Having established itself as a leading player in the Windows Mobile smartphone market, HTC is now trying to repeat the process with Google's Android. The latest Android device from HTC to come our way is the Legend, a smartphone that does a lot of things right.
HTC Legend: Android 2.1 and HTC's Sense interface in a 'unibody' aluminium case
The Legend has an attractive design. Much of the chassis is made from a single sheet of aluminium that forms the lower part of the front, and much of the edges and back of the casing. It's a very protective medium as well as looking rather appealing, while retaining a lightness that helps keep the handset's weight down to 126g.
The downside is that the aluminium is likely to scratch quite readily over time as the handset gets crunched up against keys and other shrapnel in a pocket or bag. You may want to purchase a protective case to guard against this. Take care with your choice, though: the Legend curves slightly at the bottom end, which may make it hard to fit in some cases.
This curvature is reminiscent of the HTC Hero, to which the Legend can be seen as the successor. The angle of curvature is not as acute in the Legend, though.
The Legend's unibody chassis design makes it impossible to fit a conventional backplate. Instead there's a black rubberised cover at the back of the bottom edge, which you remove to access the battery, SIM card and microSD card slot. Removing this cover powers the device down, which rules out hot-swapping microSD cards.
There are just two connectors and two buttons around the edges of the device. At the top is the on/off switch and a 3.5mm headset jack; the left edge has a volume rocker, while the bottom edge houses a microUSB connector.
On the front of the Legend, beneath the screen, are the four buttons usually associated with Android handsets: Home, Menu, Back and Search. The menu button brings up context-sensitive menus that vary depending on the application you're using.
The screen measures 3.2in. across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 320 by 480 pixels. It's neither particularly large nor particularly high resolution, but does make the Legend's overall size a fairly pocket-friendly 112mm by 56.3mm by 11.5mm. Only those with the smallest hands will struggle to reach across for one-handed use.
The screen uses AMOLED technology, which makes it extremely vibrant and sharp, and gives it superb viewing angles. It's a little tricky to view in direct bright sunlight, though. The screen is capacitive, and we found it responded very well to finger sweeps and taps.
The Legend ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable and a stereo headset.
The HTC Legend incorporates all the technology usually found in Android smartphones: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth (2.1), HSPA (7.2Mbps download, 2Mbps upload), GPS, motion sensor. It also supports Microsoft Exchange, including password protection and remote data wipe.
The Legend runs Android 2.1, with HTC's own Sense user interface on top. This makes the user experience somewhat different than on a vanilla Android implementation. To give one example, the Legend has seven main screens, just as its Hero predecessor did. On both devices you can sweep a finger across the display to move between these screens. You can also pinch inwards with two fingers and view thumbnails of all seven screens, tapping the one you wish to view. If you're navigating using one hand, you can achieve the same effect by pressing the Home button twice.
As with other Android devices, you can place shortcuts on any of the main screens. You tap and hold on a screen to call up the relevant menu, which provides four classes of shortcut: Folders (for example providing access to contacts, or to all items received by Bluetooth); Shortcuts (for example to web sites, people or settings controls); Programs; and Widgets (which put either information or control of applications onto the screen). There are widgets for weather, email and SMS, tweets, news feeds, photos and plenty more.
The HTC Legend is very social-media aware. HTC Peep, which we've seen before, is preinstalled catering for Twitter users, while an new application, FriendStream, brings together Facebook updates and tweets in one place. Google Maps and YouTube are preinstalled, and Flash is supported — we had no trouble streaming video content from the web. There's an FM radio as well as music playback, while a PDF viewer and the QuickOffice viewer help with email attachment handling in PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats.
The motion sensor allows you to silence incoming calls by turning the Legend face-down on a desk; it also lowers the ringer volume as you raise the phone towards your ear — which near-neighbours will appreciate if you use a loud and/or irritating ringtone.
At the back there's a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and autofocus. It lacks a macro mode and is relatively unsophisticated compared to some phone cameras we've seen, but captured images are good enough to share provided the ambient lighting conditions are favourable. The flash won't be much help in a dark room if your subject is more than a few feet away.
Performance & battery life
The capacitive AMOLED screen is extremely responsive, and we easily achieved 90 percent of our top text-entry speed with on-screen keyboards.
The Legend's processor runs at 600MHz. Although some high-end smartphones now use 1GHz CPUs, we didn't feel that the device was in any way sluggish in use.
However, one aspect of performance lets this handset down, and that's battery life. We're used to seeing smartphones that require recharging after a day of use, but anticipate that if you use Wi-Fi regularly you'll need to find a power source during an average day to keep the Legend topped up. For the record, the 1,300mAh battery here has a slightly lower capacity than the 1,350mAh battery in the HTC Hero. HTC claims battery life of up to 490 minutes (8.16h) of talk and 440 hours (18.3 days) on standby.
The HTC Legend is an impressive Android smartphone, if perhaps more in tune with social networkers than business users. It has plenty to offer the latter, notably Microsoft Exchange support, but the battery life is disappointing.