HTC HD2 (HTC Leo) impressions

4 May, 2010 § Leave a comment

HTC HD2 (HTC Leo) impressions

After three months with the iPhone 3GS (16GB), I decided that I did not want to be compelled to use iTunes; the rather dismal battery life was also starting to make me paranoid about not being able to have a mobile on hand in situations when one was most needed.  I considered just using my Sony P1i as my mainstay mobile again, since it has a sterling record, but with the recent slew of touchscreen phones and new operating platforms available, I was tempted to try something new.

Whilst Windows Mobile has been around for a long time, it was new to me coming from UIQ and the iPhone OS.  Mentally, I told myself to be prepared for it not to be as user-friendly out-of-the-box as the iPhone, but I was looking forward to customising it after witnessing all that was possible at xda-developers.

So I traded in the iPhone 3GS for a HTC HD2 and some cash.  Life with the HTC HD2 has been pretty rosy so far, though it didn’t quite have the oomph effect which I experienced when I held the P1i in my hands.

The aim of this post then is to share my experience with the HTC HD2 so far.  It does not contain a blow-by-blow comparison or review of all the out-of-the-box features.  What it is, is a snapshot of the things which I encounter on a day-to-day basis using the HTC HD2.

Note: The impressions in this post are based on a HTC HD2 which has been flashed with custom ROM.

Custom ROM specifications
OS 5.2.2
Manila version 2.5.2
ROM version kwbr topix 1.5.3 WWE

Hardware

The iPhone 3GS was made to be held in your hand, I had a problem keeping it in its protective case because it just felt so good to hold. There was no doubt that the built quality was anything but excellent.

Finishing wise the HTC HD2 is quite a different creature from the iPhone 3GS.  It has a matte black metal casing, thin glossy strip where the four tactile buttons sit at the bottom of the screen, and a back cover with a burnished finish. very classy.

My first struggle came in the form of trying to pry open the back cover to insert my SIM card. It wasn’t easy and I was alternating between fear of breaking the cover and fear of breaking a finger(nail). So, “yay” for replaceable battery, and “boo” for that obstinate back cover.

Battery Life

With push mail set at half-hourly intervals, phone calls, numerous text messages, light surfing of Facebook and internet browsing, eBook reading and music listening during the daily commute, the HTC HD2 can last about a day.  Heavier internet usage depletes the battery much faster, and the phone will need a charge by the late afternoon.

Screen

The screens of both the iPhone 3GS and HTC HD2 were a bit of a mixed bag for me. The little app icons on the iPhone 3GS look really crisp and neat on the iPhone’s screen but videos from YouTube or those transfered using iTunes somehow turned out grainy. In contrast, the icons on the HTC HD2 don’t look as crisp (which can be remedied by finding better quality icons and using an app like CSMI) but videos on that 4.3″ screen are g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.

I have to confess that the combination of the magnificently huge screen and slim profile in my hand makes me never covet another phone in that moment. Kudos to the designers at HTC for making a device with such a large screen feel so svelte.  It won’t fit into the pockets of tight jeans, but it does still fit into some pockets without creating bulge.

Windows Mobile (Modified!)

One thing you’ve got to give to Apple, the iPhone user interface is truly what one could call intuitive and its design is so refined that it really takes a whole load off the mind of people who are not into tweaks, don’t want to read a manual and just want to start having fun with their phone.

I’m no techie but I do enjoy doing simple tweaks and mods where courage permits. Fortuitously, what do I stumble on but the wonderful world of xda developers. It opened my eyes to limitless possibilities.

Though I’m quite comfortable with navigating the actual windows mobile, I really enjoyed the look and feel of the HTC HD2 achieved with CoOkie’s Hometab.  Configuration was done easily with CHTEditor.

CoOkie’s Hometab

There is a homescreen which I’ve set so that it displays an analogue clock (I adore analogue clocks), the next upcoming appointment and two rows of quicklinks.  Swiping down on the calendar will display all the upcoming appointments; swiping down on the quicklinks will reveal a whole page of quicklinks; swiping left or right on the quicklinks will reveal the quicklinks on the first two rows of the other quicklink pages whilst retaining the view of the appointment and clock on the homescreen.

with CoOkie's HomeTab

The lock screen is also customisable and will show an indicator when you have a new message or new email.  If you have an upcoming appointment, it will be displayed during lock screen mode.

Most Commonly Used Features / Applications

Push Mail

Setting up an exchange account to sync with my gmail and hotmail accounts was done without any hiccups.  There is no ability to sync tasks with gmail at the moment, but the calendar and mail functions were more important for me.  I set the push mail frequency to half-hourly intervals to conserve battery life.  Strangely, when I’m logged into gmail on my home computer, I have discovered that the HTC HD2 alerts me to new mail faster than the prompt from gmail itself, resulting in my having to manually refresh gmail on my desktop browser (!).

