.
The company makes a number of advanced models running Google's operating system, and it also makes a number of models with sliding keyboards, but so far it has yet to bring those two together. According to unconfirmed information, this will soon change.
HTC VisionNot many of the specifications for the HTC Vision have leaked out so far -- all that's known is that it will include a WVGA display and a physical keyboard. Still, these clues are enough to suggest a great deal about this model.
For example, every WVGA model that HTC has released this year has had a 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen. And all this company's recent smartphones with this display resolution have sported a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's therefore likely the Vision will include these features, too.
The leaked specifications indicate that the device will be based on the Android OS, but did not say which version. Most current models are running Android OS 2.1, but version 2.2 debuted this week.
The information on the HTC Vision leaking out of its creator did not say anything about when it will be released, or in what geographical regions it will be available in.

25 July 2010

HTC Legend Review

The HTC Legend serves as the successor to the Hero (that's the one with the "chin"), a device that was quite popular for HTC. The characteristic chin was a generally revered design element because it was unique and functional in its ability to give the Hero a more phone-like feel. Whenever HTC has a hit, they create a successor. The second iteration of the Hero, dubbed the Legend, is an Android 2.1 phone that is interestingly cut from a solid block of aluminmum. This material choice means that the device is super sturdy (and yet not heavy) because it's made from one piece and thus has no front or back. In this review of the HTC Legend we'll cover hardware, software, performance, and more.


The unboxing experience of the Legend is identical to all recent HTC devices like the Nexus One and HD2. Inside the box we see the usual stuff...headphones, a sync cable, wall charger, and a microSD card that is 2GB. Lacking is a case


The Legend isn't a large device and it fits nicely in-hand. The screen is just 3.2" and has the same resolution as the iPhone, so HVGA or 480 down and 320 across. The Legend has an AMOLED screen, meaning that blacks are truly black, and colors really pop. It also supports multitouch, so that you can pinch to zoom in various places.

Let's talk specs. The Legend is running with a 600MHz Qualcomm CPU with 384MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM. These specs aren't as impressive as you'll find on the HTC Desire or Nexus One, and to be honest, it shows. As we'll discover later, performance on the Legend isn't fantastic at times. Continuing on, the Legend has WiFi, Bluetooth, aGPS, and an FM radio. The camera on the rear is 5.0MP and has autofocus with a flash. It's a quadband GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900) with dualband UMTS (900/2100), meaning you won't get 3G in the US. Powering everything is a good-sized 1300mAh battery. For audio, the Legend has a 3.5mm headphone jack, and for charging and syncing, it uses the standard microUSB. For full specs, check out PDAdb.net.

While the AMOLED screen is terrific indoors, taking the device outside on a bright day changes the story. Couple the glare from the shiny screen with the poor outdoor visibility typical of an AMOLED display, and you've got a nearly unviewable screen if you're in bright sunlight. That's a bummer.

Zooming into the buttons, we find that HTC went with a more minimal button layout on the Legend than found on the Hero. Gone are call start and end keys. Are they missed? I have to say that yes, these keys are missed. In order to make a phone call, you must always go back to the home screen, which is an extra step that wasn't there before.

Also new is the optical D-Pad, which was previously mechanical on the Hero. I found the sensitivity of the optical D-Pad to be fantastic. And, thanks to the chin tilting the D-Pad towards the user, it's very comfortable to use, especially with one hand. Speaking of the chin, it makes the Legend very comfortable to hold against your face while using it as a phone.

The Legend is a thin device at just 11.5mm in depth, which is about 1mm thinner than the Hero. When you turn it on the side like above, you get to see a nice chisseled look, indicative that the phone was sculpted out of metal, rather than cast with plastic.

Because the Legend is made from one piece of aluminium, there is no backing. In order to access the battery, SIM card, and microSD card, you must pull off a piece of plastic at the bottom of the device.

Also back here we can see the 5.0MP camera with LED flash, plus an interesting dotted pattern used as the speaker grill for the speakerphone.

Again, thanks to the AMOLED screen, videos and photos (plus anything graphical for that matter) appear beautifully. As you'll see in a video below, the Legend supports Flash in the browser, so websites appear in their full glory.


New to the HTC Legend (and the upcoming Desire) is an updated version of HTC Sense. It allows for more widgets, improved performance, deeper integration with the operating system, plus a fantastic multi-touch gesture for the home page that lets you zoom out to see your seven home screens. On the Hero (which happened to be the first device with Android Sense), if you wanted to get from homescreen one to homescreen seven, you'd get a finger cramp having to swipe so many times. This new version of Sense completely fixes this issue! 

