Product Type: HTC Smartphone
Newest Review: ... in my pocket. These days mobile phones are far too bulky, but this phone fits great. The next thing I like about this mobile phone is ... more
At This Price, Wildfire Should Go Like Hot Cakes
Member Name: Nibelung
Date: 06/06/11, updated on 10/06/11 (72 review reads)
Advantages: Small, well-made, versatile. Access to 1000s of 'apps'. Now reduced to £100
Disadvantages: Not very hi-res screen. Battery life
It's been another difficult decision week.
What shall I give priority to on my 'plastic' this month? Buy a new front tyre for the SEAT or get a new mobile phone?
Hmmm, tricky one, especially since my wife has been flaunting her sparkly new phone under my nose and believe me, no-one likes a gloater less than I do.......
.....and then the problem solved itself.
1. Daughter breaks up with boyfriend and somehow loses her dominion over the iPhone 4, which it now transpires wasn't actually hers.
2. Daughter then has an urgent need of (any) mobile phone in which to use her Vodafone contract SIM
3. Good ol' dad steps in. Mind you, I'm not that good, nor that old for that matter to do something really silly like buy her a new one, oh no. I'll have the new one and she gets my old one, albeit a rather nice Poor Man's Blackberry i.e. Nokia E63 in pristine condition - it's been kept in a leather flip-case.
It was in the 3 Store in Hereford last week that I noticed the HTC Wildfire now reduced to £100 as long as it's bought with a PAYG SIM. So that's where the 'Poor Man's iPhone' comes in. I've been thinking about what I'd get next when my contract with Three expires, although that's several months away, but this deal suits me to the ground. My daughter gets the E63 with a PAYG SIM, and I get to use a new phone on my contract and stop my wife gloating - two for the price of one, can't be bad! When the actual term of the contract expires I may decide to plough on with what I've got, and let the contract lapse to a month-by-month 'SIM-only' job, or see what they're going to give me this time, and promptly sell it on e-bay!
Anyhow, enough of the decision making process, such as it was, now for the phone.
Oh yeah, by the way, I've decided to try not to use the car for any long distances till next month! Well it's still legal - just. Skewed logic? Moi?
This is the first incarnation of this entry-level 'smart' phone, it having been superseded by the Wildfire S, hence the generous price reduction of some £120. The upstart only really differs by losing the optical 'track-pad' at the base, a little weight and bulk, and gains a higher resolution screen of the same size, and the newer version of the Android operating system, 2.3 (Gingerbread), whereas my Wildfire languishes with 2.2 (Froyo).
Yes folks, it's a Google Android-based phone which also ticks two more of my boxes, i.e. its name doesn't begin with a small 'i' and also has nothing to do with Microsoft.
I say 'Android-based' because HTC do something rather clever with an overlay system called Sense UI which introduces some interesting features not seen elsewhere on Planet Android.
Appearance-wise, it's a real cutie, with an attractive and well-built feel to it. This beauty isn't just skin-deep as HTC hone the main shell from a single slug of aluminium. The only non-metal parts (except for the screen!) are coated in a rubberised layer, and then only on the rear battery cover.
OK, the screen doesn't dazzle you with its sharpness but at only 3.2" diagonal it doesn't have to, unlike its biggest brother the Desire HD packing a 4.3" job, looking more like a mini iPad than a phone. It may seem silly to give it a really good camera of 5-megapixels with real auto-focus and then to skimp on the screen, but honestly, as a communicator that can take good pictures it's great. As a camera that makes phone calls it 'sucks' to use that awful term. If you take pictures to use them elsewhere it's of no real consequence.
However, making comparisons with bigger brothers or even the iPhone is somewhat odious, especially when you have to keep reminding yourself that it really does do MOST of what they do, and it really did only cost £100, about 25% the cost of an iPhone 4 when bought outright.
~DOES IT COME WITH CHIPS?~
It's immediately obvious from the size of the packaging that it doesn't come with much in the way of accessories. There's a dinky mains charger, into which you plug a USB lead which also doubles as its data lead when plugged into a PC.
There are some headphones doubling as a hands-free kit, and apart from the micro SD card of some 2 megabytes already fitted, that's about it. You're on your own from here on in, except for the (inaccurate) Quick Start Guide, a pamphlet with just about enough 'gen' to do what it says on the tin.
However, I take issue with the information on how to' tether' your HTC phone to a laptop so that it can be used as a modem. Firstly, your network won't like it - after all it ruins the poor dears' chances of EVER selling you a laptop 'dongle' separately and secondly, the method described doesn't actually work. According to the 'QSG', you plug your phone into your laptop via a USB lead and explore the newly-connected 'mass storage' drive - OK so far, but where it goes 'Pete Tong' is when it comes to looking for the HTCDriver.exe file. It's just not there!
