iPhone 3GS vs HTC Desire: smartphone showdown

How does HTC's Desire smartphone match up against Apple's iPhone 3GS?

Google's much-hyped Android operating system for mobile phones is clearly making a statement in 2010 — headed by HTC's flagship Desire smartphone. The first Android smartphone available through Telstra, the HTC Desire is the best Android handset yet and a worthy challenger to the Apple iPhone 3GS.

Check out our HTC Desire review.

Read our iPhone 3GS review.

Though every touch-screen smartphone is immediately compared to the iPhone, the HTC Desire is the most worthy adversary yet for Apple's smartphone. We can safely say it won't be an "iPhone killer" in terms of sales, but its features, design and overall user experience stack up favourably against Apple's handset.

With this in mind we reveal exactly how the HTC Desire stacks up against the iPhone 3GS in key areas.

HTC Desire vs iPhone 3GS: Design

The HTC Desire is slightly larger than the iPhone 3GS, mainly due to the bigger 3.7in AMOLED display; the iPhone has a 3.5in LCD screen. Despite being slightly bigger, the Desire is just as thin as the iPhone, so it doesn't feel like a burden to slip in and out of your pocket. Some may be irked by the Desire's plastic rear casing, but we think it looks good and doesn't detract from the overall build quality — keeping in mind that the iPhone's rear is also constructed of plastic. We also think the iPhone's design is starting to look a little dated: it remains sleek, stylish and well built like all Apple products, but it's in need of a facelift to keep up with the competition.

HTC Desire vs iPhone 3GS

The HTC Desire has plastic rear casing that covers the removable battery, but this doesn't detract from the excellent build quality.


The HTC Desire has a 3.7in AMOLED touch-screen display, compared to the iPhone 3GS' 3.5in LCD touch screen. The Desire's display dwarfs the iPhone in both size and quality. The screen is amazingly crisp, bright and clear and when sitting side by side with the iPhone, it's a clear winner. However, the Desire is a little more difficult to see in direct sunlight than the iPhone.

Both of these smartphones use capacitive touch screens (so a stylus isn't required) and both support multitouch technology, allowing users to pinch and squeeze the screen with two fingers to zoom. The iPhone 3GS has an oleophobic coating on the display to help make fingerprints and smudges wipe off easier.

HTC Desire vs iPhone 3GS

The HTC Desire's 3.7in AMOLED display dwarfs the iPhone in both size and quality.

Operating system

The iPhone 3GS naturally runs Apple's proprietary iPhone software. A huge part of this is the App Store, offering access to more than 150,000 mobile applications, all specifically designed for the iPhone. The iPhone OS is also lauded for its ease of use and design, and it's not hard to understand why. A great phone is just as much about its software as its hardware, and Apple has clearly found a winning formula.

Competing directly with Apple's App Store is Google's Android Market. The Android Market is still only in its infancy but as of March has 30,000 apps available. To give you an idea of the potential of the Android market, Google announced in December 2009 that the Android Market had over 20,000 apps, meaning it has grown by 10,000 apps in just three months. The Android OS allows multitasking, and there is much more scope for personalisation and customisation, not only from an end user's perspective but also from a developer point of view. This is a huge advantage the Android platform holds over the iPhone.

User interface

Using the iPhone feels natural; transitions between screens are superb, animations are excellent and the overall ease of use is outstanding. The iPhone 3GS also feels quite responsive — that is until you use the HTC Desire. In addition to offering a range of handy live widgets available on seven home screens, the Desire is the fastest smartphone we've used. It's powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, the fastest mobile processor available at the time of print. This makes even taxing mobile tasks — such as loading the camera application, recording video and using the Web browser with multiple windows open simultaneously — a breeze.

A big benefit the HTC Desire holds over the iPhone is the HTC Sense user interface, and the Desire benefits from the latest upgrade to the custom UI. Two new features include the ability to pinch the home screen to quickly display and select one of seven screens — called Leap — and a new widget called HTC Friend Stream. The latter integrates all of your social-networking contacts, including from Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, into one organised "stream" of updates.