MobiPocket (eBook Reader)

One of my favourite activities to do with my mobile phone is to read eBooks and MobiPocket has been my eBook reader of choice.  I simply installed MobiPocket on the HTC HD2 and transfered my eBook library (which is also loaded on the P1i) onto the storage card.  Touching either side of the screen turns a page forward or a page back, you can add annotations like bookmarks or comments.  Font, font size, font colour, background colour and line spacing can all be customised.  There are loads of free books in MobiPocket friendly format, and it handles text files too.  The content syncs with the eBook library on my desktop using MobiPocket Reader Desktop so that books and annotations are updated.

Facebook

The Facebook application, which comes preinstalled or which can be downloaded for free from Marketplace, is not as aesthetically pleasing (or as sleek) as the iPhone Facebook app but all the key functions for interacting on Facebook are more or less there.  It is possible to have Facebook notifications automatically pulled but it will be battery draining.  I get Facebook updates manually and it refreshes very fast.

Windows Messenger

Comes preinstalled or can be downloaded for free from Marketplace.  Works just like the desktop version.  No complaints, but I miss Fring which allowed me to aggregate my contacts from both Windows Messenger and GTalk.  There’s Fring for the iPhone and Fring for the P1i, why not for Windows Mobile?

Virtual Keyboard

The virtual keyboard and I are not getting along very well.  Auto-rotation is not automated across all functions / applications.  This can be enabled for some features using the BSB Tweaks application, but it is quite disappointing that this was not made simpler for the end-user.  At the moment, I am not able to reply to text messages in landscape mode though I can do so for email.  Am also at war with the T9 dictionary which is giving me hives by suggesting all sorts of inane words as I type, and causing so much frustration that the first thing I do when in virtual keyboard mode is to disable T9.  Simply put, the keyboard is a pain and often leaves me missing the iPhone virtual keyboard and the half-QWERTY buttons of the P1i.

Camera

Specifications indicate 5 megapixels and onboard flash and I find the camera function, features and output pretty ordinary.  What I do miss about the iPhone 3GS, is the variety of photography-related apps which made taking pictures on the basic iPhone camera, well, fun.  I noticed that music playback is terminated abruptly if the camera function is activated, don’t understand why multi-tasking is selective, there is no such problem with the Sony P1i (which is considered ancient by techie standards).

Tethering

The HTC HD2 allows me to connect to the internet and acts as a modem with pretty good connection speeds I would say and loads Facebook flash games and YouTube videos at a reasonable speed.  Setting up tethering is simple: Settings > Other > USB to PC > Select “Internet Sharing”.

Web Browsing

Opera is my favourite browser on the HTC HD2.  It allows pinch / double-tap zooming and multiple tabs, loads quickly and web content is extremely readable on the large screen.  What I do miss is the customised rendering which certain web sites have for the iPhone which rendered content very nicely on Apple’s Safari browser, one example being the Soccernet website.  The Skyfire browser can apparently handle flash content but I have yet to try it out.

Coreplayer

I eschew the native video player on the HTC HD2 for Coreplayer.  It handles multiple formats and converted 3GP files playback smoothly using Coreplayer.  There is also an option to load multiple files (like creating an on-the-fly playlist) from an entire folder on the storage card.  Touching the video image during playback will rotate and maximise the screen in landscape mode.  The volume buttons on the side of the HTC HD2 can be used to control the volume output during video playback.

Music Player

The native music player on the HTC HD2 is straightforward.  It plays mp3 files which I’ve dragged and dropped onto the storage card.  There is a bit of a delay / gap between playback of certain tracks, but that might be due to the fact that it is trying to read off the storage card and not on-board flash memory.  Sound quality is pretty good using my Audio Technica CK7 and does not come across as being all squished up between the eyes; there is no discernible bloat in the bass and highs are not shrill.

Album art displays very nicely in both portrait and landscape mode; changing tracks is a simple matter of flipping the albums like you would a rollodex.  Nice touch if you already have a tidy album art library.  I love being able to create multiple playlists on-the-fly (my Cowon iAudio U3 only permitted a single on-the-go playlist at a time) and having the different shuffle and repeat functions available on the playback screen (my Cowon iAudio U3 required me to navigate through the main menu for the each of these functions).

But the main joy for me is drag-and-drop.  Drag-and-drop Apple!!!

Conclusion

All things considered, I wish the HTC HD2 had a better virtual keyboard and/or a full QWERTY keyboard.  Entering text or numbers is one of those things that you would inevitably do with a 3G mobile phone and the difference between having to rely on a touchscreen and having real tactile buttons is felt when you have to do this.  The on-going struggle with the virtual keyboard, and not having the screen and keyboard auto-rotate across all applications does mar the overall HTC HD2 experience for me, but browsing and other activities are a joy, and having the 3.5mm headphone jack really does make the HTC HD2 a viable music player for on-the-go casual listening.

Battery life though not good is acceptable considering how much power it needs for the huge screen and loads of functions running, and I can always spring for a back-up battery which was not possible with the iPhone unless I bought one of those exhorbitant power packs.

A simple micro-USB cable is all that is needed to move content between the HTC HD2 and my desktop.  No proprietary client like iTunes.

Think I’ll stick with the HTC HD2 for awhile.  But I ain’t getting rid of the P1i anytime soon.

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