We got the chance to play with recently announced HTC Wildfire and we're pretty impressed with HTC's take on the 'mid-range smartphone'. The Wildfire is the next-gen Tattoo, with a similar price tag and design, but that's where the similarities end. Like its high-end stablemates, the Desire and Legend, the Wildfire runs on Android 2.1 with HTC's brand-spanking-new Sense interface adding major social networking oomph.
Drew Bamford, HTC's director of innovation, describes the phone as 'bringing the full Sense experience to 18-25 year olds'. In other words, fo' cheap - and the company has done a masterful job of making it look quite the opposite.
Look and feel Rounded and compact, the Wildfire fits nicely in the palm, and takes its design cues from the Tattoo and the Desire. Four hard buttons sit beneath a 3.2-inch screen, and like the Desire, it has an optical trackpad. It rocks a similar metallic look to the Legend, though rather than aluminium, the Tattoo is made of metallised plastic with a metal battery cover. The red model was particularly striking, and there are also black, white and graphite versions. HTC's Sense interface plonks those seven customisable homescreens onto the Wildfire, including the new Friendstream widget for syncing those Twitter, Facebook and Flickr updates. A new feature is that you can now sync Twitter contacts as well as Facebook and Flickr, and there's greater integration with the phonebook, so that when you call someone, you'll see both their picture and the latest status update from any social network. The only thing that gives away the Wildfire's price tag is its QVGA display, which is duller and more pixelated than the Legend, and indeed, the Hero.
Under the hoodThe Wildfire sports some heavy specs for its price - HSDPA and Wi-Fi for consistent web coverage, A-GPS, a capacitive touch-screen, as well as a five-megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash. It also packs a 528Mhz processor versus the 600Mhz one found in both the Legend and the iPhone 3GS, 3.5mm audio jack, and full HTML browser for desktop-like web surfing. The accelerometer also allows you to mute an incoming call by flipping the phone over, or dim a ring by lifting the phone.
Ease of useOne of the few mid-rangers to pack a capacitive touch-screen, the Wildfire also supports multitouch. As with the Legend and Desire, we could pinch to zoom out and view all seven homescreens in 'Leap Mode', then select the one we wanted.
The touch-screen seemed just a touch slower when scrolling than in the Legend, but the virtual keyboard was just as responsive, at least with an empty inbox. And because its 3.2-inch screen is shorter but wider, there's actually more space in the portrait keyboard for larger hands.Probably the coolest new feature is App Share, which fulfils a small but important need - easily sharing apps with friends. The app comprises a menu of all the apps on your phone, and a long-press on any app brings up a list of ways to share it - posting it to all on a social network, or email/text to specific friends. Hopefully it'll be making its way onto the Desire and Legend in the not too distant future.
The HTC Wildfire will be available from June. T-Mobile is the first carrier to announce tariff details, with the Wildfire being available free for 20 per month on a 24-month contract from June 14th. Virgin Media has also announced availability, but tariff details are TBC.