However, what is there is a rather nice utility called HTC Sync that not only installs all you need for synchronising contacts and file content with your PC, but also sneaks in its own installation of the driver file - which was nice. I can only imagine that the QSG relates to versions carrying Android 2.1 (Éclair*) and no-one had thought to revisit it to see if it needed a re-print.
(*Who thinks these up? Eclair? Froyo? Gingerbread? Haribo next, I shouldn't wonder).
Incidentally, the SD card also holds a .pdf file of the 'proper manual', all 188 pages of it! Yes, and all in English!
~GETTING TO GRIPS, AKA GET A GRIP~
Thanks to the rubbery bits at the back, the phone sits neatly in your hand. However, there's nothing like getting nowhere to take the shine off a new toy. There I was getting all excited about doing my very first Bluetooth transfer of Contacts from the Nokia to the HTC, when I find that my Nokia is not on the list of phones that will play ball. This was after following the QSG's link to a page purporting to list them all only to get a '404' when I tried it - thanks a bunch HTC. So more in hope than anything else I set off doing it, lying to the HTC about my Nokia being a Blackberry Torch, and b****r me it worked.
I think this is because a lot of phones these days use a standard 'visiting card' format for their contacts. Whatever, it worked!
The advantage of not straying from my current network meant that all the little applications and widgets unique to Three were still there, like being able to check my monthly balance and next billing date.
One thing that takes a little getting used to is the way that all messages from 'social networks', be they Twitter, Facebook, Bebo or what-have-you, are queued up for your attention in one spot under an HTC Sense widget called Friend Stream.
This cross referencing of data carries over into your text and e-mail messages, borrowing images of your Facebook friends (if they have the same e-mail address both for FB and your contacts list) and puts them next to the messages.
Something else that takes getting used to is, that owing to the dearth of buttons, practically everything on the phone is menu driven and requiring only the merest swish of a fingertip to make it work. There are notable exceptions, one being the on/off switch (duhhh!), another, the volume rocker switch and finally the click ring around the optical track-pad, which satisfyingly doubles as the camera shutter release, so you actually get to press something for once.
Not only can you flick up and down sub menus just like on the iPhone, but you can also scroll sideways to give you up to seven home pages, each tailored to what ever use you want. For example you could tailor one to communications and another to music and video access. I believe this is a feature of the Sense UI overlay I mentioned earlier. Pinching and widening with your fingers is also possible on relevant screens like photos or web pages.
I'm still having trouble with the on-screen QWERTY keyboard though, and prefer to work with the phone in 'landscape' to which it switches automatically as you swivel it, thereby making the keyboard bigger at the expense of space to write anything. My wife finds it even trickier, but then she doesn't bite her nails! You can buy a stylus but I feel this rather defeats the object of a smart phone's 'all-in-oneness'.
There's always the risk when mentioning features that have really gotten your attention, that they'll be 'old hat' by now, but bear in mind that I'm buying an 'end-of-line' phone having come from the Nokia E63 which had similar status at the time I took it on.
I like the way in which Google Maps becomes a proper sat-nav once the internal GPS transmitter is turned on. Using the Navigation application, it can be used in just the same way as a 'proper' in-car sat-nav, but without the speed indications or ETA figures.
The auto-focus camera can be made to focus on something less central merely by tapping on the spot required to be in focus.
A huge improvement compared to its predecessor is that it can handle data at HSPDA speeds a.k.a. '3.5G', as well as the more common 3G where available. Tethering a PC to it to use the phone as a modem gives performance similar to a mobile broadband 'dongle' in a laptop.
The phone is 'light sensitive' so it rings louder in a pocket, and quietens down when you take it out. If you really don't want to take a call after seeing who it is, just lay the phone face down and the call goes straight to voice-mail - a satisfyingly symbolic gesture that, don't you think?
~TOO CLEVER FOR ITS OWN GOOD?~
Building on the concept of 'tethering', you can also achieve this without the data cable in one of two ways. Firstly, you can create the link between phone and PC using Bluetooth instead, assuming your laptop has Bluetooth or a suitable 'dongle' (and it normally wouldn't be a desktop if it's got Bluetooth), after which it acts like a modem for the PC as if they're wired together.
Secondly, you can actually set the phone up as a wi-fi 'hot-spot' in its own right, complete with SSID of its own and encryption, thereby allowing up to 2 further devices to use your mobile data link. Thus it becomes a wi-fi router. I can't help feeling that not many people would be too willing to do this especially as most networks seem to be cutting back on their data allowances if anything, all with the exception of Three with their 'all you can eat' tariff. Even then, they halved my 2 gigabyte allowance just to make 'All You Can Eat' sound better.
~BUT WHAT ABOUT 'APPS'?~
Ah yes, 'apps', a smart phone who's anybody is nobody without the ability to add 'apps', is it? The Android market is the official place to go for these and a link is provided, as long as you already have a 'Google ID, e.g. a G-mail account. There are some 100,000 of the little blighters, some of them free, some only free to try and some costing money, albeit 59p in some cases.
