Dear HTC

by davidnielsen

Considering that snowstorms made going outside unsafe during the last days I could return my Hero we are now stuck with each other so what do you say we attempt to make it a kickass experience instead?

Firstly, drop the Sense UI, I know you invested heavily in it and rely on it to sell phones with a superior UII experience and with Android versions prior to 2.1 that is likely to also have been the case. However you too must realise that it is a burden to have to port it to every new Android release to ensure that your users have the lastest version. You might not think it matters to be on the most recent release but it does, e.g. for reasons of security, unlike an old non-smartphone, my HTC Hero contains a lot of personal data such as contacts, my music, mail, Facebook login information – all information I would like to know is as protected as it can be. Ensuring that you keep up with upstream Android means that any security fixes are obtained at the cost of testing the release against the hardware and ensuring that your users are notified of the update (optimally you could offer to perform the upgrade automatically over the air – it shouldn’t be technically impossible).

Additionally you should get translations for free, when I got my Hero it only had English interface and only after going through a painful upgrading experience did I get Danish support. Being localized for free increases your potential pool of customers vastly, e.g. my mother would never use a phone that was in English, she would use one in Danish though. Working upstream is no big enlightenment for us Open Source people but I realise that it might hard to get right for you, we will be happy to help you. It is true that short term you may suffer a bit due to losing the ability to sell your phones on the preceived superior UI experience but long term you will be able to save money on maintance and development of devices. It would force you to compete on the superiority of your phones design and hardware but I am confident that you can do this as the HTC Hero I have in my hand is a solid design and very pleasing on the eyes even if it could stand to be a lot faster and smoother. People will happily pay for a good phone and with subsidized plans it’s not even going to cost an arm and a leg.

Make it easy to write text in another language without the autocorrecting spell checker doing stupid things such as replacing you with joo (which doesn’t even make sense in Danish). It’s is some what a big deal, the current generation of smartphone users are likely to both need their local language for text messaging friends but email could very easily be in English (or in my case, messages to my fiancée are in English as are 99% of my mails but text messages to my friends are otherwise in Danish). Given my usage pattern typing messages takes forever since I have to carefully correct nearly every word.

Let my contacts appear on the map if an address is known and allow me to define known locations (and let me tie those to contacts). This is pretty much a no-brainer that would enhance the usefulness and user experience of the maps application.

Include a Google Reader application, there are a few news applications in the store but none included in the bundle you get with the phone, however there are applications for monitoring stock prices. I have an overwhelming feeling that more people will benefit from a news reader so please hurry and include one.

Include a todo list program, it is really missing from the standard bundle and no good placefiller exists in the store that integrates well especially with my online experience. I can buy an app to interact with Remember the Milk but for such a simple and fundamental task I really don’t want to pay 15$, especially since Google has a similar todo list I could easily use. Bonus points would be given if it handles situations such as “Remember to buy milk” then being location aware and having access to a list of nearby stores it could beep and remind me that I need to do this if I ask it to.

Increase cooperation between applications, e.g. the other day I was having a text message conversation with an old friend and we arranged to meet up. However there exists no way to simply click the conversation and convert it to a calendar entry (it would also be interesting to be able to convert to a todo list entry since todo list entry basically are calendar entries without a date attached). Bonus points would be given if you can manage to take hints from the conversation for dates and date references such as the day after tomorrow (in multiple languages naturally) to suggest the correct date when creating the calendar entry.

Release specifications so that someone might implement a flashing tool for your devices that works under Linux. It would be nearly entirely free for you to do so and considering the popularity of Android with Linux users (as Android is a Linux platform) it would likely aid a lot of your paying customers. Given a release of specification rather than the release of a proprietary tool such as what you have for Windows would very likely also give you support for the Mac platform for free as well. Such a move would also buy your company a lot of goodwill with the Open Source community and show us that you are want to work with us, such trust is a good investment and can be the thing that tips the scale for buying an HTC device for a number of users. We’d rather own devices from companies that work with us than not and will warn each other of companies that directly work against our interests. Looking at how closed off the iPhone is and how much trouble Linux users have using their devices to their fullest, it would be very likely that distribution wikis would include a recommendation for Android devices and provided that HTC makes it easy for us to include full support a specific recommendation of your products wouldn’t be unthinkable – we are good to those who are good to us.

My stubby finger tips have a hard time hitting those on screen keys, perhaps we could find a solution for this. Hardware keyboards are good but tend to be a problem for localization and slow you down getting to market in a lot of countries. Clearly the on screen keyboard is a good idea but the keys are simply to small. Given the size of the screen it is hard to correct but ideas such as swype show promise to improve the experience. I would suggest spending some research dollars here.

As a general improvement to Android, I would really like an Audible application. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and I would love some means of buying the directly from my phone, download them and add them to my media library. Naturally the DRMed nature of Audibles products is a problem as is their complete lack of support for Open Source and Linux specifically but is a fight we’ll have to take with Audible not Android or HTC.

Finally you should provide a means for advanced users to provide bug reports, several things in your own released ROMs have flaws, given that it is related to your own fork I don’t feel comfortable going to Androids bug tracker and the only means you seem to provide is going through customer service which isn’t an interaction with the development team. This would naturally go away if you moved to providing a vanilla Android experience and you’d get help from the entire Android community to fix your bugs.