HTC Desire vs iPhone 3GS

The HTC Desire has seven fully customisable home screens that house live widgets as part of HTC's Sense user interface. These include Friend Stream, Facebook, People, Footprints and calendar, and music.


The iPhone's iPod integration is one of its outstanding features. Music and video playback is simple and easy, and the iPhone 3GS also includes video recording and MMS messaging, two features missing from the original iPhone. The HTC Desire has a slight edge over the iPhone with its 5-megapixel camera, but Android's music playback capabilities aren't as polished or feature-heavy as the iPhone. For example, there is no way to synchronise an iTunes playlist to the Desire out of the box and no real advanced settings beyond basic playlists, repeat and shuffle modes.


The iPhone 3GS and HTC Desire have very similar specifications. Both phones are 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable, and both have GPS, Wi-Fi and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The iPhone holds a slight advantage with options of 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, though there is no external storage slot. On the other hand, the Desire has just 576MB of internal memory, but a microSD card slot theoretically allows 32GB microSDHC cards to be used. The Desire has an FM radio which the iPhone lacks, though the iPhone offers TV-out with the purchase of an extra cable accessory.

A feature not available on the iPhone is Scenes, part of HTC's Sense UI. A Scene is basically a configuration of the Desire's home screen: users could have a Scene for work, where they could have e-mail and calendar widgets on hand, and a Scene for home, where music, photos and weather could be the main focus. This is another example of the customisation benefits that the Android operating system holds over the iPhone.

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Tags htciphone app storeAndroidGoogle AndroidiPhonesmartphonesandroid marketHTC DesireiPhone 3GSApple

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide


adam town


The HTC Desire has that same magic appeal of an iphone when you pick it up and start using it, and week or so later and i've realised its much more than just novelty



Not sure where you get your information from but the Google App Market added 10,000 apps in the last month alone and now stands at over 45,000 apps.

Besides; it's not the number of total apps that matters but the number of useful apps or even the number of free apps of which I think Google is catching up with iPhone if they already haven't caught up on that front. Maybe that's why Apple were desperate for iAds?

Most of the apps on the iPhone are completely useless but at the moment; most of the equivalent apps on the Android don't look as "pretty" or have as many features as the apps on the iPhone.

The iPhone will always sell more than any Google phone because of great marketing by Apple (and sometimes bully tactics too i.e. suing HTC over patents that iPhone applied for after the HTC phones were already out??) yet the fanboys will point to this proving that the iPhone is the better phone which is far from the truth.

Holding and using both phones on a daily basis; The Desire is a much much better phone than the 3GS. In fact, it makes the 3GS feel like what the iPhones made the old Windows Mobile devices felt like.



It may be a beter phone than the crapple iphone but if its locked to telstra then it won't sell well due to the lack of reasonable plans



You can get unlock version Australia stock now in Aus for $719. So go and buy it outright instead of hooking up with Telstra. Telstra got a good network but they do charge for it. Actually they charge for everything which is why I am not with Telstra.



Where can you buy it outright for $719? I've only noticed Telstra selling it for $779.



i've seen it for around the 600 mark !!!



iPhone is a great phone and apple is a great company because if something is wrong with your iPhone they will replace with a new one. After 10 or 15 days, you will see that the new phone is no good. Same thing is happning to me. Less than 30 days I changes 2 iPhone 3gs.
On the other hand htc is the best phone. My htc touch 3g is runing as good as new. I am using it for last 2 years And I love it.



Iphone a gloryfied games machine a toy really. Htc phones have a purpose, and develop better. The only thing is the music side with apple but even that is a little closed shop. The desire is muche better and interesting than the iphone. Apple are just bullys in a market where the iphone will be out dated now the htc 4g is around the corner. Htc are just more advanced and interesting.