It would be easy to go mad and load everything in sight, which is OK as long as they are not the kind of software applications that reside in memory in case they're wanted. This original Wildfire is not overly blessed with RAM so it pays to be careful.
In true Boy Scout tradition I've confined myself to 'Compass', a freebie which emulates the offering from iPhone. In the tradition of a Boy Scout who's given up his woggle in favour of a steering wheel, I've also added a speed camera database, 'Camera Alert' to overlay with the pre-installed Navigator Sat-Nav application that came with the phone. For 59p, this adds speed limit information plus that of any approaching 'Safety Partnership Christmas Ball' funding points. I already subscribe to the web-site in question so I don't need to pay for updates.
Most importantly, since I'm frequently running around the house like a headless chicken shouting something like "Where the **** is my phone?", I've added 'Find My Phone' for the princely sum of 99p, which merely needs to see an incoming text with the word 'findme' (that's the default - you can change it) to tell you its GPS location with a link to Google Maps. If you send 'ringaloud' (ditto, change it), it ....well....rings loud, which from a personal point of view would be my first port of call, followed by 'findme', which would have been useful when my last phone was stolen!
On test, 'Find My Phone' has correctly told me that the phone is at my precise address, and even if indoors nowhere near a window, so it's unable to see satellites, it reassures that 'it must be around somewhere' rather than lost and miles away. Of course, it did strike me, as I demonstrated this to my wife that letting others know the key phrases was a recipe for having to be where you said you'd be!
I've changed mine....ahem.
Mercifully only a couple. Firstly, the 188 page manual with grey text, which meant I needed to use my colour printer at great expense rather than my cheap-as-chips laser, nuff said.
Secondly, I wouldn't be in limited company to say that battery life is less than expected, although as the novelty wears off and I stop playing with it, it should settle down a bit. It is actually possible to buy a higher capacity battery off e-bay, pushing the capacity from 1.3 Amp/Hours to 1.9, but that's hardly a quantum leap. It needs to be borne in mind that heavy data use, use in poor reception areas, having Bluetooth and/or wi-fi turned, using GPS all take their toll and if away from a charger, you'd do well to remember this. After all, if you really are using it as a sat-nav, you could make sure it's attached to a car charger. I can get a couple of days out of it when fully occupied all day, rather than playing with my new toy.
There's not enough RAM to handle reading a 287kb Word document sent as a file attachment. I whittled it down and converted it to PDF in the end which works fine.
Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot. You can use it as a phone - how radical is that? Joking apart, it did dawn on me as I received my first call on it, that I hadn't the faintest idea how to put the call on loudspeaker, having spent far too much time playing with 'gadgets' and clogging it with 'apps'!
Oh well, I guess it'll be somewhere in the 188 pages...sigh.
Nerd Alert: And by UNpopular request, I'm still going to include the specification, but now I'm leaving it till last.
------------Cut Along Dotted Line And Discard---------------------------------------
(Borrowed but tweaked from HTC manual)
CPU speed - 528 MHz
Platform - AndroidTM 2.2 (Froyo) with HTC SenseTM
Memory - ROM: 512 MB RAM: 384 MB
Dimensions (LxWxT) - 106.75 x 60.4 x 12.19 mm (4.2 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches)
Weight - 118 grams (4.16 ounces) with battery
Display - 3.2-inch touch-sensitive screen with 240 x 32 0 QVGA resolution
Network - HSDPA/WCDMA: Europe/Asia: 900/2100 MHz
Upload speed of up to 384 kbps and download speed of up to 7.2 Mbps
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
Onscreen navigation - Optical trackball, touch sensitive screen
GPS - Internal GPS antenna
Sensors - G-Sensor, Digital compass, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor
Connectivity - Bluetooth® 2.1 with FTP/OPP for file transfer, A2DP for wireless stereo headsets, and PBAP for phonebook access from the car kit (or in the case of my SEAT, a compatible dashboard)
Wi-fi: IEEE 802.11 b/g
3.5 mm stereo audio jack
Standard micro-USB (5-pin micro-USB 2.0)
Camera - 5 mega pixel colour camera with auto focus and flash
Audio supported formats - Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav,
wma (Windows Media Audio 9). Recording: .amr
Video supported formats - Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9). Recording: .3gp
Battery - Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, Capacity: 1300 mAh
Talk time: Up to 440 minutes for WCDMA, Up to 490 minutes for GSM
Standby time: Up to 690 hours for WCDMA, Up to 480 hours for GSM
(The above are subject to network and phone usage.)
Expansion slot - microSDTM memory card (SD 2.0 compatible)
AC adapter - Voltage range/frequency: 100 ~ 240V AC, 50/60 Hz
Special features - Friend Stream, App Sharing
Summary: Entry-level 'smart phone' with touch screen