Two years in, the HTC desire is still a great phone

Usually, I write about newly announced gadgets. Things I’m contemplating spending money on, because they’re cutting edge and boast impressive specs. I can spend hours comparing different products trying to find the absolute best fit for my needs. But sometimes it can be equally interesting to look back on a previous purchase and see if it lived up to your expectations.

Almost two years ago (and on a two-year contract), I got an HTC Desire. The Desire is basically HTC’s own version of the Google Nexus One. They manufactured Google’s flagship “superphone”, and somewhere along the line decided to introduce a slightly modified version as the Desire.

The Desire has the same 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the same excellent 3.7 inch screen, and the same dimensions. It lacks the Nexus’s dual noise-cancelling microphones, but adds physical buttons. And it became available way before the Nexus One did here in Europe.

The Good

The most impressive thing about this phone has to be the build quality. Mine looks the same as it did when I got it. You’d need a microscope to find any evidence that it’s been used. I’m using a screen protector, but not a protective case, so I think that’s pretty impressive.

Another thing I like is that it’s still fast enough. Sure, newer phones tend to have dual, or even quad, core processors, but in everyday use, the Desire still holds up. Scrolling is smooth and apps launch quickly.

The final thing I love about the Desire is the screen size. Almost all new top-of-the-line Android phones have 4.3″ or 4.7″ screens. I prefer phones that are pocketable, and the Desire’s dimensions are just right.

The bad

Despite the overall build quality, I did manage to break the on/off button last year. I spend a lot of time tying kinds shoelaces, and must’ve kneeled with the Desire in my front pocket once too often. This was fixed under warranty, and I’ve had no issues since.

The camera on the Desire was impressive when the phone first appeared on the market, but it’s been overtaken left and right, most notably by the iPhone 4S. I also suspect that during the repair I wrote about earlier, the camera in my phone got swapped along with the motherboard. The new one seems worse. I rarely use it anymore, and if I opt to get a new phone, this will be one of the main reasons.

The ugly

The Achilles heel for both the Nexus One and the Desire is their internal phone memory. You can use SD cards, but the phone’s OS and some apps just need to be in the phone’s memory. And for this duo, that memory is tiny. The Desire has 576MB, a bit more than its Google equivalent, but the extra space is used up by HTC’s Sense skin and some extra apps. Mine has only a couple of megabytes left at any given time, which can be frustrating.

I’ve recently used this little hack to get a little extra breathing room, but the fact remains that you need to be picky about which apps to install. This takes away from the fun of owning an Android phone, but it’s a trade-off I may be willing to live with for now.


All in all, there’s not much left for me to desire (pun intended). Newer phones, like the Galaxy Nexus, have improved specs, but I feel no immediate need to upgrade. Considering how fast the smartphone market is moving, this is impressive to me. My wife’s iPhone 3GS of the same age feels “tired”, but the Desire’s still going strong. Google and HTC really created an excellent phone two years ago.

Roy | March 18, 2012 | English,Gadgets | Comments (18)
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  1. Not very often one looks back at old gadgets like this. Good review, it was an excellent phone. I have the Desire HD, and it also an excellent phone, expecially with Cyanogenmod.

    Comment by EmilBB — March 18, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  2. I have this phone for almost 2 years now. Yesterday the screen got broken after a little conflict with gravity. But other than that its still a great phone!

    Comment by Dennis van Schaik — April 5, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  3. I have this phone for almost 1 years now and tell nw it’s finee

    Comment by افلام اون لاين — April 9, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  4. I love your review! it’s actually awesome! I’ve always have this loyalty and love for old gadgets that had given me advantages in life, comfort ease and all sort. not to mention your phone is an all around and worth-it phone too that’s why you feel just right hanging on to it. hope it lives 2 more years! if ever your passing it down to someone else, please give it to someone who will benefit the most from that phone 8)

    Comment by Marc — April 11, 2012 @ 7:33 am

  5. Used the Desire for the past 18 months – solid performer, great development community. Once I had made it S-Off and increased the size of the apps partition, it became a lot more manageable. Aside from the internal memory, the camera was the only real weakness. However, I recently ran out of space for non-moveable apps once again, and upgraded to the HTC One X – holy moly – it’s like a new world. If you’re still using a Desire, I would very much recommend an upgrade to the One X.