In this video, we take a look at the browser performance on the Legend. While not as smooth as the HD2 and iPhone 3GS, the Legend has a capable web browser. 


The camera on the Legend is quite good. You can see some uncompressed sample photos here (indoor close up, no flash), here (indoor low light with flash), and here (outdoor bright light). Also, the Legend shoots in VGA video. You can see a sample in 3GP format here. 


Overall, the Legend is a snappy device, but I did have problems. At least five times while testing the device (in the duration of a week) I would have to pull the battery out of the phone to do a reset. This was often caused by using one of the more intricate Sense widgets. Another problem I had at least a few times was the phone not recognizing the presence of a SIM card. Again, I'd have to soft reset the phone to get things back to normal. I think that these issues are software-related and could probably be fixed with a simplesoftware update. With all of that said, the gaming performance of the Legend was quite good. See a sample of a high FPS racing game here. 


I usually don't write about call quality because solid call quality is an expecation in 2010, but in the case of the Legend, call quality was far above average. Perhaps the "feels-like-a-phone" form factor combined with good sound processing allowed for this. Also great was speakerphone volume. I could raise the volume to 100% without having the sound break up. Reception was fine. 


The Legend ranks very well for battery life. With heavy use, I could get through about a day and a quarter. With moderate/average use, the Legend can go about two days before needing to be recharged. I credit this to a big battery, the AMOLED screen (which doesn't need a strong backlight), and the lower-clocking Qualcomm CPU. 


At this time, the Legend is being sold overseas, but can be imported like I did and used in the US with EDGE data. The lowest price we could find was at Clove Technology. They are selling it for £315 or about $480 unlocked. No word on a US release. 


+ Solid construction 
+ AMOLED screen is beautiful (indoors) 
+ Improved Sense UI is fantastic 
+ Great battery life 
+ Outstanding call quality 


- Unstable/buggy at times 
- Poor outdoor screen visibility 
- No case included 
- No US 3G version 


HTC has learned a lot since the Hero. For the Legend they've dramatically improved the speed and functionality of their Sense interface and have taken design to a whole new level with a well-crafted aluminum chassis that is as sturdy as it is beautiful. My major gripe with the Legend is it's instability when pushed to the limit, though I'm confident that a software update from HTC could fix these performance issues. I give the Legend a 4/5.

23 July 2010

AT&T HTC Aria Review

A tiny Android smartphone with surprising power

HTC Aria on AT&T
The HTC Aria. The tiny phone with big potential is the second Android device on AT&T, and arguably the first worth really considering on the U.S. carrier. (Sorry, Moto Backflip.) It has the slick HTC Sense on top of Android 2.1. And while this guy is small, it is mighty.
You've watched our hands-on and unboxing. You've seen our benchmark results. Now it's time to review the Aria. After the break, people. After the break.

The hardware

No doubt about it, the HTC Aria is small. It's just about the smaller Android phone we've used. It's roughly the same size as the HTC Legend (read our review), though a tad shorter and without the chin. The phone itself measures in at 4.1 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide and 0.46 inches thick. Suffice it to say where phones like the Evo 4GMotorola Droid X and Samsung Galaxy S push the limits of traditional phone size, the Aria returns to a kinder, more pocketable place.
HTC Aria and a deck of cardsHTC Aria and a deck of cards
On the front of the phone you'll find the 3.2-inch capacitive TFT LCD touchscreen. (Remember the days when that size would have been big?) You've also got the four traditional Android buttons -- home, menu, back and search -- and the same optical trackpad and button as on the Verizon Droid Incredible.
HTC Aria on AT&T
The volume rocker is on the left bezel, the power button and 3.5mm headset jack are up top, and the microUSB port, microphone hole and lanyard loop are on the bottom. Pretty standard stuff.
HTC AriaHTC Aria
The rear of the phone is made up entirely of the battery cover, which is coated in the soft-touch paint we've come to love. The 5-megapixel camera is tucked away in here, and four tri-wing screws are exposed -- a nice piece of design that gives a bit of an industrial feel to an otherwise small and cute phone. Note that there is no flash for the camera, with the space instead used for the speaker.
HTC Aria battery cover
Open the battery cover (pro tip: hold the cover and then press in on the speakerphone grill) and you're nearly blinded by the Ferrari-yellow paint scheme, which includes the battery. The bottom half of the inside is topped by clear yellow plastic, which let's you see into the cuts a bit.  Fun fact: There are two metal contacts on the bottom left that are used to turn the back cover of the phone into an antenna.
HTC AriaHTC Aria
By now, those of you familiar with Windows Mobile should be screaming "This is the HD Minithat you guys saw at Mobile World Congress!" And you're right. It is. Save for the buttons on the front and radio frequencies, the specs are identical, inside and out, all the way down to the yellow paint.

