The HTC Legend was one of the top devices at Mobile World Congress (along with the HTC Desire) and there’s a good reason everyone’s been raving about this Android 2.1 based device.
The Legend looks a lot like the Hero, although it’s slightly thinner, lighter and is constructed from a single, solid block of aluminium.
Below the stunning AM-OLED capacitive touchscreen are the four usual Android buttons: home, menu, search and back.
The search key allows you to explore the entire device, or the Internet, at a single stroke. Not only will it look for matching applications or files, it will also come up with the most popular Google search terms too.
The menu button is contextual, so the list of menu items will change according to whether you’re on the home screen or in an application.
Beneath the buttons is one of the best features of the Legend. The optical navigation key uses the same technology as an optical mouse, and is similar to that used on the new BlackBerry devices (such as the Bold 9700 and Curve 8520) and selected smartphones from Samsung.
It’s a considerable improvement over the traditional trackball used on the Hero, or indeed the Nexus One.
Even though the Legend only has a 600Mhz processor powering it, compared to the 1GHz processor featuring on devices like the HTC Desire, Sony Ericsson X10 and Google’s Nexus One, it’s no slouch. All of the other mentioned handsets have to address a larger screen resolution too, which puts a great deal more strain on the processor.
It would be unfair to claim that the Legend has a low screen resolution. It isn’t the highest, but there’s no lack of detail here. If you’re used to owning a mobile with a QVGA-resolution (240×320 pixel) display, this is still going to impress, and deservedly so.
The only thing you’ll have to wait for is the camera to take a photo, but that’s more to do with the press-to-focus function than the actual processor itself.
The camera produces rather saturated photos, but this isn’t a bad thing if you want to shoot some landscape masterpieces. In our test shots, the light looked a bit strange – almost as if it was near sunset even though the pictures were taken in early afternoon. The LED flash, which is something of a revelation for HTC, is acceptable but not amazing.
Close up shots did appear a little warped, but this could have been a trick of the light. If the flash fires, expect to see overly exposed results.
However, the camera performance isn’t too bad. Given that iPhone users make do with a lower resolution, and no flash, HTC’s 5-megapixel sensor is still pretty good. Android makes it easy to share pictures in multiple ways, and as you add more apps that can work with pictures, you’ll see additional choices appear. Bluetooth file transfer is also supported, thanks to the use of Android 2.1.
On the update
It isn’t just the operating system that has been updated. HTC has also updated its Sense UI, which is an excellent front-end that replaces the standard Android panels. You get a combination of HTC and Google widgets, as well as integration of Flickr, Facebook and Twitter updates within the phonebook.
The web browser has been updated too. Besides offering multitouch (pinch/pull zooming) that is now appearing on many handsets, you have an improved cut and paste system and the ability to look up portions of text in Wikipedia or translate it using Google’s translation service.
With multiple onscreen panels, another new feature is an overview mode that shows every panel as a tiny thumbnail. You can activate this by pinching on the screen, or tapping the home button a second time.
The Friend Stream widget allows you to view social networking updates in one place. In a similar way to Motorola’s MotoBLUR, it lists status updates from Twitter, Flickr and Facebook in a simple list format.
Out of juice
What doesn’t work so well on the Legend is the battery. Nobody expects a smartphone to match an ordinary mobile, but Android can show exactly how many hours, minutes and seconds the phone has been powered up, and what applications are consuming the power (as in processor time). I struggled to get over eight hours in any circumstances, and that is reduced even more if you make heavy use of the camera or GPS. It’s a pretty alarming issue and one that can’t just be ignored, as it’s a lot worse than the Hero.
The Motorola Milestone initially had terrible battery life, which was addressed with a firmware update to improve performance. Hopefully the Legend will see an update to further optimise the performance, as it does prevent the phone from getting full marks.
The use of a single block of aluminium does make for a great design, but there is a trade-off in the way you access the battery, SIM-card and memory card. Everything is accessed from the base of the phone, with a cover that is reminiscent of that used on Sony Ericsson’s K850i.
Of course it’s not a major issue, unless you wanted to regularly hotswap the memory card, but the cover does appear a little too easy to remove. Solid as the phone is, there’s a definite weak spot there at the base.
However, anyone who does get this phone will no doubt want to take good care of it. They’ll want to enjoy the bright, vivid colours of the display and the tens of thousands of apps now available on Android Market.
The Desire will appeal to people who want the big-screen experience, but the Legend is a worthy successor to the Hero. The only problem is the need to keep it charged at all times.
The HTC Legend is without doubt the phone any Android fan should upgrade to, especially owners of the Magic or Hero. Although it may not have the speedy Snapdragon processor as the HTC Desire, it’s fast enough to run multiple applications. What will win most over is the seamless, lightweight and stunning design, along with the latest implementation of HTC’s Sense user interface. It works like a dream. Handsets like this continue to give real competition to the iPhone, although you don’t need to make comparisons to realise this is simply a great phone.