Mar 16 AT 2:19 PM Taylor Wimberly 35 Comments

Turn your HTC Desire into a Nexus One

Last night we attended the gdgt live in Austin event and got to spend some quality time with the new HTC Desire and Legend. These phones have been extensively played with and captured on video, so there is not much left that we don’t already know about them.

The Legend feels awesome in the hand with its aluminum unibody design. I’ve been unofficially told this device will land on Sprint (and maybe a few other U.S. carriers) and we expect it to be a huge hit. The Legend runs Android 2.1 with HTC’s Sense UI, but it is geared towards the mid-range audience based on its specs. Certain features of Android 2.1 (like live wallpapers) will not be supported on the Legend because of its hardware limitations.

The Desire and Nexus One are basically the same phones with a few minor changes. The Desire features Sense UI, small RAM boost, optical trackball, and FM radio while the Nexus One has stock Android 2.1, extra noise cancellation mic, multicolor trackball, capacitive buttons, and special coating.

Having played with both phones, I would opt for the Nexus One for one simple reason. It is supported by Google and will be the first phone to receive new Android updates. I also prefer the physical trackball and enjoy the special coating of the N1 (vs the plastic of the Desire).

Since both phones are virtually identical, their firmwares can be swapped out. The Nexus One will be the more hackable device because it is sim unlocked and has an easily unlockable bootloader. We have already seen the Sense UI ported to the Nexus One and I’m sure someone will port the stock Android 2.1 to the Desire.

Speaking of the Sense UI, it really is fun to use. I could see myself using it over the stock home. The animated widgets are beautiful and I found the pinch zoom homescreen (Leap) was a joy.

Thankfully, HTC has made it relatively easy to turn off Sense UI if you wish to return to the stock Android homescreen. To demonstrate this, we filmed a quick video. Users can still access the HTC live wallpapers, but the HTC widgets will not run on the stock home.

We expect the U.S. carriers to announce launch dates for the Desire and Legend at the upcoming CTIA show later this month. In the mean time, head over to the official HTC product’s page to further explore both phones.


Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website schultz

    I do this with my Hero, sense still starts itself periodically for whatever reason. It doesn’t change your home app justs thinks about life quietly in the background.

    • http://Website Drew

      Yeah, I recall this being the case with the Hero. I haven’t messed with the Hero in a while, so I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

  • http://Website Drew

    Just because two phones have the same specs (which isn’t the case here — the difference between a trackball and an optical pad can react very differently) doesn’t mean they use the same hardware and will be able to use the drivers from another device.

    Also, the N1′s bootloader was unlocked from Google. HTC doesn’t typically do this with their phones. The Eris didn’t get rooted until two days ago…

    • http://Website Brantyr

      Yes, there’s no guarantee you’ll even be able to root the desire much less put another ROM on it, I’d expect it to be shipping with a perfected SPL personally. (Also which moron downranked parent? It’s a completely factual post whether you like it or not)

      • http://Website Drew

        Thanks, I appreciate that. I tend to speak out against some of the conventional wisdom around here so I’m not too well-liked in these parts. :)

    • http://Website J. Mc

      I feel where you’re coming from, and in broad terms you’re correct, however:

      The Desire and the Nexus One share a baseboard, processor, ancillary parts, and 3/5′s of a case. Froma hardware perspective, the only difference really is the physical buttons (Desire) vs. capacative (Nexus One), and the trackball vs. optical joystick.

      FM radio antenna uses the same baseboard point as the noise mic, all screen, battery and ports are identical, and the volume rocker is sourced from the same company with same part number.

      In this instance, and ONLY in this instance, you really are looking at the same phone, for all intents and purposes.
      Now, trackball vs. OJ, and FM radio vs. noise mic? Those are definite use-case features to informa decision.

      As for the rooting issue? I’m a big believer in the “If it runs Android, we can root it” school of thought. Give it a minute, they’ll even get the MOTO SPL cracked.

      • http://Website Drew

        Oh yeah where there’s a will, there’s a way, this will definitely get rooted.

