Possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated budget smartphones of the year, but is the HTC Wildfire just a watered down HTC Desire for the masses?
Smartphones used to be the sole property of the geeks, tech-journos and business-types, but not anymore. Mobile phone companies are increasingly focussing their attention on producing budget models which offer the same technology, without the massive price tag.
One such device is the HTC Wildfire, which is one of the most heavily anticipated handsets of 2010 – and when you consider that it features Android 2.1, a seriously powerful processor and a gorgeous design, it’s pretty easy to see why.
The HTC Wildfire looks a lot like the massively popular HTC Desire. The design, shape and layout are practically the same and it has the same virtual trackpad that’s present on both the Desire and the HTC Legend.
Nevertheless, there is one big difference between the two, bar processing power, of course, and that’s size: the Wildfire is significantly smaller than the Desire.
Unfortunately, though, the similarities between the two devices begin to diminish once you get past base aesthetics. But this is to be expected, after all, as the HTC Wildfire is a mid-range device.This point is instantly obvious when you switch the device on and are confronted by the Wildfire’s heavily pixelated and very disappointing (240 x 320 pixel) display.
This isn’t the end of the world because a lot of mid-range users aren’t particularly bothered about having a Super AM-OLED screen on their device. Plus, the Wildfire supports multi-touch and, most importantly, it has a capacitive touchscreen – something a lot of budget smartphones don’t have.
In addition to this, the Wildfire runs Android 2.1 and has a spec sheet that’ll make HTC Hero users weep into their so-called high-end Android 1.6 handsets.
It also has a far superior OS to the Hero and exactly the same Qualcomm MSM 7225 528 MHz processor, which really goes to show how far things have come in under a year.
Running on Android 2.1 and HTC’s practically unbeatable Sense UI further compliments it by making navigation, file organisation and general hour-to-hour usage an extremely rewarding experience.
Some notable features of the Android 2.1 OS are Friend Stream, which puts all your social networking things in one place, a new and massively improved AndroidMarket application, lots of new onboard apps and widgets, such as News and the dedicated Google search bar (which got used A LOT during testing).
There’s also support for up to 32GB of storage on the Wildfire via its microSD card slot, which will suffice for even the heaviest of mobile media hoarders.
If that’s not enough, you also get all the Android 2.1 speed and power optimisations that aren’t present in Android 1.6 or earlier iterations of the platform as well, which is mightily impressive.
Typing long emails and texts was also a surprisingly pleasant experience on the Wildfire, both in landscape and portrait modes. This is where a lot of budget – sometimes even high-end – touchscreen devices fall flat on their faces, but the Wildfire didn’t. That said, it’s not perfect and switching between landscape and portrait modes is almost cringe-worthy it’s that bad, with the entire screen disappearing for a split second before reappearing in the desired orientation.
There is an excellent 5-megapixel camera, which features touch-to-focus, face and smile detection, LED flash and geo-tagging. In short, it’s one of the best camera packages we’ve seen to date on a budget smartphone. The image quality is also pretty good, and thanks to the Flash you can get decent pictures in all kinds of environments.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Wildfire’s video recording abilities, or lack of them, which are pretty abysmal to say the least.
I also really liked the inclusion of an optical trackpad, which makes navigating web pages, menus and apps an extremely intuitive and rewarding experience – kudos, HTC.
As we said, the Wildfire is very similar, aesthetically speaking, at least, to the HTC Desire. And while it may not be quite as fancy, it does have everything where you’d expect it to be.
For example, the usual HTC stock navigation keys are present – except on the Wildfire they aren’t physical keys, they’re optical and react to the faintest of touches, which is, again, a very nice design feature.
One of the things most noticeable a lot about budget-smartphones is their weight. As a rule, cheap smartphones are usually really heavy. And while the HTC Wildfire, which weighs 118g, might not be the lightest device ever, it is certainly daintier than a hell of a lot of similar budget smartphones on the market.
Overall, the HTC Wildfire is an excellent device. It has all the features you’d normally associate with a high-end device, such as Android 2.1, a 528MHz processor, a beautiful UI and a brilliant camera, just on a budget-handset.
Using the HTC Wildfire during testing was an absolute pleasure and it excelled in practically every department. So, if you’re in the market for a new phone, but don’t want to spend a small fortune, you’d be extremely hard-pressed to find a better solution than this neat little Android model.
The HTC Wildfire is another massive victory for HTC. Not only has the company managed to create a well-built device that is both pleasing to the eye and easy to use, but it’s also got the pricing right as well. Granted, it’s not perfect – both the screen and video record function are massively disappointing – but that’s about it in terms of drawbacks. Overall this is a brilliant little device that won’t break the bank, but has all the features you’d expect on a high-end device, with the delightful cocktail of an Android operating system combined with HTC’s Sense UI.
Ratings (out of 5)
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