Phone Review: HTC Wildfire

The HTC Wildfire is a very nice looking phone, styled after the very successful HTC Desire it could almost be it’s little brother. However, looks are where the similarity between these phones both begins and ends. Check out the full review for our thoughts on this budget handset from the Taiwanese HTC.

 

Specification

OS Android 2.1 (Upgradable to 2.2)
Processor 528 MHz ARM 11 processor, Adreno 200 GPU, Qualcomm MSM7225 chipset
Memory ROM: 512MB RAM: 384MB
Dimensions 106.8 x 60.4 x 12 mm
Weight 118g
Display 3.2" TFT Capacitive 240 x 320 (Gorilla Glass)
Battery 1300 mAh
Networks
  • GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • HSDPA 900 / 2100
Connectivity Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g
Camera 5MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash

Package Contents

  • MicroUSB charging/data cable
  • UK Plug adaptor
  • Hands free earphones
  • Case (May just be the review unit)

Hardware

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Wildfire definitely gets its looks from its older brother the HTC Desire, however there are some key differences, most notably the size.

The Wildfire has a 3.2” QVGA screen with a resolution of 240x320. HTC have opted for an LCD capacitive touchscreen, which looks fine inside but still suffers from that very annoying mirroring effect if you take this phone outside in the sun. But this will be an issue with the majority of budget handsets so it’s difficult to label it as a disadvantage here, it’s just something you should be aware of.

The small resolution of the screen does mean that even the larger text displayed on the handset suffers from blurred edges, and this becomes even more prominent an issue when you attempt to view smaller text, which is some cases can be almost unreadable. An example we noticed of this was a Facebook notification email in the Gmail application. As you know Gmail does not currently let you zoom in, and because of the blurred edges we did find it difficult to read the text displayed in this instance.

The Wildfire follows the Desire with the optical touchpad at the bottom of the phone, which we are a fan of. However, it replaces the 4 keys physical found on the Desire with capacitive touch keys for the Wildfire. We found these keys very well implemented. The addition of an option in the phones settings to turn on/off the haptic feedback of these keys is welcomed, although the ability to change the force of these vibrations would have been useful. However, we do understand people may have an objection to capacitive keys in general, but the Wildfire does do a good job. The touch points are directly above the icon as you would expect, and HTC seems to have learnt its lesson here when compared to the capacitive keys found on the likes of the Nexus One.

The top of the phone contains the stylishly implemented power button and the standard 3.5mm headset jack.The thin metal strip used as the power button looks really nice, but it is also quite low down, almost level with the top of the phone leading to some (but only slight) annoyance when attempting to turn on or lock the phone.

The left hand side of the phone follows suit with one long strip of metal acting as the volume rocker, again really adding to the sophisticated looks of the handset. The lower left hand side also contains the microusb port for charging/PC sync. The right hand side of the phone has been left alone by the HTC designers this time. The bottom of the phone contains a small microphone hole, but again is relatively bare.

Overall the build is very impressive for a budget handset, it looks and feels more expensive than it actually is, and that is always a good thing.

Software

The Wildfire contains HTC’s very nice Sense interface including features such as the neat text highlighting system, pinch to view homescreen previews, scenes as well as the standard assortment of HTC widgets (which are still some of the best that android phones ship with).

One thing that did disappoint is the lack of inclusion of both live wallpapers and the HTC clock/weather widget animations. However this is most likely to be due to the low spec CPU, and if the performance is not there to handle such things it’s probably a good decision by HTC to remove them anyway.

However, the animations that are present (lockscreen, home preview, app drawer, app transitions) are implemented very well (even if a little less flashy than high end handsets), and do not seem to suffer any slowdown as a result of the low CPU clock speed.

HTC have included a few additional apps that might add some value to the user:

  • App Sharing: Lets you share a market link to any of your apps with a friend (using the android share intent).
  • Desk Clock: Clock and date presumably for the bed side table.
  • Flashlight: Use the LED flash as a torch.
  • FM Radio: Exactly what it says on the tin, complete with a very nice interface.

HTC have also skinned some of the default apps such as the keyboard, messages and music player apps. If you have used sense before this is pretty much the same deal, if you haven’t, HTC’s skin is generally considered better than the stock android UI, and one of the best manufacturer skins out there.

Performance

In general, the phone performs well enough. Moving between apps and homescreens might not be instant, but for a phone of this value and specification it is more than adequate. Battery life seems to be better than you would get on a HTC Desire, despite the smaller battery. The LCD screen and low clock speed of the CPU seem to be fairly easy on the battery. Having said that, depending on your use of the phone it may still require a nightly charge, it is a smartphone after all!

In call, the phone performs fine, the callers voice comes through clear enough and there is certainly no issue with regards to this. When using the loudspeaker on calls, the sound does degrade, although not to an unacceptable point. The callers voice comes through clear enough but just don’t expect to be blown away by it.

The external speaker isn’t great for audio, it does have quite a high volume but the higher you turn it up the more muffled the sound becomes. But, for us the loudspeaker is preferable than that found on other HTC devices such as the Desire, which offers a worse tinny sound.

Some people measure a smartphones ability by its media capability, some by its corporate sync features, us? We just want to know how well it can play Angry Birds! If you are like us, and gaming is important to you in a smartphone, please stop reading this review now. The HTC Wildfire has a really hard time handling, what is in the wider view of things, a relatively low requirement game. Angry Birds on the Wildfire is not fun, the game is laggy and the graphics are poor. Even the in-built game Teeter didn’t seem smooth to us, and the low resolution screen just compounded our disappointment in terms of this phones ability to amuse us by playing games.

The Wildfire also struggles to play HD video, in fact it doesn’t support them at all. Even lower quality videos suffer from stutter when played back. Even if the CPU was able to playback videos smoothly, thequality of this screen will still make the experience less than enjoyable.

Camera

The camera, like much of this phone, is adequate. The 5 megapixel camera found on the Wildfire has an LED flash and autofocus, and the actual app is overlaid with HTC’s very nice and elegant camera skin. Any pictures you take with this camera won’t win you any awards, but for a budget smartphone they are not terrible... As long as you don't try and compare it to your favourite compact.

Sample Pics

The same can’t be said for the video recording however. The Wildfire records video at a max resolution of 352x288. The result of this is a small video file displaying a blurry video with a pretty poor frame rate! The video recording (much like the video playback) is a bit of a letdown to be honest.

Sample Video

Conclusion

The Wildfire is a nice budget android phone. Externally, the phone looks very nice and elegant in a way only HTC can offer. However, the largest disappointment is the screen. The low resolution and screen type make us look over at the cheaper priced ZTE Blades OLED screen with envy. If the ‘look’ of a phone is important to you, as well as having the Sense interface then we may be able to recommend this phone, otherwise there are just better alternatives out there..

Big thanks to the guys at Three UK for sending us the HTC Wildfire handset for review!