What's under the hood

The bottom line -- for basic tasks, the Aria flies. Tooling around the operating system and Sense UI -- scrolling through the application launcher, e-mails, etc. -- is so fast, you'll think it has one of those newfangled 1GHz Snapdragon processors all the kids are raving about. But the Aria's processor is a "mere" 600MHz. It's just another example of how megahertz aren't everything. Helping things along are 512MB of ROM and 384MB of RAM (both before the OS is counted).
The Aria sports a 1200mAh battery. The good news is that because it's not powering a huge screen, it should last you a little longer than, say, the battery on the Evo 4G. The bad news is that something is still chewing through the battery faster than we'd like. You likely won't be playing games all day on the smaller screen, so you'll probably get through a full day. Best tip we can give you is to decide what services you want updated -- e-mail, Facebook, etc. -- and then shut off everything else.

The software

The Aria runs Android 2.1 with HTC Sense on top of it. It's the fourth Sense UI phone that we've reviewed this year, and there are no real differences between Sense on the Aria and Sense on the HTC LegendDroid Incredible or Evo 4G. For more on Sense, read any of those reviews, or read our Sense UI preview. You can NOT turn off the Sense launcher like you can on the Evo 4G.
Let's move on to the elephant in the room. A lot has been made about AT&T locking down its other Android phone -- the Motorola Backflip -- so that it can only download and install applications from the Android Market. Same goes with the HTC Aria. For a good number of people, that's not going to be a big deal, and you're never going to want to sideload an app. But here's where it hits home: You know that Swype keyboard that's all the rage these days? Forget about it on the Aria. Only way you can sideload apps is to install them through the SDK. If you know how to do that, chances are you'll be just fine. For everybody else, you're stuck in the Market.
And that's not a totally bad thing. You still have access to tens of thousands of apps. It's just an annoyance, and an unnecessary one. No other carrier blocks apps from outside the Market, and it's another back eye for AT&T. It's not a big enough deal for us to tell you not to buy the Aria, but it's something you need to be aware of.
As is usually the case, AT&T has loaded up the Aria with its own apps that may or may not ever use. They include:

  • AT&T FamilyMap: "Conveniently locate a family member's wireless phone on a map from your mobile phone or PC."
  • AT&T Hot Spots: Find AT&T Wifi hotspots.
  • AT&T Maps: An alternative to Google Maps, powered by Telenav.
  • AT&T Navigation: Turn-by-turn navigation and directions, powered by Telenav.
  • AT&T Radio: Internet radio powered by mSpot.
  • Mobile video (based off the old Cingular Video).
Other pre-loaded apps worth mentioning include:

  • FM Radio
  • Facebook
  • IM
  • Mobile Banking
  • MobiTV
  • Quickoffice
  • Where
  • YPmobile
One thing that's missing that you'll find other new (and larger) Android phones are live wallpapers. We'd expected them to be hacked on anytime now. But they're missing from the stock device.

The HTC Aria camera

The Aria is a competent little shooter, with a 5-megapixel camera strapped to its back. The autofocus is as snappy as usual on a smartphone. You'll do better in good light (naturally), and you're pretty much dead in the water in the dark, as the Aria does not have a flash.

AT&T HTC Aria camera testAT&T HTC Aria camera test
AT&T HTC Aria camera testAT&T HTC Aria camera test
AT&T HTC Aria camera test
Video also is on par for a smartphone camera. It shoots in VGA resolution (640x480), and colors are a bit washed out. The microphone is pretty hot, as you can hear in the example below.

Other items of note

  • Phone calls: Yep, the Aria's a phone, too. The speaker is plenty loud, and the phone works without hesitation.
  • GPS: Seamless. Connects without a hitch, and isn't locked down, meaning you can use any GPS-enabled app with it.
  • Bluetooth and Wifi: Nary a problem connecting, or keeping a connection.
  • Speakerphone: It's louder than the Nexus One, and not as loud as the Evo 4G, which seems to resonate through its giant body.
  • E-mail: POP3, IMAP, Exchange, gmail -- it's all available to you.
  • Keyboard: The Aria uses HTC's custom keyboard, which we like a lot. It's a little cramped on the smaller screen, though.