        I can only speak from experience with the CLIQ, but our FM Radio actually comes from the BCM Bluetooth/WiFi chip that’s in the unit. We realized there was an fmradio binary in the ROM and once the CLIQ XT came out with their radio app, it was easy to just move the libs and apk over and get it working. But there’s currently an active effort going on to port the entire XT ROM over to the CLIQ and it’s proving to be a lot more difficult that it was originally thought to be. The main reason being the kernel source for the XT still hasn’t been released. I made an attempt to get the XT ROM ported over, but eventually had to let it go until some more source is released. Another dev has also ported the XT ROM over, but this initially came with some issues:
        1) No screen orientation flip
        2) FM Radio wasn’t playing any sound (worked fine on the original CLIQ ROM)
        3) No Multitouch
        That’s pretty much what I can think of off the top of my head for his. For what I did, here’s what I had:
        1) No phone calls
        2) No Multitouch
        3) Couldn’t make/receive calls.
        4) No Adobe Flash Lite
        My point is that two devices can have the EXACT same specs and still rely on two entirely different kernels. Even if two devices share the same kernel, (the CLIQ, CLIQ XT and BACKFLIP all share the same kernel) the kernel still has to be built for that specific device. In order to do that, you need to have the full source for the kernel you’re building and HTC normally doesn’t release that. The two ROMs will likely be easily ported from one to another, but it’s not gonna be as simple as just flashing the ROM and it immediately works. Also, HTC hasn’t really been all that “open” with their Sense phones and I predict they aren’t gonna make rooting an easy task. Not saying it’s impossible, its just not as over-simplified as this article makes it.

  • anakin78z

    I like that HTC is adding FM radios to all their phones now. I always liked that feature of my Nokia and SE phones.

    • http://Website schultz

      I agree. That FM radio makes the decision for me on which of those phones I would pick up.

      I will probably wait for a while yet though.

      • http://Website gad

        You are right,the FM radio sealed it for me.And the fact that it has live wallpaper has won me over.

  • http://Website mihaelb

    to get Sense UI, you have to replace the entire ROM?

    • http://Website mihaelb

      er…on the Nexus One, I mean…

      • http://Website alanr

        Yep. The HTC Sense UI isn’t as simple as like a home replacement. There’s alot of frameworks that the Sense requires to run. There is, however, a home replacement program called Panda that did get the look and basic feel of sense. But I didn’t really like it.

  • http://Website DrewNo1

    I always wondered if by turning HTC Sense off, just like on the Hero. If we would get Stock Android 2.1 with the live wallpapers and all.

    The answer is yes, thank you Android and Me.

    You have just confirmed my next device.

    • http://Website Drew

      You realize that the Sense UI on the Desire will also include Live Wallpapers, right? I assume (theoretically) if the Hero when it’s updated doesn’t include Live Wallpapers with Sense, then turning off Sense UI won’t enable Live Wallpapers for you.

  • http://Website Aaron

    So he made the statement about the legend being “unofficially” on sprint. Where is the unofficial desire going to be released?

  • Bill

    I was all set to get the Nexus One until I saw that video. Depending on who gets it and when, I looking a lot more at the Desire now. And if I don’t get it, at least now I’ll have a chance to play with basically the Nexus One in real life.

  • http://Website Sixx

    Please do a test on the ringer volume and its touchscreen if its still avail. for u to test.

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  • Omar Aloyoun

    The Google Nexus One hardware has a built-in FM receiver/transmitter. Anyone who has played with a hack that enables us to use it?
    It will be cool if Google release an update to enable us use these features.

  • http://Website stefan

    I think google or htc should send out an OTA update like they did for Rogers users in Canada (giving them the htc sense) for the Nexus One. I would love that. So i don’t have to root my N1.

  • http://Website Andrew


    N1 soft buttons just don’t work reliably and for anyone who has purchased an N1 for business exchange email and calendar, well, calendar don’t work (not supported) either!

    Almost forgot gsm interference when playing music and intermittent video playback issues!

    Hope helps make a more informed decision if you are considering spending some money on either of these phones.

  • http://Website bigshape

    apparently you can no longer turn off sense on the retail version off the desire.
    quite disappointing as I prefer the stock look of android.
    can anyone confirm that this its the case?

    • http://Website Whiler

      Same issue with a French Desire…
      I Force to stop… but ASAP I click on the Home, HTC Sense UI restarts.. no choice…

  • http://Website sgb

    same with my UK desire. cant turn sence UI off, it just restarts even when you clear the defaults.

  • http://Website sy278

    HTC have removed the default Home from the build, you can’t stop Sense anymore as its the only home on the system it just restarts it.

  • http://Website Paul Nelson

    I’ve got a UK Desire and all I did was install the Launcher2.apk then force stop the Sense app and it then gives you the option. The phone seems to run faster now that its not running all of that, but that is just my opinion and I haven’t done any testing.

  • http://Website stephen Davies

    Correct if helixlauncher two is downloaded then sense can indeed be turned off i have a htc desire and i am in the uk

  • http://Website james f

    great tip as I quite liked the look of the N1′s UI eventhough I have the desire :), and as I already had a paid weather app that works almost as good as HTC sense, and with the home working faster who is complaining.

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  • http://Website alex

    I replaced Sense with laucherpro on my desire. Feels much smother und faster now. But you cant deactivate sense completely..there are still many background processes left.

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