I’ve been a user of an Android phone, HTC Desire, for sixteen months. I bought it with a contract and as a way to step into the smartphone world, first as a user and potentially later on as a developer. I love my HTC Desire, but HTC has proven to be a company that thinks about bells and whistles first and foremost, making me consider a change. I was originally thinking about waiting until sequel to Galaxy S2 is released next year, but now have decided to buy the phone Google developed in cooperation with Samsung, the Galaxy Nexus (available for pre-order at Amazon (UK)).
HTC Desire has been a great phone to use and earned many accolades. It proved me that Android is a really good smartphone operating system and a great alternative to Apple’s iPhone. I loved that HTC put design in forefront of their phones, creating a visually attractive user interfaces on top of Android operating system, which seemed to be lacking in visuals ever since its release. But today I am convinced that HTC has lost its way, becoming too focused on visuals and features that do not actually enhance the user experience on the phone. Their 3D-effects galore of their new main screen and audio related enhancements to the phone are more about the fancy list of features than enhancing the usability of the phone the way we use it today.
Now that the new version of Android operating system (4.0, also called the Ice Cream Sandwich) has been released, it has become more apparent than ever before. HTC was initially hesitant about when they plan to upgrade their phones and if it is even possible, due to how much HTC needs to do to make their Sense UI skin work with the new version. While they did change their initial stance about the updates later on, one must wonder if Sense UI is really worth it now that Android looks very good with its native user interface. And there are also signs that HTC wishes to develop its own operating system, which could be interpreted that they want more control which openness of Android does not provide.
But to return to my HTC experience, as a user of HTC Desire, I was disappointed with HTC’s lack of updates and the really long wait before updates arrived on my phone. In fact, the latest update for 2.3.3 Android did not even arrive on the phone through update channels and I had to reinstall the entire device to manually upgrade to 2.3.3. This type of update is not something an average user is easily able to do and it also voids warranty your phone might still have, thus many classic HTC Desire versions are still running a much older version of Android today.
Another issue that I had with HTC was that they had no foresight about the future of mobile handsets. Only a year later my phone was very outdated, being outperformed by dual-core phones and phones that had impressive amounts of internal memory. HTC Desire had very limited internal memory, which meant that I could only ever install around 20 new applications on the phone without internal memory running out. Some applications nowadays require 10MB of internal memory alone, such as Google+ Android App, which is just too much for an average HTC Desire user. The situation became worse with software updates and the only way out seemed to be to ‘root’ the device and install another version of Android without all the bells and whistles and this is again something an average user has a very hard time doing.
Another problem I had was that I also became interested in Android development, learning how to create new applications for the phone. But HTC’s phones are not very developer-friendly, as I lost days trying to figure out how to get proper access to my phone and make it work together with Android Software Developer Kit. HTC Desire was not compatible with Google’s released USB drivers for connecting the device with the computer and required custom drivers.
While newer HTC phones remedy some of those problems by giving twice as much internal memory, or in the case of HTC Desire HD, three times as much internal memory, it really is not enough, especially if software updates of the phone will start occupying that memory as time passes. They also seemed to be hesitant when it comes to upgrading their lineup of phones to the latest Android version, which is not only bad when compared to Apple’s iOS upgrades, but is also bad in comparison to other Android phone manufacturers, like Samsung. I simply do not believe HTC has the foresight to produce phones that will not feel horribly outdated just one year later, no matter how nice they look.
As an alternative I decided to look into Samsung line of phones, especially their S series. Galaxy S2 has been considered by many as 2011 smartphone of the year and with a new version of Android being released recently, there are news inbound that there will be a Galaxy S3 phone early next year. Now that Samsung has taken the market lead in mobile revenue, they have become a reliable phone manufacturer, even if their own TouchWiz custom UI for Android is less favored by users than HTC’s Sense UI.
With the release of new Android version, as has been the case with previous large releases such as Gingerbread last year, Google also released a new phone in cooperation with Samsung. The new device, named Galaxy Nexus, runs on native Android, so it does not have a custom UI skin built on top of the experience. With the enhancements Google has made, it does not look like it needs a custom user interface either, since it is very attractive to begin with, sporting a slick user interface and even a new system-wide font, together with other new features and updated applications. The fact that a well-established and successful phone-manufacturer, Samsung, is behind the hardware and Google brings native experience and updates to the phone before they arrive anywhere else, the choice became simple. I have decided to upgrade to Galaxy Nexus even before my contract runs out on my HTC Desire phone.
For those interested, Galaxy Nexus will be released in Europe on November 17 and can be preordered now.
The following article has been republished with the author’s permission, and all of the text and links remain the same from the original post published with some alterations for localisation and clarifications.