Digital Life: The Androids are coming to take over
Phones founded on Google's Android software hit the big time in 2010. Like the school geek who suddenly finds himself popular with the girls, Android shifted from nerds' plaything to worthy mass-market rival for the ubiquitous iPhone.
It doesn't hurt that there are now half a dozen manufacturers producing Android mobiles, competing to make a wide range from highly affordable to ultra-cool.
But as the one that kicked it all off with the Google G1 in 2008, Taiwanese sleeper giant HTC has a pedigree that can't be ignored. From last year's Hero to this year's Desire, HTC created a deserved string of hits.
As 2010 comes to a close, the Taiwanese have returned with a pair of Androids, each targeted at a particular niche in the mobile market.
The Desire HD reuses the body previously seen in two HTC phones aimed at the Windows crowd, sporting a giant 4.3-inch screen while retaining a remarkably waif-like girth. But it's the first time we've seen such a humungous display on an Android moby in this country.
Paradoxically, many people will simply find the screen a little too big because it reduces the phone's pocketability and handling. But undoubtedly it will find fans among those who love web browsing and watching video on their phone.
The Desire Z lacks the immediate glamour of its HD cousin -- the schoolyard taunt would be "who ate all the pies?" But its moderately thickset build can be attributed to its fold-out QWERTY keyboard.
Despite the slightly flimsy hinge, this roomy keyboard will delight heavy users of texting and email.
But of as much interest as the hardware is, the big improvements in these two Desires lie in the software. The phones are among the first to receive the latest Android update, which adds a boatload of polish to what is already a slick system.
In addition to faster speeds, you can now enjoy Flash video (such as RTE Player) and games right on your mobile. Sadly, that means all of the web's ads are also able to crowd onto your screen.
HTC has shown a flair for customising Android and both the Desires benefit for the new HTC Sense interface.
It enables clever stuff such as the ability to find a lost phone via GPS and to manage missed calls and messages -- all via the HTC website.
The HTC Desire HD costs €250 on the cheapest Meteor contract of €25 a month. The Desire Z costs €220 on the same contract.