Dealing with HTC quirks

Even though I would not give up on Android powered smartphone, when it comes to details, little irritating things are coming out. Do not get me wrong: overall usability and general consistency is undoubted and makes the user comfortable most of the time. It is even more powerful with custom firmware. However, over long period of time I have noticed some quirks, collected most of them as a list of issues specific to my needs, and attempts to fix or bypass them.

(Click on each item to expand it)

• Short on flash memory
When you run brand new HTC with stock firmware and default set of applications, you will see around 50MB remaining storage for additional apps. Couple apps installed and you run out of free space. To check new apps out you need to uninstall your favorite ones. The simplest solution is to root the phone, repartition your SD card and install special scripts that will use SD card as memory extension. It is even simpler if you go further and use custom firmware; most of it has this extended memory management preinstalled. I split my SD card into 2 partitions: 768MB as EXT3 for memory extension and remaining part of 8GB card for data, as usual. Now, having dozens of additional apps I still have 400MB free memory. That is cute! Be warned however: memory extension is also used by OS services, to avoid system slow down you should use SD card class 6 or faster.

• One day on battery
What is first thing traveling smartphone user is looking for in new place? Electric outlet 🙂 This is reality of heavily power demanding device, it barely holds one day. Using apps for CPU management to reduce consumption is pointless (I checked); most power draining part is display. You gain most installing custom widget to make screen darker whenever possible. Similar widget to switch of wireless is handy too (this widget is built-in one). The GPS switching is not that important, usually it goes standby automatically if none app is using it (wireless in contrast is working all the time). Does the newest Android 2.3 make it better? In my opinion not really; preserving CPU cycles by better OS is minor comparing to other power drains.

• Weak audio amplifier
This one is self descriptive. Whichever headphone you attach the music sounds flat. This would not be a surprise considering stock head set, which is designed for phone calls. However having mine Senheiser PX-10 (used for sports) attached, the result it is only slightly better. Audio application with equalizer that allows you to bump up bass is just a half measure (e.g. MixZing).

• Camera on the edge of case
Camera lens is located very close to the edge of the case. When I keep it horizontal, as a compact camera, my fingers are often in a field of view. Handling could be more convenient if the camera is shifted to the middle.

• Selective search function
Search button is a quick way to search your phone and online resources seamlessly. While it works fine with contacts, calendar and so forth, it is the shame that ordinary files, their names in particular, are not taken into account. If you are using your HTC as small computer you are left on your own. I have not found any extension that would hook up file search into hardware button.

• Home screen restarts with lags
This one is annoying. Occasionally, yet at least once a day, when I need quickly access a desktop, HTC displays background wallpaper and spinning wheel? It can take even up to 15 precious seconds to reload the whole home screen. It really sucks because it blocks me from core functionality like making a call: phone on-screen button is not accessible. I experienced it with stock ROM and custom ROMs so it looks like HTC Sense technology glitch.

• Missing Cisco LEAP for WiFi
Some companies, like mine, are using CISCO’s LEAP protocol for securing wireless connections. It is not supported by default firmware. Fortunately there are some free apps in Android Market that work well – I am using LEAP Wifi Free.

• No birthday in phone calendar
It is not directly supported by the phone. If you need it, you need to use Google Contacts to enter birthday date, which is synchronized by Google Calendar as even in your phone. Despite I do not like to expose sensitive data over the net, I did it to have these precious reminders on time.

• Changing ring loudness does not affect notification loudness
For me it is real drawback, you just make your ring more quiet and then email/sms/whatever is coming and the phone yells loudly about that, whether it is a meeting or late evening time. The only way is to use profile management apps to make notifications quiet along with the ringtone, but still hardware buttons “+/-” do not support this feature. I am using MyProfiles Lite or Lama to manage profiles, the concept that actually does not exist in stock firmware.

• Quiet built-in loudspeaker
Comparing to my previous Nokia E51, HTC Desire is too quiet; usually I do not hear ringing phone when it is in a pocket in some noisy place. Phone pouch case make it even worse. Some workaround is to use sounds with more treble tones which are emitted a way better.

• Bad linearity of audio volume scale
HTC has 8 loudness levels regulated by hardware buttons. Turning down from loudest 8th level to 7th makes loudness like 50% quieter, while fom 7th to 6th only 20-30% quieter. Turning more down the changes are even smaller. I would expect that scale is more linear to my ears (which in fact means it should be more non-linear in terms of absolute sound pressure level).

