A smartphone named Desire

After years of thinking about it, and even writing about it, I’ve finally bought myself a smartphone.

As I write, I’m coming to the end of my third week with my new HTC Desire S. And it hasn’t disappointed.

Carrying it around has proved less arduous than I imagined – although it weighs more than my clunky old Nokia 1100, it’s thinner and flatter, so it fits nicely in my shirt pocket. It gets quite warm when under heavy use (e.g. acting as a WiFi hotspot), but not unpleasantly so.

They’ve packed quite a lot into such a small case – in no particular order, we have FM radio, a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash which works quite well for basic snaps, a second front-facing camera for video calling (makes me look awful, but friends insist it’s accurate), GPS, a half-decent speaker, a headphone jack, a nice big touchscreen, and I’m told it also has a phone.

Typing on the on-screen keyboard has proven easier than I anticipated – even with my fat fingers, I can peck out a short e-mail with reasonable ease. The predictive/corrective text is actually surprisingly helpful here.

The built-in e-mail client is OK, if a little basic. It wouldn’t send outgoing mail via my Exim 4 server over TLS (a TLS packet with unexpected length was received), but I suspect that’s Debian’s fault for insisting that GNUTLS actually, er, works. I ditched the default client in favour of K9-Mail, which boasts PGP integration and is much more customizable. Apart from a few niggles with the UI, it does the job very well.

The browser works much as one would expect – even sites without a mobile option are surprisingly usable – the screen is a decent resolution for its size, and the usual gestures for zoom work well.

The music player worked straight out of the box when I copied some MP3s over, and the supplied headphones aren’t too shabby.

The ability to read bar codes and search online for the cheapest available version of the barcoded thing has proved endlessly amusing.

Irssi Connectbot deserves special mention for making IRC on the go dead easy.

One of the main reasons for opting for an Android phone were the tethering capabilities – with a couple of well-chosen taps, the phone can share its 3G internet connection by turning itself into a WiFi hotspot. This is one of the operations that makes it a bit warm, but it’s very handy if you’ve got a bigger computer with you, but no internet.

Battery life isn’t too bad given the capabilities of the device – it lasts a heavy day’s usage, and charges over USB from almost anything. They also throw in a standard wall-socket adapter too.

Android claims some IPv6 support, which I’ll report back on when my home IPv6 is raised from the dead. I’ve also got a few ideas for app development, so watch this space!