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13

Possible HTC Driver Issue Spurs User Activism, Update: HTC Responds

We here at WMExperts have a bit of experience with users organizing around a tech support issue and petitioning the company to just fix the darn thing already. After all, over at our sister site TreoCentral just such an effort was successful last year. This time around, it's HTCClassAction.org, a group of users who aren't actually suing anybody (yet), but trying to get HTC to fix what seems to be a persistent problem.

Update: After the break, the rest of the original post, HTC's response, and a couple closing thoughts.

Drivers Missing?

At issue, several of HTC's devices run on a certain type of Qualcomm chip that has the ability to speed up graphics, but it seems like HTC hasn't developed the drivers to take advantage of it. The result? Sketchy video playback, mainly, but also mysterious slowness on devices that shouldn't be all that slow. AT&T Tilt, we're looking squarely at you.

The drivers (small pieces of software that govern your device's hardware) in question are responsible for all drawing operations. This means absolutely everything having anything to do with putting something on your screen is affected. This includes normal programs, video playback, games, taking pictures, etcetera. If it's on your screen, it's affected. This makes the devices feel really slow and unresponsive. For more details about this, see the Drivers in detail page.

HTC hasn't officially responded, but there have been pitter-patters of email suggesting they're looking into it and may release a fix concurrently with Windows Mobile 6.1 updates.

For our part, we would be equally surprised and not surprised to hear that HTC isn't using the full potential of its processor chips from Qualcomm. On the one hand, HTC has its stuff really together, so it would be odd if they didn't take full advantage of the chip. On the other hand, manufacturers regularly ignore chip features for reasons of development costs and the like. Many phones, for example, actually have GPS built into them that will never work because there is no antenna to take advantage of it. Others (like the Mogul) do have the necessary hardware for GPS but not the drivers (yet!).

If you want to join up, the site has all sorts of petition options, a list of affected devices, and the like. Meanwhile - do you agree that the Tilt feels a might bit slower than it ought to be given its stupendous specs?

HTC Reponds

Here's what HTC has to say about the whole thing:

HTC is committed to delivering a portfolio of devices that offer a wide variety of communication, connectivity and entertainment functionality. HTC does not offer dedicated or optimized multimedia devices and can confirm that its Qualcomm MSM7xxx-based devices do not use ATI’s Imageon video acceleration hardware.

HTC believes the overall value of its devices based on their combination of functionality and connectivity exceeds their ability to play or render high-resolution video. These devices do still provide a rich multimedia experience comparable to that of most smartphones and enable a variety of audio and video file formats.

HTC values its customers and the overall online community of mobile device enthusiasts and fans. HTC plans to include video acceleration hardware in future video-centric devices that will enable high-resolution video support.

A few things. First, although we knew it already it's nice to hear HTC say “yep, we don't use that part of the chip.” Second, it's a bit of a bummer, but pretty much what we expected. As we said in the original post, there are all sorts of phones out there with chips that could theoretically do more than the phone takes advantage of. I'd much rather have a phone that's well thought out in terms of hardware and software integration and overall design than one that has every possible feature known to man thrown at it. That's why my current phone is a Motorola Q9h (despite the lack of WiFi).

Third thought: “future video-centric devices” sounds pretty tasty.

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Reader comments

Possible HTC Driver Issue Spurs User Activism, Update: HTC Responds

13 Comments

I have these problems with my tilt. I cant touch the screen and nothing happens or it happens in a second or two. I use to watch movies on my 8525 and my Treo 750 (damn i miss my 750) and video playback was very good on both.Im really considering going back to my 750 but when my tilt is running right its a great. Plus the cam on my tilt is great which we all know isnt one of the treo's strong points. I just hope HTC release a update to speed up whats pose to be the ultimate device.

HTC is more an integrator than a true manufacturer. HTC takes all-in-one chipset platforms from Qualcomm and TI and dresses them up in various ways to produce its line of phones. HTC's current favorite is the Qualcomm MSM7200 (GSM) and MSM7500 (CDMA) chipset. HTC will stick with this chipset until all possible screen, keyboard, keypad, etc., combinations have been exhausted and a better and cheaper platform is available. Unfortunately, it's these chipsets that are experiencing the driver issues.
As an integrator, HTC doesn't have an excuse. By definition, integrators are responsible for the parts working together, which includes drivers. These driver issues are old news; why hasn't HTC fixed them already and why hasn't the "mainstream" tech blogs picked on the story until now?

