Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
6/7/2011 5:11:26 PM
Android 2.3 for a very affordable price, dinky form factor and excellent social networking integration.
The camera is disappointing and the processor is on the sluggish side. Though it runs on Android 2.3, the Wildfire is incapable of making the most of the OS.
The original HTC Wildfire was something of game changer. It proved that you didn't have to pay through the nose for a bona fide smartphone, with some operators offering the phone for free on contracts as little as £15 per month. Such good value it proved to be that not only was it awarded with our Best Value Phone at last year's Consumer Awards, but other operators followed suit and began bringing out better more feature packed smartphones at far more competitive price points. The HTC Wildfire S is its sequel, but will it fare as well as its older brother?
As with its predecessor, the HTC Wildfire S is a pocket-friendly device. In fact HTC has managed to shave just over 5mm in length. Its edges are curved and smooth though the volume bar and the power key both protrude to a point you'll want to be careful when making a call. Unlike the original, there's no optical pad on the Wildfire S, with HTC instead reverting to four touch keys; home key, setting menu, back key and search. While these additions are all well and good it does mean you'll have to awake the phone by pressing the power key and then swiping the screen to unlock and the lack of dedicated camera key is frustrating. While the overall design is not ugly by any means, it's not particularly thrilling either with the Teflon back now beginning to look a little dated.
Though HTC has kitted the Wildfire S out with the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread, most of what is good about this OS remains redundant. For example, there's no NFC or front facing camera for video calling and while multitasking is always a welcome addition, the fact the Wildfire S only boasts a processor with a magnitude of 600MHz means you won't be whizzing along at a rate of knots. Android may be running under the surface but the Wildfire S is skinned with the ever excellent HTC Sense UI. Emphasis is on customisation with Sense, so much so that there's even a dedicated virtual key for all things personalisation, found in the bottom corner of each home screen. There're seven home screens in total, all of which look the part and can be viewed as seven thumbnails by simply pinching and pulling your thumb and forefinger together. HTC has actually vamped up the pixelation on the Wildfire S and the results are pleasing with a clear vibrant display. That said, we felt the menu, which incidentally scrolls vertically, looked a little pixilated.
FriendStream remains one of, if not the best social networking integration feed on any mobile platform. Not only does it list and update all your news feeds from Twitter, Facebook and Flickr but any appointments, events and birthdays listed on Facebook are pulled into the phones calendar. Friend Stream also syncs any corresponding social network contacts with your existing list of contacts. You can then view all correspondence you've had with a single person, be it through Facebook, Twitter or a good old fashioned text message, view their status updates as well as any links, videos or pictures they've posted. One gripe we did have was when initially typing in our user id and passwords, turning the phone on its side to utilize the roomier QWERTY keyboard rather than log us in the enter key merely did nothing. Instead we had to turn the phone back into a vertical position where the keyboard then dropped revealing a virtual log in key. A mere gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
Despite boasting specs of the calibre of a five-mexapixel snapper and LED flash the camera is one of the most disappointing elements of the HTC Wildfire S. There was a distinct lack of definition in our pics in terms of detail and colour, while the phone particularly struggled with macro (i.e. close-up) shots.
The HTC Wildfire S is another welcome addition to the affordable smartphone market. However, unlike when its elder brother arrived the competition has become fierce and as such the HTC Wildfire S doesn't stand-out.