HTC Touch Pro 2, Nexus One, Aria, Evo 4G and Motorola droid
All in all, the Aria's a solid little phone, and it's probably the best Android device on AT&T, at least until the Samsung Captivate is released. But that's a high-end phone. For the money -- we're seeing the Aria sold for as little as, well, free on contract -- it's a decent beginner Android phone. The issue with only being able to load apps from the Android Market is pretty embarrassing, but it's not a knock against the phone itself. HTC has done its usual stellar job with the hardware, its Sense interface is as fast as we've ever seen it, and there's no reason this phone shouldn't get the Android 2.2 update.
Size may be an issue. If you have large hands, you're likely going to want to look elsewhere. For our money, we'd just buy this feller off-contract, as AT&T has it listed for $380. That way you're not tied into a two-year contract on a phone that's nice, but not exactly high-end. But if you're looking for a pocketable phone with all the bells and whistles Android has to offer, the Aria's a nice, economical bet.

21 July 2010

HTC EVO 4G for Sprint Review

Let’s clear the air right away: The Evo 4G isn’t the second coming. It’s not the iPhone slayer. It might not even be the best Android phone available to date. But it is a solid phone with amazing hardware running the consumer-friendly HTC Sense Android release. That’s a good thing.
  • 4.3-inch screen
  • HDMI out
  • Mobile WiFi hotspot mode
  • A kickstand
  • 3G/4G capable
  • Front and rear cameras
  • $199 on contract from Sprint with a data service plan
  • June 4th 2010 release date
  • Huge and beautiful screen
  • Very thin and fits well in a pocket
  • As fast and beautiful as a Ferrari
  • Horrible battery life
  • Terrible battery life
  • Really, really bad battery life
I don’t think I ever want to go back to a so-called normal cell phone now. The EVO 4G ruined me. The 4.3-inch display offers so much real estate it’s almost overwhelming — but in a good way. The screen is bright, crisp and wonderful. I never felt that it was too large or cumbersome; in fact, I felt it was perfect. It’s a great balance between a standard 3.5-inch cell phone and a small Internet tablet. Saying that the EVO 4G’s screen is too big is like saying, “No thanks, I would rather ride in the back of a cab than in your limo. I like feeling cramped and restricted.”
The bright screen counters sunlight well and it even has a great viewing angle. The touchscreen seems precise and responsive, although I’m sure some test will come out shortly showing that just how accurate, or not accurate, it really is. But simply put, the screen is great and there’s really nothing to complain about.
Form factor
The EVO 4G and it’s slightly-older WinMo cousin, the HTC HD2, are the first of a new breed of “superphones.” These larger-screen options forgo the traditional 3.5-inch screen for something a bit more luxurious. The bigger screen can result in a thicker and therefore less portable device. But that’s not the EVO 4G. Don’t think for a minute that this larger-screen phone is any less pocketable than the iPhone or Droid. In fact I’ll argue that because the EVO 4G’s rear cover is rounded like the iPhone’s, it fits better in a pocket than the squared-off Droid.
I carried around the phone for a good week and never once found it uncomfortable or too big. Sure, it feels slightly larger, but the phone is so damn thin that it’s not awkward in any way.
However, it took some getting used to when holding it up to my ear. That’s when it feels bigger. Because, well, it is although it really isn’t all that wider or longer than the Droid.
The EVO 4G feels good. It’s actually surprisingly light, but yet still feels solid. I like it a lot even thought it’s clearly a modern take on the iPhone with the convex rear panel, very clean lines, flush mounted screen and lack of buttons.
Up top is the lock button and down the right side is a set of toggle buttons. That’s it for physical buttons. The front-facing buttons are touch-sensitive and flush-mounted on the panel.
Around back is the 8MP camera and is actually one of my only gripes about the design. It sticks out a lot. The phone actually rests on the front lip of the metal housing when placed on its back. So much so that I’m actually concerned that the camera will get damaged or the metal casing will harm something else. It made a nasty sound when I slid the phone across a glass tablet top yesterday.
The kickstand is a nice touch, too. A few other early reviews talked about how it felt cheap and stated it will probably break. I don’t get that feeling. It feels solid to me. The kickstand itself is actually built into the phone itself rather than the back panel, as it looks to be in some pictures.
The back panel is held on with a bunch of little plastic clips built onto the rear panel itself. It feels a little cheap when you pry it off with your fingernail. There’s a real chance that one of the little plastic clips will break off if stressed enough, but the back panel is just a thin piece of plastic meaning replacements will probably be cheap. Oh, and the inside looks like a work of modern art. HTC knows how to make things classy.
The EVO 4G’s 8MP camera is one of the phone’s main selling points and while it does a fine job, it’s not going to replace your pocket shooter. The photos are a tad grainy, blurry and washed out — perfect for Twitpic or Facebook. The dual LED flash helps a bit and tends to fire even under good lighting conditions. Here’s some samples.
