Google Nexus One vs HTC Desire

Android Smartphones

If you’re looking for the best Android smartphone that money can buy, then chances are you were all dead set on the Google Nexus One but then there is the HTC Desire.

Similarities
Let’s get the easy bit out of the way first. Both the Nexus One and the HTC Desire have the same chassis and general insides. They’ve got crystal clear 3.7-inch WVGA AMOLED displays, 1GHz Snapdragon CPUs and 5-megapixel cameras with an LED flash to back them up. There are tiny discrepancies in the dimensions and the weight of the two devices – we’re talking down to 0.2mm – but to all intents and purposes each one weighs 135g or so with the 1400mHA battery included and both measure 119 x 60 x 11.9mm.

Again, the RAM in the HTC Desire is quoted at 576MB rather than the 512MB in the Nexus One but there’s a good chance that the last 64MB is just enough to have the Sense UI sitting on top without any noticeable performance difference and, even if it does go beyond that, then good luck noticing a difference between the two. Now to the differences.

User-interface
HTC has trumped Google in one important department – software. Just as with the Hero, the company has added the very popular Sense custom UI to the Android OS background. The interface offers more seamless integration of your contacts from all of your various lists and address books – be they Skype, Twitter, your phone book, Facebook – and knits them together for an apparently more intelligent experience. Some purists may prefer the cleaner experience of straight Android 2.1 Eclair – the main OS on which both of these devices operate – but speak to anyone with a Hero and they’ll sing you arias on Sense.

Noise cancelling
Curious this, but for one reason or another HTC has ditched the double microphone noise cancelling feature found on the Nexus One. So, if you do a lot of calling on the street or in a noisy environment, then you might rather plump for the Nexus One.

Voice text entry
It’s a great feature of of the Nexus One that Google has enabled users to be able to type into any field anywhere on the device by talking to it. It’s obviously particularly important in the States where Google Maps for Navigation is also enabled. Sadly, voice entry is absent on the Desire, so it’s finger work only.

FM Radio
So, it seems that both handsets have a built-in Broadcom BCM4329 Wi-Fi/FM chipset. Although neither seems fully activated, the HTC Desire does at least have FM radio functionality which is missing on the Nexus One – at least until Google decides to fix it with a software update which may or may not happen. The chip also gives capacity for both handsets to transmit FM and support 802.11n Wi Fi for better range of connection. As it stands though, neither has those features enabled

Branding & engraving
One of the cute little services that launched along with the Nexus One was the fact that you can get whatever you like engraved on the metal name plate on the back of the handset. Yes, it’s all about personalisation.

You may not have been able to think of anything particularly witty to put on there, but it’s rather nice to have the option and that’s something that’s withdrawn if you go for a Desire. No nameplate, no engraving. On the other hand, you’d also have to be happy with the Google Android branding on the back of the Nexus One, so be sure you’re okay with that too.

Mouse control
HTC has ditched the trackball cursor control found both in the Neux One and just about all the previous Android handsets made by the Taiwanese smartphone specialists. Whether the switch for an optical pad on the Desire is a good thing or a bad one is probably up to you to decide. The same change has been made by BlackBerry with the most recent version of the ever popular Bold.

Trackballs can sometimes collect bits of foreign matter which get rolled up inside the handset and start to cause annoyance and malfunction. At the same time, there are some really bad optical pads out there and, with such a small area to get your thumb on, you might rather you’d gone for the more tangible mechanical version on the Nexus One. Horses for courses on this one.

Buttons
As well as the optical pad, the four Android soft keys on the bezel of the the Nexus One have moved onto the chassis below on the HTC Desire and become hard, clickable keys instead. Doubtless one could debate the pros on cons of each but, at the end of the day, it’s a style choice rather than anything else.

Special Features
With the dual announcement of the upgrade to HTC Sense, there’s a few extra features on the Desire. First, the ringer volume on the phone automatically lowers once you’ve picked the handset up. Second, the ringer mutes altogether if you flip the phone over and face down and, third, there’s an automatic back up system which stores your bookmarks, MMS/SMS and passwords on your microSD card. What’s more, Sense brings extra widget windows and a rather fun looking “helicopter mode” which allows them to appear and disappear again at the pinch of the screen.

US Version
The Nexus One is going to be a little bit better to you if you live in the US. First, as mentioned earlier, you get access to Google Maps for Navigation. Second, you don’t have to pay any import duty. The real clincher if you live in America though, is that you simply won’t be able to get the HTC Desire over there – not as it stands, anyway. It has no support for US 3G bands.

Conclusions
It’s a close call because, at the end of the day, they’re both very good phones. If you already have a Nexus One, then there’s no need to lose any sleep over the Desire. Likewise, if you’re absolutely busting to buy yourself a top Android smartphone now, then go for a Nexus One.

Additionally, you can probably root the Google handset and add on Sense and the FM radio as well, which together probably make up much of the ground. On the other hand, if you can wait and just hold on a few months more, then the HTC Desire is definitely a contender for the top Smartphone slot.