Living With The HTC HD2

A while ago I bought a HTC HD2. I did a minor bit of tinkering with it to get it just right. I’m still only about half way done with the changes I want to make but I thought I’d post about what I’ve noticed so far.

Battery life
Nobody warned me. I get about a day out of it, needs charging each night. I thought this was crazy and mentioned this to one of my iPhone branded friends and they said they have to do the same thing. My old phone lasted around three days between charges. So not the phones fault, just something I really didn’t expect.

Alarm
The alarm that comes with the phone is terrible. If you pick an MP3 as your alarm tone it plays it once and stops. It’s very basic and sucks. I spent a while picking the right alarm which easily was ageyes G-Alarm. You can set multiple alarms based on various schedules. If you pick an MP3 as your alarm tone you can then pick how much it should repeat. Has the ability to turn off by shaking the phone or to put it into snooze mode by turning your phone upside down. There’s loads of cool features, I’m only skimming the surface. I used this xda hack to change the alarm button on the phones homescreen to open G-Alarm instead of the crappy default alarm. Now I have the best alarm clock I’ve ever owned.

HTC Music Player
The Music player is nice to look at but lacks in features. The real show killer for me is that neither the HTC or Windows Media players support my m3u playlist files. I’ve tried to be careful with tagging my tracks but both players differentiate case differences in the ID3 tags so “Album 1” isn’t seen to be the same as “album 1”. I think it would be way cooler if you could disable a bunch of the useless tabs. Like personally I only want a folder list with a “play directory” option and a playlist selection screen. I’m never going to use Albums or Artists since ID3 tags are handled to strictly.

I used the Music player with headphones. The player uses the main phone volume so you have to reduce it when you plug in headphones. If you set the main phone volume to vibrate or silent then you will hear nothing through the headphones. This means when you are listening to music and a call comes in, the music stops, you hear the phone ringing in the headphones and the phone actually rings out loud as well. It’s nice as it is but it would of been nicer to have separate volume control for the headphones so the outside phone is set to vibrate whilst the headphone volume is set to 50%.

Both the HTC Player and Windows Media Player are totally crap on this device. I found a hideous bug today that has now stopped me using either of them whilst traveling. It seems that even when the lock screen is active you can still randomly push buttons behind it. I can’t actually make this happen on demand but all I know is that I start an album playing, lock the phone and put it in my pocket. At some random point later tracks will start cutting out and skipping. When I look at the phone sometimes I catch a flash of the call screen. I looked at my call history and it seems for the past week I’ve been making lots of random calls to the last number I dialed, well whatever is at the top of my call history list. Once this happens a few times it breaks the media player and it just starts skipping tracks, it will play a second or two and then skip. It’s hard to tell if this is a lock screen or media player problem but either way this is a media show stopper for me.

I tried out Nitrogen which is a freeware media player. It looks nice but it doesn’t support downloading album art which means most of the thumbnails are blank for me. This also doesn’t support my m3u files but it does let me “Play Directory” which works fine because I sequentially label my track filenames. This player uses a seperate volume for the headphones then the main volume. You have to use the hide button on the player to lock your phone. If you let it auto-lock or manually lock it the player will pause which is a bit lame. I noticed the same weird lock screen problem as with the HTC player which was frustrating. It didn’t auto-dial phone numbers but it did seem to skip tracks and open random applications of the quick launch menu. This was sorted by opening Nitrogen, picking Options->Settings-General Settings and then ticking the “Lock hardware keys while in standby”. The other thing that is nice about this player is that when you click Exit it actually closes the app. Windows Media Player just minimises when you do this. All in all I’d give Nitrogen 7 out of 10. The lack of album art downloading and the weird custom lock screen button knocked a couple of points off. Apart from those it is a rock solid player that covers all the other bases for me. Definitely the player I will be using from now on.

A little later on… I’m still using Nitrogen but I did run into a very similar lock screen bug. It did start calling the last number I dialed but it would also start playing music in the HTC Music player which meant I’d hear two different tracks at the same time. The phone would still look locked but when I unlocked it I would see whatever other random thing was open, not Nitrogen although it would still be running in the background (background as in accessible via Task Manager). It’s only happened a couple of times which is far less frequent than with the HTC player. I’m starting to think this is a problem with the lockscreen. If it happens a third time then I will set a lock screen password and see if that helps.

Even later on… I think I’ve worked out what is causing the auto-dialing the last number in my call history problem. I’ve written a seperate post about it here. If what I describe there works then I will probably stop using Nitrogen. One of the reasons I started using it was because my music collection was quite badly tagged and Nitrogen allowed me to just play specific directories of music where as the built in HTC player would only let me choose albums based on the tags. Well after a month of using Mp3tag I now have all my tunes properly tagged as well as having the album art embedded into each track. This now means I should be able to use the HTC Player without any kinks.

Advanced Settings
One of the things to keep an eye on with this phone is the bottom left and right buttons. An example is if you go to “Start” and then pick “Settings”, The bottom right button will say “Menu”. Clicking on that will give you “All Settings”. This lets you access other options. I come here to enable various bluetooth connections. There’s other handy stuff in here but most of the screens use the original Windows theme and are not very touch friendly.

