JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - During a press conference unveiling the HTC Smart, Desire and Legend for the South African market, local MD Quinton Leigh revealed to PhoneReport that the manufacturer is preparing a Google Android-based tablet, 1080p video recording and 5.1 surround sound for its upcoming mobile phones.
The market has clearly understood that mobile giant Samsung will always be the first to innovate when it comes to actual mobile hardware - its camera upgrades and project-equipped handsets are examples of that. HTC, not falling behind, will incorporate 1080p full HD video recording in its smartphones by next year, possibly by second quarter of 2011, said Leigh. Surround sound built by Yamaha for the handsets may come earlier than that, delivering an excellent 5.1 experience, according to the excited MD. Samsung already offers the latter technology, thanks to its in-house semiconductor company, able to develop its own chips, therefore HTC has to purchase them from Yamaha. HSPA+ speeds of up to 14.4mbps on HTC devices could be seen on the third quarter of this year.
Leigh wasn't very clear on the Google Android "tablet". He said it might not be an actual tablet, although it is clear that the company wishes to counter Apple in a market which is expected to grow to great proportions. Specifications of the devie were not made available to us, but the MD did hint that it may not reach the South African territory, owing to the high price of wireless connectivity - from this, we can assume that the "tablet" will incorporate Wi-Fi, and possibly HSPA as well.
HTC has in the fast launched UMPCs (Ultra Mobile Personal Computers), which ran on Windows XP/Vista. These were not very successful, therefore the entire market is actually moving towards tablets or smartbooks.
The much-awaited HTC Smart, an affordable smartphone expected to redefine how HTC addresses the market, is said to cost half of the price of the Tattoo, which was HTC's first attempt in the lower-end of the smartphone segment.
As the Smart is quite small, it fits perfectly in one hand, and it has just enough buttons to enable comfortable usage, without overcrowding the frontal section. The user interface is excellent, well-managed so that the screen doesn't feel packed, even though it is slightly small. If HTC was looking for "smart simplicity", it has achieved that.
The phone features a 2.8" touchscreen display, a 3.2 megapixel camera with support for video recording, HSDPA connectivity, microSD memory card support, Bluetooth, FM radio, a 3.5mm audio jack, and runs HTC Sense on top of the Brew operating system. Wi-Fi and GPS had to be excluded in order to keep the price low.
The HTC Desire, a variant of the Google Nexus One, is quite a powerful smartphone, having a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 576MB of RAM. HTC specifically stated that the device will not have a weak battery life, even though it is more advanced than most high-end phones. It also brings a 3.7" AMOLED touchscreen display, Wi-Fi, HSDPA connectivity, Bluetooth, a 5 megapixel camera with video recording capability, a 3.5mm audio jack, GPS, and microSD memory card support.
Upon inspection, the Desire proved to be a very fast phone, opening apps and displaying transition effects without any lag. For a high-end phone, it has an appropriate number of buttons, while the on-screen keyboard could have been as good as a hardware one - all it takes is practice, of course.
Lastly, the HTC Legend, a device similar to the HTC Hero in form factor, is a high to mid-end smartphone. It features a 5 megapixel camera with video recording support, a 3.2" touchscreen display, HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth, GPS, a 3.5mm audio jack, microSD memory card support, and is powered by a Qualcomm processor at 600MHz, with 384MB of RAM.
The handset felt heavier than the latter two, although just like the Desire, everything felt fast, and the on-screen keyboard deserved nothing less than five stars.
User Interface: HTC Sense
Both HTC Legend and HTC Desire run on Google Android 2.1, the latest version of the operating system, covered by HTC"s Sense user interface.
Sense was thoroughly showcased by HTC at the event, a well-studied user interface, much better than TouchFLO, used for the company's past Windows Phones.
The right widgets of the right size can be placed on the home screen, which is a feature of Google Android, blended with Sense. What is rather unique with Sense is the integration of social networking: friend stream brings Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates to one of the home screens, while the photo gallery allows quick upload of images to Flickr.
Emails, weather and other widgets can also be intuitively be placed on the home screen. These won't be simple icons or preview windows, but actual useful tools that ease the access and use of the functions, be it reading emails or messages, checking the weather, etc..
A detailed review of these handsets and their software will be published in the following weeks.
Pricing for the devices will be made known soon, while the South African market release date is scheduled for the 7th of May, this year. In other world regions, the handsets are already available.