HTC Velocity 4G

Telstra's first 4G phone is good, but not great. The 4G speeds shine through in speed tests, but fail to do so in everyday use. Its excellent camera is worth a second look, however.


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When we look back over the history of mobile telephony in Australia some years down the track, we'll remember that Telstra was the first telco to offer 4G. Its long-term evolution (LTE) network, which launched at the end of September last year, will be unique in this country for more than six months before Optus rolls out a similar network upgrade in 2012. This is a milestone for our industry, but does that automatically make its first 4G smartphone a winner by proxy?

Design

The HTC Velocity is most certainly a chip off the old HTC mono-block. With a 4.5-inch screen, the Velocity is a little larger than last year's best phones, and it's also noticeably heavier (at 163 grams). HTC opts for a stiff plastic chassis on this handset, with a sharp, angular design that certainly helps the Velocity look and feel more like a business phone than some of its nearest competitors.

The Super-LCD display is as bright and sharp as we've seen from the Taiwanese company of late. The Velocity benefits from a qHD resolution display (960x540 pixels) and while this isn't as many pixels per inch as you'll find on the Google Galaxy Nexus or iPhone 4S, it is a pleasing screen to use all the same. We have found that we've needed to set the screen brightness to a level higher than we usually do on other phones. Not that this screen is dull — it is eye-achingly bright on its 100 per cent setting — but the brightness scale doesn't seem consistent, and at the 60 per cent brightness setting the screen is starting to lose comfortable visibility.

As with HTC's best releases of last year, the Velocity has only the bare minimum of inputs around the edge of the handset. There is a large volume rocker on the right-hand side and a USB port on the left. You can expand the handset's internal memory by removing the battery and inserting a microSD card in the provided slot. There isn't a TV-out option as there is on a number of other handsets, but you can use the USB port as a video-out port if you have the right Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) adapter.

Sense UI and performance

The really disappointing part for fans of HTC phones is that the Velocity doesn't ship with an updated version of the company's Sense user interface (UI); instead you get the same version of the software found on the Sensation XE last year (minus the Beats Audio elements).

The consolation prize is that this version of Sense runs better on the Velocity than it has on the HTC handsets we saw at the end of 2011 (though the Sensation XE isn't very far behind). HTC employs a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor and 1GB RAM to power this mini-computer and the result is smooth sailing across the board. In our short time with the Velocity we haven't experienced any crashes, and only some very minor lag.

Battery life will be a concern for heavy users, but not so much otherwise. We found in our tests that 4G connectivity did have a detrimental effect on battery life, but that the phone helps counter this with excellent standby battery usage. It is entirely possible to chew through 30 per cent of the phone's remaining charge in an hour of solid use, but when left in standby, the battery drain is only 1 or 2 per cent each hour.

While this battery life may suffice for some, we can guarantee that the heat this battery generates will please no one. Most smartphones give off a certain amount of heat with use, but the Velocity takes this a grade further, with the handset heating to uncomfortable levels from about 10 minutes of continuous use. As part of our standard testing we ran a continuous web browsing test until the battery completely discharged. The test took two hours and 20 minutes, and at the end we were surprised not to see smoke rise from behind the screen due to the heat this phone was giving off.

4G: ready for prime time?

In a way, the Velocity isn't being sold as the next big thing from HTC, rather it's the next big thing for Telstra. The Velocity is the pilot 4G smatphone for Telstra, a handset that should indicate what this network is capable of, but if we're honest — the 4G experience has been mightily underwhelming.

For starters, the phone is almost never connected to the 4G network, even when we have used it within the designated 4G coverage zone in Sydney's CBD. When it is connected to the LTE network, it typically reports a weak-looking signal — one or two bars of coverage. That said, a weak 4G signal is still capable of outpacing 3G data speeds. Speed tests we've run have been impressive even with only a bar or two of coverage, typically achieving results between 10 and 30Mbps.

Speed tests conducted around parts of Sydney's CBD and surrounding suburbs show how limited the 4G network currently is. All speeds are in kilobits per second (Kbps).
(Credit: CBSi)

But when you're looking at real-world web browsing, this is only half of the equation, and it's the other half that really slows this experience down. The Velocity runs on the latest version of Android Gingerbread (2.3.7) and is powered by one of the fastest processors available at this time, and yet its performance in web benchmarks is surprisingly average. When you add all of this together, the combination of 4G, the software and the hardware, the overall web-browsing experience is good, but it's not as fast as we've seen on a smartphone, and certainly not worthy of the "Australia's fastest smartphone" branding that Telstra is using to promote it.

The 4G speeds shine through better when the Velocity is tethered to a laptop and the internet connection is shared. With a more capable web browser at your disposal, the raw speed is far more noticeable. But then, if this is how you plan to use your data, we'd recommend you consider buying one of Telstra's excellent 4G USB modems and a different phone entirely.

