Telstra jumped the gun this week when it released the HTC Desire a full six days ahead of schedule - a feat that's virtually unprecedented in the fast-paced world of smartphones.
But we can understand the carrier's enthusiasm. As the first Android-powered device to be sold through Telstra, the Desire has more features than any other smartphone on the market, cementing HTC's reputation as a provider of high-quality, high-performance mobiles.
If you're in the market for a cutting edge smartphone, HTC certainly has an interesting range. Early adopters will naturally flock to the Desire as it offers the latest in absolutely everything, but for other types of users, it's worth considering other models in HTC's lineup.
Navigating through HTC's smartphone stable can be done in one of two ways: by operating system or by price. If you're a bit more tech-savvy than the average Joe, then the operating system may make a difference to your purchasing decision; otherwise, price is likely to be the main determining factor. Let's look at the range.
The HTC range: a choice of Windows Mobile vs Android
HTC uses two platforms for its smartphones: Windows Mobile and Android. The big picture view is that neither platform really offers more features than the other, and it's really more about how they go about things that makes them different. But there are a few distinguishing characteristics worth mentioning.
Windows Mobile is better-oriented towards business users as it offers out of the box support for Microsoft Exchange, Office documents, VPN access and syncing with Microsoft Outlook on a desktop PC.
Android, on the other hand, has a far superior app store, offers more personalisation options, and deeper integration with Google services.
Regardless of whether you go with Windows Mobile or Android, HTC has customised the interface for both systems with its 'HTC Sense' graphics, making its smartphones easier - and prettier - to use than devices running those operating systems from other vendors.
HTC Tattoo: the bargain handset
Sitting at the bargain end is the $399 HTC Tattoo, with a 2.8-inch 240 x 320 resistive display and version 1.6 of the Android operating system.
The big price discrepancy between the Tattoo and the rest of the HTC lineup makes this phone a no-brainer for those on a tight budget. The good news is that there isn't anything cheap or nasty about it.
The Tattoo's screen may be inferior in size and resolution to that of its more expensive counterparts, but it still offers all of the other creature comforts you would expect in a high-end smartphone like GPS, Wi-Fi, 7.2Mbps HSDPA and a 3.2-megapixel camera.
The Tattoo is also a lot smaller and lighter than the other HTC smartphones, and is the only one that lets you customise the casing with your own design (hence the model name) for an extra $29.90.
The older $799 Hero, which is available exclusively through Harvey Norman, is slightly more expensive than the Desire, but it's inferior in almost every way: a slower 528MHz processor, less RAM, a smaller 3.2-inch touchscreen with a lower 320 x 480-pixel resolution and the older Android 1.5 operating system.
The only area that it beats the Desire is in battery life - half an hour more talk time and more than double the standby time. In real world terms, this means the Hero will happily last a full day and a half of use, whereas the Desire will just make it to the end of the day (we'll confirm this once we've done our full review).
The HTC Desire
Shorter battery life notwithstanding, the extra features in the $779 Desire over the Hero - not least of which include Flash support in the browser, markedly improved performance, a best-in-class 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen, five-megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash and the latest Android 2.1 operating system - make the Hero a hard smartphone to recommend without some hefty cuts to its pricetag.
|Flash support in the browser, markedly improved performance, a best-in-class 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen...the list of HTC Desire features goes on
For business users, it's also worth noting that Android 2.1 has become a lot more enterprise-friendly, with business-centric features like an Office document viewer, Exchange security features, and support for simultaneous Exchange and POP email accounts being added to the mix.
The HTC Desire has the added perk of being available for free on a couple of Telstra's 24-month plans: the $60 consumer Phone Plan (which includes $50 worth of calls and SMS/MMS); and the $85 Ultimate plan (which includes 350 minutes worth of calls, 350 SMS, and an extra $65 worth of calls).
The $60 plan doesn't include any data, so unless you're going to be using the myriad online features over Wi-Fi only, you'll want to supplement it with a Telstra browsing pack. These start at $5 for 5MB, but we'd recommend you plump for the $10 browsing pack (at least), which includes 150MB of data.
The HTC HD2
At the other end of the spectrum is the $829 HTC HD2, with its mammoth 4.3-inch 480 x 800 capacitive touchscreen and Windows Mobile 6.5.
The HD2 is the only HTC smartphone released in the last six months that runs Windows Mobile. Despite having the largest touchscreen available on a smartphone, it's remarkably thin and isn't much wider than an Apple iPhone.
The HD2 also offers a few features that you won't find on HTC's Android phones, such as a Wi-Fi Router function that lets you use the phone's 3G Internet connection on a notebook over Wi-Fi, an advanced conference call feature that makes it easy to join up to five people to a call simultaneously, and access to Microsoft's MyPhone service, which lets you back up your phone data and multimedia to an online portal - as well as remotely wipe the HD2 if it's lost or stolen.
Like the Desire, the HD2 is available exclusively through Telstra, and comes with a bonus 16GB microSD card. You can get it for free on an $80 Phone Plan, which includes $70 worth of calls and SMS/MMS, and $10 worth of BigPond Mobile Services browsing - for browsing other sites and using email and other online services, you'll need to add on a Telstra browsing pack.
Neither the Desire or the HD2 are locked to Telstra, so if you're not happy with the plans offered, you could buy the phones outright and use them on another network. The only annoyances are the Telstra brandings on the back and an overload of links to all of the Telstra services like FOXTEL, WhereIS Maps and BigPond.
HTC lineup vs iPhone
Compared to our current A-List smartphone, the Apple iPhone 3GS, HTC's smartphones pose stiff competition - especially with the just-released Desire. We'll be delivering a final verdict once we've done our full review, but on an initial bang-for-buck comparison, the Desire has the advantage of a larger, brighter and higher-resolution touchscreen, a slick user interface with lots of customisation options by way of widgets and wallpapers, deeper social networking integration with Facebook and Twitter, and a 5MP camera, plus it can view Flash sites.
Even taking into account the fact that the iPhone comes with several gigabytes worth of internal storage and the Desire only has a 2GB microSD card, the cheaper pricetag of the latter means you could buy a 16GB microSD card separately and still end up with more money in your wallet than you would buying an iPhone.
Of course the Desire doesn't boast the same range of apps - with around 30,000 programs and games in the Android Market, it doesn't hold a candle to the iPhone's 150,000 in the App Store.
||Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional
|Screen size (inches)
|| 240 x 320
|| 480 x 800
|| 320 x 480
|| 480 x 800
|| 7 hours
|| 5.3 hours
|| 750 hours
|| 390 hours
||528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225
||1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon
||528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200A
||1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon