72 hours with the HTC Legend

As you’ll be aware by now, I took the plunge with a new phone at the end of last week and got myself an HTC Legend.

Having spent three days setting it up, using it and tinkering with it I thought I’d report my findings so far. Here goes…

The first thing to say is that the phone itself, in terms of its hardware, is absolutely beautiful. The unibody aluminium casing is great to hold, and gives the phone a sense of class. I don’t know how long it will remain scuff-free, but I definitely get the sense that it’s rugged enough to withstand day-to-day abuse. I got a nice Proporta case for it, so hopefully that will keep it safe.

Next up – initial set up. As any one of a number of YouTube videos will testify, setting up the HTC Legend is an absolute breeze – with one important caveat as far as I’m concerned. The Android OS is so heavily integrated with Google’s cloud-based services that I think you might have a more difficult time if you’re not a Google account holder. However, I am, and as such everything was very straightforward. Enter your Google account name and password and the phone sets up your email, calendar and contacts without needing any further prompting. Then it asks you if you hold an account with any of Facebook, Flickr or Twitter. Having all three, I proceeded to enter usernames and passwords for those services too, and it went about importing all my contacts from them as well. I was pleased to discover that whilst there is a useful amount of integration between all four of these destinations, contacts are kept distinct on the phone so that you don’t end up with an unwieldly amalgamation of everyone from everywhere. You can also select how often the phone syncs those services, and how verbose you want it to be in telling you about any updates. I particularly like the way it gives notifications in the status bar across the top – subtle, but effective.

Setting up the seven home screens is very simple – you can either choose from some presets, or just go ahead and configure your own, which is what I did. You can choose from widgets, programs and shortcuts to provide you with a layout that is unique to you and the way you work. I’ve got the most common apps on the home screen (calendar, text messages, gMail, Twitter client, Facebook, camera app etc) and then a selection of widgets and shortcuts spread liberally across the other six screens.

I then went on to download some apps from the Android Market – and this is where my first hitch arose. Because the Legend is such a new phone, it has not yet been officially ratified (if that’s the right word) by Google, and as such not all the apps are available just yet. I resorted to directly downloading some of the ones I wanted rather than going through the Market because of this. I got hold of Evernote, Dropbox, Shazam, Opera Mini and a few others (all of which I will tell you about in a subsequent post once I’ve tested them out).

The most impressive App so far is Google Navigation. By upgrading the built-in Google Maps app to the latest version, the phone becomes a fully fledged turn-by-turn SatNav. I was slightly annoyed that it didn’t read instructions out loud, until I realised that you needed to also install the text-to-speech synthesiser before it can do this!

I had a bit of a nightmare with getting music tracks onto the phone – but this was a self-induced nightmare really. Copying music across is as simple as drag and drop, but I discovered a lot of my tracks didn’t have embedded album art. This is a quirk of iTunes, in that if you rely on automatic retrieval of artwork then iTunes stores it in a separate linked database instead of embedding it. I could have just lived with missing artwork, but my computer OCD got the better of me and I had to fix it. I will detail how I did this in a later post (it’s too in-depth to explain here in this overview!).

So – initial impressions after a 72-hour running in period? Well, firstly – and perhaps most importantly – it’s NOT an iPhone. There is quite a bit of fettling to be done to get things the way you want them. Without the symbiosis of iTunes, this is very much a hands-on piece of kit. However, the Google integration with the cloud-based services is very impressive which in some ways more than makes up for the lack of iTunes, and I rather like the level of customisation and freedom that Android allows. On the apps front, the Market is very barren by comparison with the Apple App Store, but so far I’ve got most things that I need. If your need is first-and-foremost for your phone to be a media player, then again this isn’t necessarily the phone and/or the OS for you. However – for what I need it is perfect, and the cost saving over the mighty iPhone is a big bonus.

I’m sure there will be a lot more discoveries, joys and frustrations to come, but it’s definitely so far, so good.

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