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The mobile phone industry is an inexorable juggernaut of new products and innovations, reeled out by perpetually leap-frogging competitors. Just a few years ago, Taiwan-based HTC was a big player but a small name, happy to churn out handsets for others without taking any credit. The arrival of Google's Android operating system changed all that, providing HTC with the opportunity to steal a march on its rivals by building the smartest smartphones, with subtle but slick enhancements to the operating system.
Wallpaper* caught up with HTC's Chief Innovation Officer Horace Luke to talk new handsets and new trends, on the eve of the company's global launch of its latest two Android devices, the Desire HD and the Desire Z. Android is now up to version 2.2 ('FroYo', a codename that reflects Android's curious obsession with sweet desserts), and HTC's integrated OS enhancement, HTC Sense, blends seamlessly into the phones, with added functionality for things like email and Facebook. The Desire Z also has a snappy fold-out keyboard, with intuitive elements like universal shortcuts and hotkeys baked into the hardware. The HD is a raw performance machine, splicing a richly coloured 4.3" OLED screen, an 8-megapixel camera, all aluminium construction and a swift 1Ghz processor. Throw in Dolby surround sound and you have an unrivalled portable media player.
The HD and the Z are both pleasingly hefty objects, with all the slickness and elegance we've come to associate with the brand. But the company's third announcement marks a step change in how we use mobile devices. HTCSense.com is a new free service for phone owners, essentially an online synch system that will allow users to remotely access their handsets from any browser. The possibilities on offer are endless; not only will you be able to remotely wipe compromising data from a stolen phone, but you can create a back-up profile of your essential footprint, making it a breeze to switch to a new phone, or even between a collection of handsets. It'll even allow you to switch on a ringtone on a lost and silenced handset so you can find it down the back of a sofa. On top of all this, the HTCSense site will present itself a platform for suggestions in the ever-expanding world of Apps. Admittedly, this all smacks somewhat of Apple's MobileMe service, but we can't fault anything that continues the migration of critical data from our pockets to the cloud. 'Hardware and software are integral to each other,' Luke enthuses, 'we believe in a connected life.'
One more element coming as standard with the latest iterations of the Desire is the ability to cache great chunks of Google maps, meaning that you can suck down the digital environs of your long-distance destination without having to worry about roaming fees. Next up for the company is a suite of new handsets for Windows Phone 7, the radically revised iteration of Microsoft's mobile software that it hopes to propel it back into the limelight. For now, the Desires will continue bolster Android's market share - we'll even forgive HTC's rather too literal naming strategy.