Hands-on with the HTC Desire from U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular was successful in securing the excellent HTC Desire Android device for the US market. The form factor is great and the device should do very well at U.S. Cellular.

I live in a rather heavily occupied region of Western Washington where all four of the major US wireless carriers typically have decent coverage. Thus, it is rare that I get the chance to think much about and experience those services provided by some of the larger regional carriers where you can see some fantastic plan offerings and decent hardware. We usually see more compelling plans and additional bonus offers, but the phone hardware generally lags behind what we see on the four major carriers. Lately though, the hardware available from these regional carriers is getting better and better and today we actually see the release of an HTC Android device that has not appeared on any of the four major carriers in the US. The HTC Desire is available in Europe and other areas of the world in GSM form so I actually was a bit surprised to see a CDMA variant of the device launch on a regional carrier here in the US. What's funny is that the HTC Desire's ROM is one of those I have loaded on my Google Nexus One so it was great to finally get some hands-on time with an actual HTC Desire device. Check out my image gallery with a few photos of the HTC Desire and Google Nexus One, my video below walking through a few aspects of the device, and my thoughts after using the HTC Desire for several days.


Image Gallery: Check out some photos of the HTC Desire on U.S. Cellular.
Image Gallery: HTC Desire in hand
Image Gallery: Branding on the HTC Desire

Who is U.S. Cellular?

U.S. Cellular was founded in 1983 and currently has a reported 6.2 million customers throughout states in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, East, and Northeast. Their wireless technology is based on CDMA and EVDO so they support roaming on other carriers and my research shows they have agreements with Verizon. You need to actually live in a service activation area to sign up for U.S. Cellular and then I believe you can roam after that, but there may be additional costs. There are several rural areas of Washington State that are covered by U.S. Cellular, but for most of my evaluation period I was roaming.

If you are looking for something different than one of the four typical large US carriers, then I recommend you check out the U.S. Cellular Why Choose U.S. Cellular? page that lists several of the benefits of this carrier. These include free incoming calls, texts, and pictures, free battery swap for dead batteries, and free overage protection so you don't have to worry about getting hit with outlandish bills in the future.

In the box and first impressions

The HTC Desire comes in a fairly typical solidly built white cardboard box that we have seen from HTC before, similar to the Google Nexus One, with the Desire shown in full color on the front and stats on the back. Inside the box you will find the Desire, battery, 8GB microSD card, wired stereo headset, USB cable, and USB A/C adapter along with a Quick Start Guide and some other pamphlets.

The HTC Desire feels fantastic in your hand and reminds me a lot of the Google Nexus One. It is not too wide, is rock solid, has great hardware buttons, and a beautiful display. If you are a U.S. Cellular customer then I think there is no question this is a device you need to go check out now.

Specifications

Specifications for the HTC Desire include the following:
  • Android 2.1 with HTC Sense user interface
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor
  • CDMA 2000 1xRTT/EVDO 800/1900 MHz
  • 512MB ROM and 512MB RAM
  • 3.7 inch WVGA (800x480) capacitive LCD touch display
  • Integrated microSD card (8GB included)
  • 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • 1400 mAh battery
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Dimensions: 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.47 inches and 4.76 ounces

As you can see, these specifications are almost the same as the Google Nexus One with the dimensions almost the same as well. The LCD display is quite viewable outside and I personally like the physical hardware buttons much more than the capacitive touch ones on the Nexus One.

Walk around the hardware

The front of the HTC Desire is dominated by the 3.7 inch touchscreen LCD display and it looks great on the device. The device is narrow compared to some of the newer and larger Android devices and is quite pocketable. There are three hardware buttons on the bottom below the display, including one for Home, Menu, and a combined one for Back and Search. There is an optical trackball in the center between the buttons, but I am not really sold on its functionality and think I prefer the Nexus One physical trackball.

There is nothing on the right side while there is a large volume button on the left side. A microUSB port and microphone are found on the bottom while the power button and 3.5mm headset jack are located on the top. A 5 megapixel camera and light are placed on the upper center of the back.

The HTC Desire is mostly covered in soft touch material and I cannot get over how great the device feels in your hand.

Walk through the software and services

The HTC Desire is preloaded with the HTC experience that goes much deeper than just the user interface elements. You will find utilities, widgets, and applications from HTC on the Desire. The Desire comes with Android 2.1 out of the box and it is possible an update to 2.2 may come in the future, but no official word has been provided yet.

In addition to all the great Android features such as Google Maps Navigation, social networking apps, Quickoffice viewer, and more you will find a few U.S. Cellular apps and services loaded up on the Desire. Unlike some other carriers, they do not load up a ton of junk and include My Contacts Backup, City ID, Tone Room Deluxe, and Your Navigation Deluxe. Tone Room Deluxe is their ringtone web service. Your Navigator Deluxe is a GPS navigation solution provided by TeleNav. This is the same as Sprint Navigation and AT&T Navigator and like Sprint's deal it is completely FREE on the HTC Desire on U.S. Cellular. In my experiences, the TeleNav solution is more powerful and capable than the Google Maps Navigation service and since it is available for free you cannot go wrong using whatever works best for you.

Pricing and availability

The HTC Desire is available now from U.S. Cellular for $199.95 after $70 mail-in rebate and 2-year committment. Their Android data plans are $30 for data and $55 for data and tethering (5GB limit), with a voice plan. Voice plans start as low as $39.99 for 450 minutes up to $69.99 for unlimited national plan minutes. There are several plan options and their rates are very competitive.

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