    Comment by Otari — April 12, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  6. You don’t have much coverage of the htc one x, to my surprise? You should make a post about it. I like your blog and would like your insight. That, or just email me!

    Comment by htconeclub — April 17, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

    • That’s because I’m still waiting for HTC to send me one to review :).

      Comment by Roy — April 19, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  7. Great review. I drop mine about once a month (working on changing that 🙂 and it is still going strong, coming up on two years…

    Comment by Colin — April 28, 2012 @ 12:42 am

  8. I too am a long time user of this phone, when i signed into my contract i thought i was going to regret it but its been quite robust, it’s got a few knocks along the way but all i al I’m glad I chose this phone. I am due an upgrade now and was thinking of the Samsung Galaxy S3 – have you come across these in your testing?

    Comment by Nico — August 22, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    • No, surprisingly, not many companies send me free phones yet. I can still only review the devices I actually buy, and the S3 is a little out of my league right now :(. Looks very interesting though, as does the HTC One X.

      Comment by Roy — September 1, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

  9. Bought one off a friend, theyd used it for about a year, I traded in my Droid X2 for this beautiful, smaller phone. Hate the memory issues, love the phone, maybe going to upgrade to a OneV, similar specs but with ICS and a slightly better camera, shame Ill be losing my optical track pad and physical buttons though. I love sense, but wish it wasn’t so heavy.

    Comment by Elijah Rourke — August 25, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  10. I had my HTC desire for 2 years, upgraded my contract and went with the HTC One X brilliant phones but as you said screen size is way too big. If the HTC one X was the same size as my desire and they still kept the interchangable batteries i would be a very happy chappy.

    To cut a long story short i was short for cash i actually managed to sell my htc one x and get a desire in the same deal, 2 words i’m Happy.

    Comment by Richard Metcalfe — September 22, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

  11. Thanks for giving props to the Desire. I also have a Desire just over 2 years on a 3 yr contract. As well, I own an iPhone 4s, to compare. I still love the Desire. I even modded it to look and work, if not feel, very much like my 4s! This through the combination of Espier launcher, a v. nice iPhone theme for MIUI, a v. nice iPhone keyboard clone that works as well as the real thing, a custom splash screen I made (of the iTunes connection logo you see when charging the 4s)… there’s even the Apple logo bootscreen on boot, an exact iPhone lockscreen with sms/call notifications, and 4s wallpaper.

    Now as for the memory on the Desire…. yeah, that WAS its main bugaboo. But only if you don’t know how to fix it. I have done so, and I have installed a ton of applications (I have a regular 8gb no class SD card), and I presently have 84mb internal free (starting from about 288mb internal!). How? Using a combination of : MIUI XJ A2SD, CM7r2 custom hboot, Revolution S-OFF, and I also have the Manu kernel (& SetCPU) for better battery life. All that I mentioned here is free! What I can do with this phone is nothing short of amazing. e.g. When I am at home, I don’t bother to use its internal keyboard to type text — I use my computer keyboard just as though it were one of the phone’s! Try doing that on an iPhone, without buying additional hardware….

    Comment by Phil Eglinton — November 20, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  12. I had the Desire HD a for a year but managed to get it swapped (At no extra cost) because of a billing error, for a Sensation. Much happier with the Sensation, battery seems to last much longer now.

    Comment by Tim Heron — December 9, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

  13. Agreed, still a great phone after 2 years, only thing I have added is to improve the battery life.

    Comment by Tim M — December 11, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

    • Mine lasted a day with the stock ROM, and a day and a half with Oxygen. Even after two years of heavy use. Not bad compared to some of its direct competitors.

      Comment by Roy — December 14, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

  14. Hi Roy, I agree this phone is great. I’ve had mine for a while and have upgraded to the iPhone 5 recently. The build quality on the HTC is great, only issues I had were software based due to too much tinkering. I do look after my things though!

    Comment by Arz — December 23, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  15. I have an HD which is now 2 years old. I am one of those idiots that uses it as ‘phone. It still looks like new and I have it now on SIM only for £10 pm and whilst it probably isn’t the most up to date around it suits me fine and has only let me down through faults of provider. I just bought a Desire for my son (lost his tobogganing-fool) for £45 so who needs new phones anyway?

    Comment by Clive Halsey — January 21, 2013 @ 8:36 pm