The camera actually does great job auto-focusing and firing right away. I don’t know if it’s iPhone-quick, but it’s definitely one of the quicker cell phone camera’s I’ve used, which is more important in my opinion than image quality on a mobile device.
The EVO 4G is rocking HTC’s Android build, Sense. Personally I love it and find it much more enjoyable than plain ol’ Android. It brings a polished finish to the open platform and truly makes it a consumer-friendly device. But that’s just me.
A lot of people prefer a stock Android build, and for good reason, as it will likely be a while before the EVO 4G gets an official version of the latest Android release. It has to come right from HTC and the company has been slow releasing updates for its other handsets. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it yourself, though. A video showed up just yesterday showing an EVO 4G running the Android 2.2, although it kills Sense in the process, resulting in a stock Android look.
You must give a Sense-enabled phone a go before you write off Android entirely. Personally I found a stock Android build, like in the Droid, too much work. You have to download a bunch of different widgets and apps just to give the phone a friendly feel. There is no way I would give my wife a Droid. Sense is different. It’s a beautiful alternative with a lot of different customizable options built in. You really don’t have to download any apps (besides Advanced Task Killer) to complete this phone — or any other HTC Android phone like the Incredible or Eris.
Some of these apps make the EVO 4G stand out. The phone ships with a dead-simple WiFi hotspot creator. Just run the app and it quickly creates a WiFi hotspot that can serve up the internet to 8 other devices. It’s too bad that Sprint is charging $30 a month for this feature, although it does come with unlimited data (or so they say).  Don’t want to tether wirelessly? The phone can also share its Internet connection via USB. The video sharing app, Qik, is also pre-loaded on the phone. It’s a great way to utilize the front-facing camera.
A few 3rd party apps really shine on the large screen, too. Of course games like Robo Defense and Radiant do, but Dolphin Browser HD is a must-have app for the EVO 4G. It really should be the stock browser for the new crop of large screen devices. I must say that it’s a tad slower than the standard Android browser, but it renders sites so beautifully on the large screen that’s a great trade-off. It even offers Chrome-like tabs, which are a great function and argument for the larger screen.
The phone’s 1GHz Snapdragon CPU really makes Android fly, too. The only time there is any lag or hesitation in the device is when the phone is installing an app. But otherwise, the EVO is snappy and responsive without any lag under normal circumstances.
Simply put, the battery sucks. It’s a deal breaker. I’m really sorry to say that, too. In fact it hurts me because I wanted this phone so bad, but the battery life is horrible. The phone will lose a third of its battery sitting overnight with the GPS, WiFi, and 4G turned off. Even with Advanced Task Killer set to aggressive and auto killing apps every hour, the most I can get out of the phone is about ten hours.
Take yesterday: I pulled it off the charger at 9 am, checked my mail and ESPN a couple of times during church, used the GPS navigation for 13 miles, and then checked my mail a few times throughout the afternoon while I was at a family event. The phone died promptly at 6 pm. It’s that bad.
I’ve tried a few different things like using a static background rather than a live background, turning off widget animation, disabling WiFi/4G/GPS, and setting Advanced Task Killer to aggressive. Nothing makes a significant difference. The phone just sucks the battery dry.
So here’s the problem. Power users are the ones that can fully take advantage of the large screen, but the more they use their phone, the faster it dies. The only way I can see to counter this is to plug in the phone whenever possible. When you sit down at your desk, plug it in. Drive to the store, plug it in. Go to bed, plug it in. You might want to invest in one of those instant charge battery packs, too.
The short battery life kills the EVO 4G’s appeal. Like I said, it’s a deal breaker for me. It’s changed my phone habits. I now think twice if I really need to use the phone, as I can’t guarantee that the battery will hold up throughout the day if I use it too much. I should be able to use my phone whenever I want without worrying about the outcome if I do. I keep telling myself that I still want this phone because of the awesome screen and the Froyo Android release will cause unicorns to dance on the phone and fix the battery problem. But it won’t.
It’s a  shame that EVO 4G has such a big deal breaker. I loved this phone. I wanted to marry it, take it to Hawaii and make lots of babies with it. But that’s not going to happen. Its really short battery life outweighs all the EVO 4G’s killer feature. It doesn’t matter how awesome it is to browse the Internet on a 4.3-inch screen or do front-facing video calls if the phone’s battery can’t make it through the day. Recommendation: Use caution.