Camera

Perhaps our greatest surprise during this review process was when we discovered just how good the 8-megapixel camera on the Velocity is. With all the talk of 4G and its somewhat boring business design, we were quite surprised by the uniformly excellent results of the collection of photos we took. The Velocity doesn't look like a hipster handset, but it may be the phone they turn to for its excellent photographic capabilities.

Colour captured with the 8-megapixel camera on the Velocity 4G appears vibrant but natural.
(Credit: CBSi)

Notice in this pic that the foreground is blurred while the background is in focus. This was shot on a moving bus and helps show the speed of this camera's shutter.
(Credit: CBSi)

Included apps

Besides heavily customising the Android user experience, HTC also pre-installs a collection of (mostly) useful and unique apps. The standouts in HTC's app arsenal are its multimedia offerings. HTC Watch is a movie rental service that improves with each new HTC release we have the opportunity to review. The individual titles are a little on the expensive side, but there is now a range of 99-cent rentals to choose from, which makes the service more attractive.

HTC Watch is a far more attractive app with 99¢ rentals.
(Credit: CBSi)

HTC's partnership with Kobo ebooks is also worth noting. The Reader app is clean and easy to use, and with ebooks available off the Kobo library makes this worth a browse if you don't already own an e-reader.

One of the few disappointments in this suite of apps is the new Usage Monitor tool. This app details your data usage, calls and messages made and received over a month, and while this is handy, we wish it was a little more detailed. There is no way, for example, to track which apps are using the most data, or to set limits or reminders for excessive data use.

Overall

Telstra's first 4G phone is definitely good, but it's not great. Based on its user experience and performance, the Velocity is much like the smartphones we saw from HTC at the end of last year, but delivered in a bulkier, heavier package. It performs well as an everyday smartphone, especially suited to a business user, but it doesn't live up to the title of "Australia's fastest phone" for tasks like web browsing or browsing the Android Market. It is one of the more expensive handsets available, though.



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AndyH2 Facebook
2
Rating
 

"buy any different phone"

AndyH2 posted a review   

The Good:looks nice...

The Bad:breaks too easily

need to take for repairs after 8 weeks.

stock options are horrible so needs a lot of apps to make it run ok.

needs minimum daily charging

generally pretty crap

3g network not wide enough to be relevant yet

Alisonian Facebook
6
Rating
 

"Could be better."

Alisonian posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Features

The Bad:Off for repair/replacement after 7 weeks onwership.

Wow.Had my Velocity since April 28/2012.Back in getting fixed already.Went dead and wouldn't start up or charge.Have had it 7 weeks.WAs a bit shocked when Telstra person asked me if $150 maximum repair cost was acceptable.I of course said I would think there would be NO charge as the phone was only 7 weeks in my possession.He waived any charges.
It was pretty good up till then.Only negative was battery use.Had to charge every day without fail.
Was a bit disappointed in that I could often not receive photos and videos from family because of size restrictions.
Had never had this trouble with Nokia phones.
Only get 4G in the inner city.I live about 25 k out of Brisbane CBD.

LazyJoe
9
Rating
 

"A formidable piece of technology"

LazyJoe posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Open source programming

The Bad:Battery life is to short

S0! HTC Velocity 4G is here and I love it.
It seems from some of the reviews there’s a few complaints; Why did you buy it?
The phone screams through data, any data!
Every imaginable feature is or will be somewhere all you need to do is learn to explore.
The HTC has a manual setup so you don’t exceed data limits but you would have to move the slider bar down using yes, your finger to cap the usage, very difficult it must be that’s ok pass it on to your kids who can use technology and don’t buy the next HTC coming out as their even faster slimmer and powerful, quad processors.
Bulky? No! Resolution excellent I don’t need to hold it an inch from my face to view web sites streaming vid, books. I would have gone a Tablet of some kind if that was going to be a problem (pref a Samsung) personal choice there.
The Android programmers are coming back in full force there is no app that will not be available soon, new, upgraded, basically the technology supersedes your intelligence.
Don’t get me wrong I am a long time fan of Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry’s, however your problem may stem from lack of a hand held booklet to walk you though as to how than to just turn the phone on :P
There is one complaint I would take seriously and that’s for the people experiencing drop outs, that is something you should take up with your provider Telstra or otherwise. Having said that, we do need to take into consideration where these drop outs happen, freeways for the most but otherwise it should not happen. If you purchased your phone from a reputable dealer the phone does not drop out and that is from personal past experience.
The phone may get quiet warm to hot that’s fine; Battery life has it’s problems agreed, USB charging from computer (at least the cell syncs connected) and in car charger are a necessity.
Still in it’s early stage try turning off your cell at night when charging when you turn it on you will find the system upgrading much the same a computer does from time to time.
I don’t mean to be critical perhaps you should have bought a basic everyday phone from Apple or such. If you feel it’s to bulky we’ll an IPad may have suited you better It seems they bring a new version out every 3 months or so then you would only have the one complaint that you have an old version but it fits into you brief case at least.
Awesome phone from HTC and more to come from this companies leading edge in technology as it has been for many years with many of it’s components you just haven’t realised they are integrated in extremely high end equipment.
Please correct me if I am wrong.