• Lack of auto-brightness customization
Built-in ambient light level meter allows OS driven automatic control on display brightness. Sometimes, especially indoor, the brightness is kept too intense (which unnecessarily drains battery and makes pain to eyes). While there is plenty of apps and widgets to quickly set brightness I have not found any one that keeps automation while making display dimmer. At the moment most convenient is Dazzle app with “1×1” widget in “brightness/auto popup” mode.

• Missing quick access to snoozed alarm
When I snooze alarm, I cannot cancel the snooze unless the alarm is disabled. Comparing to Nokia here I need couple more clicks/gestures to get to it. As usual, I could use Android Market clock apps to get it done, but I have any I liked that much as built-in one.

• Some functions do not rotate on-screen keyboard
Displayed keyboard is a system function. For most apps when smartphone is rotated from vertical to horizontal position, the keyboard is rotated and gets bigger to make typing easier. However it is not true for some apps, even those built-in: for example contact edition is always vertical (small keyboard).

• Default SMS app uses UNICODE
When one is using local language with diacritical signs (like “łódź”); if you use them to type text message, the SMS protocol requires UNICODE encoding which uses 3 bytes per character. In such case one message does not contain 160 chars but only 70. Unaware texter may be hit by the bill.
Stock firmware users can leverage from custom keyboard app, namely htc_ime, that supports diacritic chars replacement, sticking to ASCII. Most of custom ROMs has custom keyboard preinstalled to avoid this shortage.

• Laggy display auto-rotation
Gravity sensors are laggy when phone is kept in hands in ergonomic position, with back plane at some angle between vertical and horizontal. Rotating the phone is not reflected immediately by the display: it takes even up to 4 seconds. Getting back to vertical position is slightly better, 1 or 2 seconds. It turns immediately only when screen is perpendicular to the ground. I would make default sensitivity levels better tuned up to the typical typing positions. This time also, you may find custom apps that allow regulation of sensors.

• History of connections ignores timezone changes
System time is automatically set to the current timezone read from GSM network. However timezone change is wrongly handled by history of connections (it shows time from your fixed home timezone). At the same time other apps, like default text messages app, behave correctly.

• Clock & weather widget glitches
Sporadically the HTC most typical widget, clock and weather, breaks apart. It shows rightmost textual data centered and behind the weather icon, behind the sun, the moon etc. Quickest correction is to have you home screen saved as profile and to invoke its restoration.

• Backfocus on macro photos
Attempt to make a close-up photo, within 10-15cm distance, always results in a picture with focus located a little back behind the target. It is important because HTC uses micro-moving lens that produces a depth of focus. Making a picture really sharp at a target requires to move camera a little back, some time between fixing the focus and taking a shot. I am not sure if it is custom ROM problem or intrinsic to the hardware.

• Laggy camera shutter
The camera needs almost one second to take a picture after pressing shutter button; this way even in full sun, when sensitivity is high enough to get sharp picture of dynamic scenes, you need to forget about it because you will not get shot on time.

• Hard to skip predictive text without adding word to dictionary
It is known issue addressed, as always, with custom app for text/emails. The problem: When typing an email or text message with prediction switched on, if you type some word that is not in the phone dictionary, you cannot easily/quickly skip default action “add to dictionary”. I have adopted different workarounds:
– quit editor and reenter: this way last written word remains as is and suggestions are not shown
– with HTC_IME one can bind hardware button to function like change dictionary language: switching language there and back is quicker and cancels suggestion popups

• WiFi/3G connection problems after long period of activity
I noticed that when wifi/3g is left active and I am on the move, after long period of time, day or so, there are glitches with using connectivity: the browser cannot load page as if connected but no data is transmitted (wifi icon shows active connection or 3G shows only outgoing arrow icon). After disabling and re-enabling connection it works immediately.

• Ads in free applications
In some games ads banner shown in top right corner sometimes blocks from operation or needed view. Switching data connections each time is cumbersome. This common problem is solved in custom ROMs by AdFree application that blocks this kind of connections. For stock phone one needs to root the phone to install this blocker app.

This entry was posted in Gadgets. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.