HTC is taking on the mid-end Android range with the Wildfire, but there’s nothing especially wild or fiery about it. Compared to most of the company’s Android handsets, it comes with a smaller screen with trivial resolution and a low-end CPU. While it won’t move technological mountains, it certainly looks good. Let us see what else it has to offer and our final thoughts on this new smartphone by HTC.
The handset tries on a more squarish shape, which is pleasant to look at and comfortable to hold. The weight is also just right so as not to feel like a toy.
The Wildfire’s 3.2” screen comes with a 240×320 pixels QVGA resolution, which is more commonly seen in cheap 2.8” types. At 3.2”, the pixel density almost lets you count the individual pixels which are not an exaggeration. The legibility and viewing angles are also bad under the sun unless the brightness settings are maxed. However, the screen supports up to 16M colours and is capacitive with multi-touch, which can be the only difference that matters.
Below the Wildfire’s screen are the four Android buttons in capacitive touch form, backlit in white. The buttons have haptic feedback if the option is selected. The trademark optical track pad from HTC also serves as a camera button. The ear speaker above the screen is a nice design decision and is quite similar to what we’ve seen on the Desire. Below the speaker lies the proximity sensor and the notification LED.
The power/lock button is located on the top right, while on the top left is the standard 3.5mm audio jack. The left side houses the volume up/down controller and the microUSB port that comes without a plastic flap. The keys are chromed and have a nice click.
The HTC Wildfire contains a 5MP camera with LED flash where the lens is slightly elevated above the back cover and it looks like a design flaw where the camera is bound to get some scratches. The back looks like the HTC Desire, with a wide strip of plastic with brushed metallic looks running across it. It also comes in 3 different colours; white, brown and red but I personally feel that the fiery red is the best colour available for this smartphone.
The HTC Sense doesn’t work as well as it should be here as the pixels look pretty stretched. While the HTC Desire had live wallpapers with the latest Sense UI, thanks to Android 2.1, but they are unavailable on the Wildfire most probably because HTC wisely decided that it might choke the slower 528MHz Qualcomm processor, and removed them. The interface is actually quite smooth seeing as the CPU speed combined with the 384MB RAM is sufficient for the Sense UI. The HTC Sense UI revolves around Scenes, which are six custom home screens setups such as Work, Travel, Social & etc.They are easily accessible on the HTC Wildfire with the usual home screen pinch-in with two fingers. Different scenes change the wallpaper and the widgets on the home screen whereby the Work scene contains a stocks widget while the Social offers a Facebook widget.
The screen reaction to the accelerometer is quite slow. The HTC Wildfire has the usual assortment of connectivity options you seem to find on smartphones lately, namely HSDPA 7.2Mbps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM Radio and AGPS.
The browser was quite a let-down because even though they load quickly and render properly, the browser tends to lag and ends up bring choppy. Double-tapping to zoom moves normally and once zoomed in, scrolling becomes somewhat fluid again. There was a scroll lag in documents, opened in the preinstalled QuickOffice suite, but this should be because of the slow CPU.
Most outdoor photos tend to come out blurry; however, the touch-to-focus feature should be able to get you a more normal result in close-up shots. Most scenes though will still lack detail. Another thing to worry about with the Wildfire’s 5MP camera is its colour representation. The outdoor shots that feature a good deal of sky tends to get their white balance mixed, ending up with a bluish tint.
The MPEG-4 video recording mode can only reach CIF (352×288 pixels) resolution, which means subpar quality and the slow 15fps capture rate doesn’t help. Lastly, the videos are also suffering from the bluish tint.
Music listening was acceptable with the supplied headset is better experience, although a lot of the ambient noise could still be heard.
The gallery interface and options aren’t much different from the recent Sense UI ones and the Wildfire has the annoying habit to search for media each time you enter it. The handset was able to play our MPEG-4 videos up to 800×480 pixels resolution.
The incoming call volume was acceptable and the voice quality was also satisfactory. There are no video calls available on the HTC Wildfire as there isn’t any front-facing camera and the application to use the primary one isn’t preinstalled. The loudspeaker is of average quality and sounds tinny and hollow.
The default 1300mAh battery is rated to clock in a minimum 8 hours of talk time even in 3G mode, which is great for an Android handset.
Pros and Cons
The pros are its interesting design and solid build quality while being affordable. Its great battery life is also an added advantage.
However, the poor camera quality along with its Sense UI that doesn’t look good on low pixel densities combined with the scroll lag in the browser may make some think twice.
The screen seems to be where most of the cost-cutting has been done on the Wildfire. This doesn’t seem like a particularly smart move as the touchscreen is almost all you look at and use. Having such a relatively large yet low-res screen creates a rather contrasting effect for the whole user experience; even more so with the fairly slow processor. If we didn’t have these bad impressions with the camera quality, the HTC Wildfire would be a decent smartphone to be recommended for inexpensive introduction to the world of Android touchscreen phones. The Wildfire truly fits perfectly in HTC’s Android lineup. It’s not the cheapest Android out there and it has its faults but it seems as the cheapest and fastest route to Android 2.1. We don’t think it will be a viable upgrade for any of the Hero, Tattoo or Magic users though.