With the recent announcement from HTC at the 2010 WMC about their newest creation, the Desire, it has left many consumers wondering which phone would be better for them; the Nexus One or the Desire. Both phones are built by HTC, a company poised to be a big name in Android headsets for a long time, and both phones have very similar hardware. There are a few differences here that we’ll look into, both hardware and software, explain what those differences mean to you and hopefully provide a path forward for making sure you find the Droid that you’ve been looking for.
To start with, I will try and stay with concrete differences that are not based on opinion, but fact instead. Therefore, I won’t really comment on their looks, feel or coolness factor, other than providing some numbers and photos. Instead, let’s focus on specs and known details of the phones. Also, I can’t comment on performance and quality, as I have not had a chance to test either phone, so I’m going to assume a couple things: 1) The quality of each phone should be very similar, being from the same manufacturer and most likely sharing many of the internals. 2) The performance should also be similar since the share the same CPU, and same screen size/type and probably the exact same part number. The only real difference would be the radio hardware (the chips that send and receive your 3G signals are different) and the software. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get started.
Like I mentioned, the hardware of both phones is very similar. Both feature a 1Ghz Snapdragon Processor (Qualcomm QSD 8250), a 3.7″ AMOLED screen at 480×800 pixels. They both have 512MB of ROM, however, the Nexus One comes with 512MB of RAM while the Desire boosts that to 576MB. That additional RAM may have been included to help support the Sense UI 2.1 in the Desire, but we’ll get to that a little later. The sizes are also very similar: Nexus One is 119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm while the Desire is 119 x 60 x 11.9mm. I’d call that a tie, as I don’t really think I could tell the difference of 0.4mm. They both have a 1400mAh battery, but the reported usage/standby times are vastly different. According to the official specs pages, the Desire has much longer standby time, and shorter talk time than the Nexus One. Since battery numbers are usually way off, I’ll not comment much other than, see the numbers below in the table showing the differences. The Bluetooth specs are also slightly different with the Nexus One at version 2.0 and the Desire running version 2.1. Finally, the Desire is advertised with an FM radio, and while the Nexus One has hardware inside it that could possibly work, it doesn’t at this time, and may never. On the outside, besides the slight form change, the Desire has physical buttons and an optical tracker in place of the touch buttons and trackball found on the Nexus One. I am a fan of physical buttons because I enjoy the “click” that I feel upon pressing it and knowing I did what I wanted to do. However, some people enjoy the cleaner look of the touch buttons. I cannot comment on the optical tracker as I have never used it, but I have used the trackballs before and found they are easy to use and useful sometimes, but in general with a nice large 3.7″ screen, I’d hope to spend 99% of my time utilizing the touchscreen. I built a comparison table below that shows the hardware differences between the phones for a quick review.
|Talk Time (2G/3G)||600 min/420 min||400 min/390 min|
|Standby (2G/3G)||290 H/250 H||360 H/340 H|
|4 Command Keys||Touch||Physical|
|Scroller||Lighted Scrollball||Optical Tracker|
|3G Radio||WCDMA: 900/1700/2100 MHz||WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz|
The biggest obvious differences between the two phones upon picking them up is the user interface. The Nexus One comes with Google’s stock Android 2.1 OS. This is offered freely from Google and is completely open source, except the Google proprietary applications, such as Google Maps. For the most part, this is what HTC used on the Desire as well, except HTC went through and replaced some features and added additional ones in what HTC calls it’s Sense UI (2.1). The Sense UI is not new, it’s been around a while starting it’s life on Windows Mobile phones. The first Android based phone was the HTC Hero. It’s offered on the Droid Eris and Sprint Hero here in the US currently. Since the UI is sort of an opinion, I won’t try and recommend or comment one way or another.
What I will say about the software is that with relatively little effort I feel it will be possible for Nexus One users to get the Sense UI 2.1 on their phone and likewise, Desire users can load up the stock Android 2.1 OS on their phones. By little effort, I mean, you’ll have to root your phone, download a ROM, boot into recovery mode and install. All this can be done with little risk in about 30 minutes. But, if that doesn’t sound like you and you are leaning towards one or the other software wise, then get the phone that has the software you want.
For me, I would lean more towards the Desire at this point. I like it’s hardware specs more than the Nexus One and I don’t mind doing a little work in I want to install the stock Android 2.1 OS. However, since the Desire doesn’t currently support any 3G networks here in the US, I am almost forced to buy a Nexus One and use T-Mobile at the moment. But, I imagine with a little time, that will change. If you’re in Europe though, you might be able to get ahold of a Desire before Google finally makes the subsidized Nexus One available through Vodafone.
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