ps1112
2
Rating
 

"Good Web Surfing Terrible for everything else"

ps1112 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:4G Internet speed

The Bad:Very poor battery, heats up, bulky, poor call quality

Been using the phone for about 45 days now. Great for web use but terrible for everything else. Live in area with good signals calls drop in and out, very heavy and bulky, heats up a lot when in use. When I'm at home it is on charge, when im in the office durring the day it has to be on charge.
Very dissapointed probably worst HTC I have owned (out of three) and stupid that I switched from Blackberry.

 

nonib63 posted a comment   
Australia

Hi - thanks for the review, and agree - however I find 3g/4g to CONSTANTLY drop out. I upgraded from the HTC desire which never lost the signal - now I can wait up to 5 mins to connect to internet (fast when I do get it).
Should I take this up with Telstra?

average punter
8
Rating
 

"Nice easy Phone to use, it make phone calls!"

average punter posted a review   
Australia

The Good:use of use

The Bad:android voice dialing

I live in the Wollongong area and have this phone and 4G is available here.
I found the "4G" speed fantastic. I'm the average punter and I found this phone to be great. I like the UI etc. I was going to get the samsaung G S2, but liked this phone more, it has a better quality look.
Sure it's not design in California or has cheeky marketing, but it suits me fine.

supamario
8
Rating
 

"Great handset, pillar to 4G smart phones of the future."

supamario posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Screen / Apps / Look and Feel

The Bad:Battery / Heats up / software bugs

Overall from using this phone over the past week here's some important stuff to note:

Overall look and feel:
This phone is a stunner, a heavy weight compared to most current smart phones, but it's straight line and hard corned design gives the mobile phone a great expensive feel in the hands as well as to the eyes, everyone i have had hold the phone have commented that it "feels" expensive, it's good to have a little weight back in the pocket. The slim form factor hides the largeness of the phone well, and makes it extremely comfortable to hold even for long periods of time.

Apps:
The phone comes pre-packed with an insane amount of apps and widget software, enough to keep the average phone user busy for some time, add in the option of market place and you have a sheer winner in the eyes of the general consumer. your main business utensils are packed in as well and some fancy extra's, e.g. a mirror application for the ladies keeps the phone fresh and a nice addition to any handbag or clutch. Widgets galore equals great customisation opportunities straight out of the box.

Battery life:
Ok, so fastest processor on the market combined with being one of the largest screen real estates on the market don't put this in the "super awesome battery category" when using the phone medium to heavily you best be carrying a car charger or 2nd desk top charger to and from... but stand by time is impressive, with low to average usage in calls, browsing and social networking the battery can last effectively till later in the evening.

Camera:
3 letters W.O.W, extremely impressed with what this little baby comes out with in the cam department, software and camera quality is great, the shutter speed and new instant shot technology show off how great this auto focus camera. perfect compliment to this handset.

Overall:

Pros:
- Great speed in network and phone
- Great selection of apps
- excellent feel and look
- screen clarity and resolution is excellent

Cons:
- Have found some software bugs (force closing and 3G dropping out)
- not great for little hands (not exactly female hand friendly)
- Battery life for a user is not the great. (Does get hot with use of the handset)

Great handset, check out the links below for video reviews on the HTC Velocity 4G

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5a_vlhkLVQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uElGz5i7YAc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsnhEmg_1j0

Comment rate and subscribe everybody :-)

 

Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   
Australia

Great review, I especially agree about the camera. It really is a stand out.

 

supamario posted a reply   
Australia

Thanks for the reply! :-) it means a lot to know a a pro writer likes my work... i really do appreciate it!




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User Reviews / Comments  HTC Velocity 4G

  • AndyH2

    AndyH2

    Rating2

    "need to take for repairs after 8 weeks.

    stock options are horrible so needs a lot of apps to make it run ok.

    needs minimum daily charging

    generally pretty cr..."

  • Alisonian

    Alisonian

    Rating6

    "Wow.Had my Velocity since April 28/2012.Back in getting fixed already.Went dead and wouldn't start up or charge.Have had it 7 weeks.WAs a bit shocked when Telstra person asked me if $150 maximum re..."

  • LazyJoe

    LazyJoe

    Rating9

    "S0! HTC Velocity 4G is here and I love it.
    It seems from some of the reviews there’s a few complaints; Why did you buy it?
    The phone screams through data, any data!
    Every imaginab..."

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