Snap! Android outselling iPhone :)




HTC desire.. A fresh breeze .. after using Iphone 3GS...
Love its multitasking, internet browsing, flash on web browser, and thanks God I dont have to use Itune anymore!

I bought Desire from JB Hi FI for 680!! they are sure selling it for 779, but take some internet lower prices to them and ask them to lower theirs. Worked for me. got 110 AUD off :)
and it was not locked to Telstra. so what a deal



Telstra have all new plans out that offer heaps of value so there is no need anymore to think of them as overly pricey. NextG network with lots of calls in my cap plan, sign me up!



Can any one tell me where I can download applications for desire ?



I'm in the middle of choosing between the two. The iphone being described as a 'toy' doesn't bother me as the reality is we don't really NEED either gadget as much as we believe we do - they're just the swiss army knives of the phone market. However, I want a smartphone for TV catchup, online (UK) grocery shopping, some fitness apps and general playing about. I'm struggling to find good reviews of either phones due to lines been drawn in the sand and the whole android vs apple hype. When will the madness end? I make my mind up after reading the articles, only to be totally put off by the posts at the end. Why are you all taking sides in a war which earns you nothing!



Up until last week, I had an iPhone 3GS. It was stolen and has been replaced with a HTC Desire. Honestly, I much prefer the iPhone to the Desire. The iPhone is much easier to use and more accessible. The Desire is driving me insane with the multiple buttons.



LOL at GABBY. Multiple buttons. Reminds me of crapples reasoning behind one button mouse. "because two buttons would be to confusing for users" ARGH!!!! HELP. MY MOUSE HAS TWO BUTTONS. WHAT WILL THE SECOND POSSIBLY DO? IS IT GOING TO KILL ME?!?!?!?!?!

Some things I've noticed.

1. Simple people buy Simple computers. (Mac's) If you know technology you wont like the restrictiveness of crapple products.

2. iPhone users love to boast about what their phone can do, not what they can do with their phone. Having a million useless abilities does not make up for leaving out a few useful ones.
AMZAING! You can pinch to zoom! But you needed an update to MMS an Update to record video an update to copy and paste an update to sync with exchange an update to voice control.

Iphone gen4. HTC Desire gen1. How many new iPhones will you buy to get what the next gen of Desire will have. 8?



Well what kind of review would you expect on PC WORLD. And what kind of comments. Exactly the above.

No mention of battery life - I wonder why. Does the Desire last half a day? iPhones have multitasking these days and I'd argue the 3GS is still better than any Android device - due to the software.

Anyway it's a little like the Apple vs PC debates of the past, and I've noticed a trend, there are three kinds of users:

- Geeks: Love Apple. They appreciate the better software design.
- Wannabe Geeks: Hate Apple. Ill designed technology requires lots of tinkering; can't wrap their heads around iTunes and the fact that a database is better than a file system (iTunes vs drag and drop music management).
- Normal People: Love Apple. They like things that just work.

Technology that just works isn't for everyone.



Follow-up: Notice the unfortunate release timing of the Desire. It came out just a few months before the iPhone 4 blew everyone away. Now they're working on cloning the retina display. Maybe they'll get done just in time before the iPhone 5....



To anyone that have prefers the iphone over the desire i feel a great deal of pitty for you. The iphone is nothing more than an ipod that makes phone calls. itunes is a pathetic attempted of software and as for the apps that they apparently have masses of im yet to see any of them that i would bother even using. in short the desire is fast, easy to use and doesnt have you scratching your head at why you just wasted your pay cheque.



Why in the hell isnt anyone mentioning the music sound quality?! Honestly i dont give a crap if they have 10 million or 5 apps or if they are the most usefull thing on the earth, i just want a phone with large memory and great sound quality! now i had an iPod earlier and it was excellent, so im just interested in hows the sound on the Desire... any1? Thank you!

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