Bluetooth
Drains the battery alot. Make sure to turn it off when not in use. This may sound like overkill but I was in an office the other day and turned bluetooth on to transfer a file to someone elses phone and I picked up around 20 bluetooth phones. I know that most of those people probably never use it except when they’re in the car for their hands-free kits.

Task Manager
You can access the Windows Task Manager in the start menu. I added it as one of my home page favorite links for easy access. Most applications on the HD2 will not actually close when you click the X. They just minimise. You can use Task Manager to either switch back to them or to End Task and close them fully.

Google Maps
The google maps application that came with the phone is outdated. The latest version works much better with the HD2. Just visit m.google.com/maps on the phone and download their latest cab. The installation will replace the one already installed. I found the GPS tracking to be bang on with the new version. You have to move around a bit for it to get started. Some people say the arrow compass works for them as well. Doesn’t for me. It takes about 30 seconds to a minute to lock onto the GPS satalite but then it picks up a bunch of them. Well worth updating and using.

Facebook
As with the supplied google maps application, the facebook one is outdated. If you fire up the Marketplace application from the phones start menu you can search and download the latest version. At the time of me writing this it is listed as v1.2 although once you install it you will see it as v1.1.0.17. You can see that version number by loading the app and then choosing “Menu->About”. Not sure why the version number is listed differently. There is a thread for the app at the XDA forums here that is monitored by the apps author which is pretty cool. If you use facebook then I can’t recommend the importance of upgrading the app. Before this I just used the full facebook with Opera which was a bit awkward. The old app was just too feature lacking. The new one is grand.

YouTube
HTC included their own YouTube app. I didn’t download the one from google directly as I don’t know how it will react with the HTC one. I’m not that bothered for now as I haven’t used it for anything yet.

Footprints
The idea is simple, you take pictures and the phone records your location. Works ok although I noticed the tracking can be like a block away. Not sure why tracking is so poor for this when it works so well in google maps.

Installing CAB Files
Whilst trying out various applications I found it a bit of a pain to keep manually installing CAB files. I found CABviaActiveSync which is an awesome little util that adds a new right click context menu option to CAB files on your main OS. When you pick it, the CAB gets extracted to the ActiveSync directory and the ActiveSync installer automatically launches. It’s a small utility that can save you some time if you frequently install new apps.

Syncing with PC
Syncing was quite iffy to begin with. I used Windows Live Mail which can’t be synced with the phone. PC wise I use “Windows Mobile Device Center” which is the defacto way of doing things with your phone. When choosing things to sync it only recognises certain programs such as Outlook for mail. I found this really frustrating as it seemed like a well cool feature to have the same set of contacts on both my phone and my PC. In the end I opted to sign up for the Microsoft Office 2010 public beta. I get to run Office 2010 pro edition until October for free. So it’s a bit flakey, I can put up with that for now. It took a while to get my contacts sorted, I wrote another blog post about my WLM to Outlook experience. Now my phone uses the same contacts as my PC. It also syncs up the Todo List application with Outlooks Todo List and the Calendar. What was pretty sweet was that on the phone I linked some of my contacts to various facebook accounts. One piece of data that was pulled was the birthdays. When Outlook and my phone synced it also copied that data across which then led to automated calendar entries being made. Very nice little feature.

The way I get my phone and PC syncing is via Bluetooth. I have a little USB Bluetooth dongle I plug in when I want to sync my phone. I joined my PC and Phone with a shared key and told them both to always trust each other for everything. So now when I want to start the sync I use the All Settings menu to get to the Bluetooth screen. Then I select my PCs name from the stored connections and choose the ActiveSync menu option. The two systems then connect and do their thing. I use My Computer to browse the phones internal and external memory so I can copy and paste new music over. As I mentioned earlier, I use Nitrogen to just play directories instead of pre-written playlists. That means I have to manually copy music over to the phone. I don’t mind that for now.

I should point out that before I had Office installed ActiveSync was pretty much useless except for accessing the phone memory. It was a bit annoying to have the ActiveSync popup on the PC as it always went into a “This phone is not setup” screen which served as an extra step to have to bypass to do anything. If you want to make the most of the phone then syncing it is vital. Also, copying large amounts of data to the phone via Bluetooth is a baaaaaad idea. It takes ages to transfer a single album, like 10-30 minutes. For things like that just hook it up via the USB cable or turn off the phone and take out the memory card and copy to that directly. I do all three methods depending on what I’m doing.

Co0kie’s Home Tab
I decided to install Co0kie’s Home Tab v1.7.1 a few days ago. I watched this video about it and thought it looked pretty cool. I had to update the .net framework using the zip in the second post of the Co0kie thread. It seems that may somehow have fixed some instabilities I was having recently. It’s all running really well and it looks awesome. I liked the layout before but the one I have now is just great. I also put on both the 3D driver updates that Co0kie recommends. Haven’t noticed any difference.

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  • Steve
    Steve

    If i had a checklist, this article just checked off all of mine…and then some. Especially the skipping tracks while using the headphones.. VERY ANNOYING, especially at the gym. I was thinking it was a hardware problem and resorted to buying bluetooth headphones. THe only real reason i havent sold this piece of crap WMphone disaster is because of the Garmin GPS which allows me to go internationally with custom maps without the need for a data plan.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

— Albert Einstein