The HTC Desire Froyo Android 2.2 update has slowly but surely been trickling out nationwide. The HTC Desire wowed us when we first got hold of the top end Android 2.1 smartphone back in the Spring, but now HTC’s begun pushing out its big update for it, incorporating the same Sense UI. Froyo was a revelation on the identically specced Google Nexus One, so does it hold up well here? And should you be hammering the update button to get your upgrade? Read on and find out in our HTC Desire Froyo review.
While Google has hyped up Android 2.2. to be a huge overhaul, the good news is that most of the changes are under the surface, so updating for the first time, you might even struggle to spot what’s changed. And actually, that continues as you use the updated HTC Desire more and more – the tweaks are subtle, but by and large superb because of this. HTC Sense is still HTC Sense, so the keyboard remains only surpassed by the iPhone’s, the Facebook integration is charming, and you can pinch to zoom to your heart’s content.
Under the bonnet, a new compiler means Froyo is technically a lot faster than Android 2.1, though only an incremental update. You probably won’t notice any speed increases through most of the OS with the HTC Desire Android 2.2. update, but you should see the browser loading up pages a tad quicker as we did, which is welcome.
You also won’t notice some of the kooks HTC has ironed out with the HTC Desire Froyo update, but they are there: the screen can now tilt to the right, and you can see comments and Likes on Facebook updates in FriendStream. There’s a Flashlight app, and the App Sharing feature of the HTC Wildfire is here, so you don’t have to dig out QR codes to recommend programs from the Android Market to download.
If you’re security minded, digging into the settings of your HTC Desire Froyo phone will let you add a pinlock instead of a shape to unlock your phone. This latter feature is highly recommended, but it’s a shame you still have to press OK after you press the fourth digit, unlike on an iOS device like the iPhone, but it’s a minor niggle.
One of the most visible changes is the addition of Flash support. We’re not talking halfway support like the HTC had before, we’re talking the full works, as though you were simply using a desktop browser instead of a HTC Desire Froyo phone. It really does work perfectly, and it’s a delight being able to log on to any site knowing you’ll be able to play the video (4oD for instance).
Flash videos play smoothly, in the browser or in full screen, without a hitch. And the beauty is that you’re never quite sure when you’re playing a Flash video or mobile friendly one which would have played before: the point is you needn’t concern yourself with such distinctions, and it makes Steve Jobs’ arguments against Flash on mobile look very weak indeed.
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Another noticeable addition is the Wi-Fi hotspot support built in. With the HTC Desire Froyo update installed, you should find it just at the bottom of the main menu, and it couldn’t be easier to use. You simply turn it on, set a password, and hop onto the 3G connection through your laptop, iPod touch or whatever Wi-Fi device you have to hand. It’s worth noting that we were testing this on an unlocked HTC Desire, and Android 2.2 allows for networks to control this feature, so if you bought through a network, it’s possible you might have to pay for this feature.
We’re disappointed to say however that we’re not seeing the promised improvements in battery life with the HTC Desire Froyo Android 2.2 update. With Eclair, the HTC Desire struggles to make it to the early evening without a top up, and sadly, we found that still to be the case. Still, that’s not stopped a lot of people snapping one up, and we don’t think this changes anything (Though it does give us some concern for the battery life of the upcoming HTC Desire HD).
You’ll also need to download a few extra bits and bobs to really unleash the full power of Android 2.2 on the HTC Desire. The option to install apps to SD card instead of the limited internal storage should become extremely useful in time, but does require developers to update their apps. More pressingly, you can now nab Chrome To Phone to automatically shoves your desktop browsing to the HTC Desire when you leave work or your laptop – it works similar to Mozilla’s Firefox syncing, and that’s no bad thing.
You can also try out a few new voice commands, like Call Contact, by updating Voice Search. In practice, that’s not really quicker than pulling up a name by regular means, especially with HTC Sense favourites available, but the Navigate To command works a treat: just say where you want to go and watch as your phone guides you there.
The only problem is, the HTC Desire Froyo update doesn’t change our biggest issue with the phone itself: screen aside, it’s ugly. We’ve never liked the colour scheme choice or boring plasticky curves, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve always preferred the smaller, sexier, aluminium HTC Legend. That’s still on course for an Android 2.2 update as well, so we can’t say that the HTC Desire Froyo update puts it above the Legend in the Android ranks – but if you’ve already got a HTC Desire and are waiting on the update to hit your network, know that you’re in for a treat.
The HTC Desire has made our Top 5 lists of essential smartphones, Android phones and HTC phones, which is why we’ve given it our Recommended rosette. Check out more Top 5s here and find out more about how they work with our Top 5 guarantee.
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