Product Type: HTC Smartphone
Newest Review: ... when I made a phone call so I would have to take the battery out and turn on again. I've also noticed when I go onto the internet b... more
A Good Budget Smart Phone With Some Issues
HTC Wildfire S
Member Name: bumbleguck
HTC Wildfire S
Advantages: Cheap and feature packed
Disadvantages: Small memory, poor battery life, awful texting experience
The HTC Wildfire S is a great entry into the smartphone arena. It nicely balances affordability with a decent amount of power, but it isn't without its issues. So, here's the good and the bad.
This is a Google Android phone. For those of you, like me, who know nothing about Google Android - its like having Windows on your phone. The Android operating system (in this case its the "Gingerbread" version - yes, I know, silly name. They have one called "Ice Cream Sandwich". I mean... seriously) means that you can run apps (applications) on the phone. Similarly to the iphone App Store, the Android Market (or Play Shop, as it is now called) allows you to download a wide variety of useful (or, alternatively, unbelievably pointless) applications and games onto your phone. Play Store now includes music, film and ebooks - so its a rival for Apple's Itunes Store. The benefits of this is that, unlike the iphone, you don't have to use Itunes. For those of you that have used Itunes this will come as a relief, because using it is as much fun as skydiving nude into a crocodile enclosure. But I'm not here to criticise Itunes - I'll do that elsewhere. On top of apps you also have widgets which you can download. These are little programs that sit on your front screen, such as clocks, weather updates, facebook updates, twitter trends. All of these are pretty, but there are some problems with them.
The Wildfire S has a standard headphone jack located, sensibly, at the top of the phone. Believe it or not, it makes a perfectly reasonably MP3 player. I use mine as a backup when I've forgotten my ipod touch, but to be honest, you could quite happily use it as your main MP3 player. Although you might want a good sized (8GB) SD card for it.
Not only does this phone have the ability to hook into your home network, you can also turn it into a Wifi hotspot. So if you have a decent data plan (1GB per month) you can hook your laptop up to it for some handy mobile surfing. Obviously I wouldn't start streaming films over it, or downloading huge files otherwise your house will get repossessed, but this is a really handy ability. Plus, it's very straightforward to set up, even for a buffoon such as myself.
Although the screen is quite small, this phone makes the most of word-flow. This means that the text on the screen will resize infinitely to your preference in reading. The basic internet browser is fine in itself, but you might want to get Opera Mini - its free and you can install it onto your SD card to make space.
One of my favourite things about this phone is that it's small enough to fit comfortably in my pocket, but big enough for me to notice when I've forgotten it. It's also easy to find in a handbag. Er... I'm told.
GPS is surprisingly good, and you could use this as your primary navigation system (as long has you have a car charger or dock). Plus if you're into cycling you can download My Tracks from Play Shop and check your progress. This is very very cool.
The camera is also surprisingly good. I use mine all the time and the pictures are pretty good quality. I mean, it's not a DSLR, but as good as some compact cameras I've owned.
Despite being a bit plasticky, it's quite a robust phone. Literally the first thing I did when I got mine was drop it in the middle of the road, and aside from a mark on the case, it survived unharmed. The same action on an iphone will cause it to explode like a fragmentation grenade. Spoken with experience...
The touch screen is effective, you don't have to use a lot of pressure. It feels easy and intuitive. But due to its size it does have a few issues however. See below
Not So Good
Sitting atop the Android operating system is HTC Sense. This is HTC's way of stamping its brand all over your phone. In some ways this is a good thing, because it adds certain tweeks to your experience. Multiple front screens similar to the iphone, pretty widgets that you can set on your front screen. BUT. HTC insist on piling lots of things they think you want on the phone, and when you want to take them off you discover, you can't. Want to check the stock market? No? Tough. Its on your phone and there's nothing you can do to get rid of it. Use Facebook? No? Tough - you can't remove the preinstalled app. Ditto Twitter and numerous other apps that you will probably never use in your life. Initially this isn't a problem, until you're trying to install that killer app that will change your life forever and discover you've run out of memory. To me this is the single biggest issue with this phone. I can deal with the fact that it doesn't have a great deal of memory, its an entry level model and free on some very low charge tariffs. But when HTC fill what little memory it has with bumf you will never use, I get this whistling noise in my head and have to have a little lie down in a dark room.
Then there's the issue of battery life. It's poor to say the least. If you use it for the odd text, phone call and avoid the internet it'll last up to three days before it groans and falls over. But... you aren't getting this phone to just make calls and text - it's a smart phone. If you only want to do those things, this isn't the phone for you. Get a good old Nokia candy bar phone - it'll last forever and run for weeks. So, once you hook onto the internet, write something pithy on Facebook, tweet your two followers what you've had for breakfast, checked your email in the forlorn hope that there's something other than spam in there and then read the news - you'll have about 24 hours of battery life. Put a couple of widgets on your front screen (and you will, because you'll think they're very cool) and your phone will do well to last more than eighteen hours. This isn't too much of a problem until, like I did last year, you go camping for a week and after a day you've travelled (in technological terms) back to 1989.
The keyboard on the Wildfire is okay, but very, very small. If you have fat fingers, bad eyesight, arthritis or are just plain clumsy you're going to spend a lot of time shouting at your phone. You can download other keyboards from the Play Shop, I haven't found any of them particularly brilliant. Swiftkey X is about the best, but you have to pay for it and frankly it's not that much of an improvement. The net result of me having to text on this phone is that I make a lot more calls, and my kids have learnt a few new swear words.
This is being a bit picky, but the screen is too small. It is a budget phone, and you have to remind yourself of that, but it means you spend more time scrolling and deleting typos than you'll care for. Which takes me neatly onto the conclusion.
Overall, the Wildfire S is a feature packed phone on a budget. It will serve you well, but eventually leave you wanting more. I suspect that after my contract runs out and I get the opportunity to get a new phone, I'll go for a more powerful, larger smart phone. Simply because of the texting which it has to be said, is a bit of a nightmare.
Summary: Worthwhile if you're on a budget, but you might want to spend more on better
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