As an integrator, HTC doesn't have an excuse. By definition, integrators are responsible for the parts working together, which includes drivers. These driver issues are old news; why hasn't HTC fixed them already and why hasn't the "mainstream" tech blogs picked on the story until now?
Well I'll do a straight up mea culpa on not knowing about the news sooner - just not enough time in my day for XDA -- it's one of those sites where if I go there in the morning I know I won't leave for hours. ;)

[COLOR="DarkRed">Official Response[/COLOR] from HTC Posted:http://www.htcclassaction.org/responses.php#officialBasically
[LIST]
[*]HTC does not use ATI?s Imageon video acceleration hardware [SIZE="1">(no driver on purpose)[/SIZE]
[*]There wont' be any "fix" released
[*]Buy our new hardware in the future which will be better
[/LIST]
Yikes. Seems to me HTC is dropping the ball here.
Re: why not cover this earlier, until HTC's response, the video driver issue was heavily debated (much like the GPS issue).
I remember posters on PPCgeeks basically saying "the graphic driver doesn't work" or there is "no hardware acceleration", etc. What usually happened was people claimed the poster was a troll, accused them of hatin' or just called BS, so it is not as if the community was united on this issue till recently.
At least we now know what has been up to this point speculated: no hardware video acceleration and more importantly, HTC doesn't really give a damn :hmm:

I don't think it's quite fair to say that they don't give a damn. There's only so many development resources.
What I think is misguided is the feeling that if it's on the chip, then we're *entitled* to drivers for it. Palm has never gotten around to including A2DP on PalmOS devices (though softick shows it's possible), but I don't think anybody is starting up a PalmStereoBluetoothClassAction.org site.

Think of it this way - if the chip can do GPS but no antenna and no wire is attached to that part of the chip, we'd all shrug and say "HTC decided against enabling that feature on that particular phone. I don't like it, but it's a cost-saving measure. C'est la vie."
...I guess I'm saying something as complex as a custom video driver should basically fall into the same camp.

Having followed this issue, apparently Qualcomm does have WM video drivers for their chips. It may very well be HTC decided not to purchase them. They have never needed to before.
I would say the Qualcomm chips have not been an unqualified success for HTC. I'm sure its responsible for the bluetooth problems in devices like the Mongul for example.
It did however give HTC cheap GPS and HSDPA.
Surur

I don't think it's quite fair to say that they don't give a damn. There's only so many development resources.
What I think is misguided is the feeling that if it's on the chip, then we're *entitled* to drivers for it. Palm has never gotten around to including A2DP on PalmOS devices (though softick shows it's possible), but I don't think anybody is starting up a PalmStereoBluetoothClassAction.org site.
Here's the difference though as I see it:
Things like GPS or A2DP are truly extra "bonus" features that are not required on handsets/phones but are nice extras to have, but not having them does not affect how the core of the device operates. (Plus we know, unlike GPS, this was not a carrier-restriction).
These drivers do have an effect on how WM runs--things like screen redraws when switching from portrait to landscape, or changing volume during video playback which brings the system to a grind. So it's not just about playing some videos in WMP but how the whole device functions for everyday simple tasks. This is what people are truly miffed about and what HTC completely skirted in their response.
Having a snappy OS that doesn't get bogged down by simple operations is not, in my book, a bonus feature. How many people have bought HTC devices and in turn, slammed WM for being slow and clunky? Turns out, WM is not to blame but HTC who is by proxy, giving WM a bad rap, which is technically unwarranted.
Furthermore, other WM devices by other companies do use these drivers (I believe Samsung was pointed out by some users), leaving HTC standing alone (will be interesting to see where Palm falls on this with the 800w--hopefully they are watching this slow blowback). Considering HTC are the largest OEM of WM devices, you would think they would set the bar higher for their devices.
This decision by them appears to be purely financial i.e. they cut-corners for the bottom line. That's fine as basically every company does that to some extent, but this driver-issue is not considered by many to be some luxury bonus feature that we should be privileged to have.
What's worse is that current HTC devices have worse redraw/refesh/video performance than their older devices--so this was something that they used to have, but jettisoned.
As a commenter on Engadget quipped: HTC just pulled a Palm. :oUpdate: There are some hints that HTC R&D is looking into it and still may release a fix "in April".

Ok Mala, you've convinced me.
Here's a question - does the Mogul use the drivers and that's why it's so much snappier?

Ok Mala, you've convinced me.
Here's a question - does the Mogul use the drivers and that's why it's so much snappier?
:p
AFAIK, no it doesn't. In fact on ppcgeeks I remember reading about people complaining of the poor video performance when it was first released. Granted, I think the landscape/portrait switching is slightly faster than say the Tilt, but it is still slow.
According to the class action site, all HTC devices based on MSM7200/7500, which at least 8 HTC devices (plus all their naming/country/carrier variants).
Interestingly they just setup a "Misunderstandings" page to help clarify the issues...The problem is the complete device is very sluggish, even compared to much older devices. This includes the drawing of normal applications, like the Today screen and TomTom, taking pictures (almost undoable), responding to user input, answering a call, opening the start menu, as well as playing games and video playback. This is certainly not up to par with the device's specifications.
I know with the Mogul, a lot of people chalked up the poor device performance to the new dual processor (which flew in the face of convention since it was supposed to be better), which now as it turns out was not accurate.
Just using the Mogul as an example, with the low-RAM, poor BT and now this, that device is looking more and more like a blown opportunity for HTC. It's getting such a bad rap when it shouldn't.