HTC has gone through somewhat of a surge in terms of success in the last couple of years with phones like the HTC Desire and the Desire HD impressing many of us and setting great standards in terms of Android-based smartphones and now have they done it again with the HTC Wildfire?
As we saw in the announcement of the HTC Wildfire is very much a budget Android-based smartphone aimed at those who want the more out their phone for a smaller price tag than the likes of the iPhone 4, HTC Desire or Nexus One, and the £160 that you will have to shell out for one is certainly that. But have sacrifices been made for this price?
With regards to the handset itself, the Wildfire is mainly a touch screen device, but also has an optical joystick similar to those seen on a Blackberry making navigating around its seven customisable interfaces incredibly easy.
On the outside there is also a handy lock key situated at the top of the phone (which unlike many phones we’ve looked at doesn’t unlock too easily) to prevent those potentially embarrassing accidental phone calls!
The phone is available in black and silver, both are very sleek and sit comfortably in your hand being palm sized, and it’s weighty enough to ease the worries that we had that it could feel a bit too ‘plasticty’ as cheap phones often do… and also notice if it slips out your pocket!.
The easiest way to describe the smartphone features is to go through what is on each of its seven interfaces, and the most sensible place to start would be with the home screen which can be customised with apps from the appbank but I’ll cover these a little later.
The bog standard homescreen, preset on the phone, isn’t really bog standard at all with GPS/mobile signal tracking informing you of your current location and weather that really seems quite handy – although when you think about it you generally don’t need to know the current weather at your current location!
The messaging shortcut is pretty much a “does what it says on the tin” job, but a nice little pop-up arises if you are fortunate enough (or maybe unfortunate enough) to be receiving regular texts! While we’re on the subject, messaging on this phone is a dream – texts are organised in a ‘chat’ style and can be found under the sender’s name, making trawling through messages faster and simpler. The final shortcut is for ‘people’ and again, is a ‘does what it says on the tin’ job and is essentially, a glorified contacts list which allows integration with your Facebook and email contacts a feature that is (rightly) becoming common place on phones.
The second interface screen (swiping towards the right) is home to the pre-installed apps (which can be added to via the Android App Market) and the ‘favourite contacts’ bar, allowing for two contacts to be added (three’s a crowd springs to mind!).
Of the preinstalled apps, one to note is definitely YouTube as for a smartphone with just a 3.2” 240×320 QVGA, the picture quality is fantastic and the time in which the video loads is seriously impressive. ‘Maps’ is another nice little app, although it isn’t as accurate as I’d perhaps like, it still does its job reasonably well and at least you’ll know what town you’re in!
The next interface screen is for bookmarks and provides a handy way of gaining access to all your favourite websites; the internet access on this phone is very fast and there is the copy, paste and search tool that makes browsing and searching easier and faster.
One of the custom HTC Sense apps is also the ‘Friend Stream’ interface which links up to your social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to stay up-to-date with your friends statuses on-the-go. To access messages faster and write a quick reply, there is a dedicated interface making keeping track of your latest conversations very easy indeed.
The weather interface is rather self explanatory: you can check the weather anywhere in the world (so check that last minute flight you’re about to book and see if you really will find that winter sun!). The final interface screen has been left blank and is fully customisable – as are the rest of the Android homescreens, so once you’ve decided what you find useful you can remove what you don’t need and make it exactly what you want it to be!
The 5mp camera at first, sadly, appears to be lacking in quality, with clarity appearing to be a real issue. However this is due to the relatively low quality screen and in fact the camera is a pretty impressive offering with a whole range of features (including geo-tagging and timed shooting and the standard brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance options).
The LED flash is also very good, although often too good as it will often go off when on automatic and brighten shots that really didn’t need brightening. The video recording options are a lot less impressive and go no-where near the quality in phones like the Sony Ericsson Vivaz or Satio, and frankly are a little disappointing given the impressive nature of the rest of the phone; however the positives of this phone so far definitely outweigh the negatives.
Overall the HTC Wildfire is a great little smartphone: it’s fantastic for those who like to use the internet on-the-go, thanks to its fast connection speed; great for those social networking fanatics, with new status updates arriving within seconds of being posted; or for those who just want a phone that does a bit of everything.
The only cut backs seems to have been made on the screen which can be a little disappointing at times due to the smaller size and resolution when compared to the likes of the HTC Desire. Also the battery which does need charging on a daily basis probably due to the number of background apps which sit running and accessing the Internet a lot of the time.
Whilst we’re on that subject, it’s probably not the best option for people who don’t have internet access included in their tariff as you may well find the amount you use goes through the roof unless you’ve got plenty of access to free WiFi hotspots; but for everyone else the HTC Wildfire is a very impressive low budget smartphone and one that will surely prove to be very popular.