The Rhyme is the closest HTC has come to creating a fashion phone. But instead of simply teaming up with a fashion label to create a colour version, the company has included mid/high-end features seen in it’s Desire S, but added some accessories to create what HTC calls the ‘total offering.’ But is there a market for the HTC Rhyme? And does it fit in with the rest of HTC’s range of smartphones?
HTC Rhyme: Design and build
With it’s unibody design and three-tone back, the Rhyme follows the same design as the HTC Sensation, but comes in a striking shade of plum.
The top and bottom at the back are rubberised making the phone comfortable to hold, the bottom sliding out to reveal the 1600Mh battery, sim card and microSD slot, which you’ll need of the 4GB internal memory, but only 1GB is usable.
A microUSB slot is concealed by a cover, on the top there’s a 3.5mm jack, with a solid-feeling volume rocker. On the front is an illuminator that glows when you get a message. Touch sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search buttons are on the front and respond well.
HTC Rhyme: Screen and Browser
At 3.7-inches the screen is a respectable size (the same as the HTC Desire S) and probably the optimum screen size for convenience and movie enjoyment.
At 480x800 the screen resolution is respectable and text is sharp. It uses super LCD technology, so whites aren’t as crisp as the iPhone 4 nor can contrast match the Nokia 700’s Super AMOLED offering. However playing back movies is enjoyable, with off-angle viewing good enough for several people.
The responsive touchscreen makes browsing a cinch. Pinch to zoom when browsing and the texts adjusts to fit the space, so text is as small or large as you like. Tabbed browsing is on-board; you’re limited to six open web pages simultaneously, which should be more than enough for most people. Adobe Flash support is welcome.
HTC Rhyme: Android 2.3.5
The Rhyme is the first phone to include HTC Sense 3.5. The most significant difference is the new homescreen widget, which you can customise with your favourite five features, some reveal extra information - such as last contacted number. There are some extra wallpapers too.
If you aren’t familiar with HTC Sense, it’s the company’s customise interface with a wide selection of apps, wallpapers and widgets, now including Endomodo. We find it easy to use and intuitive, but some may prefer a more vanilla Android experience.
Swipe-down notifications have been improved, so as well as viewing messages and toggling connectivity options like WiFi on/off, you can quickly access your last viewed features. You can also launch up to four applications directly from the homescreen.
Contact integration has always been good on HTC handsets and it continues here, synching Facebook, Twitter and Gmail info.
HTC Rhyme: Camera
The Rhyme is equipped with a primary 5-megapixel camera for stills and 720p HD movies and you can now launch the camera directly from the lockscreen by dragging the camera icon.
Face detection is useful for people shots, detecting and focus on multiple faces at once, you
also get a Panorama scene mode and can apply 13 filters.
Pictures are good, rather than being fantastic. They’re sharp, with the edges and fine detail, but colours aren’t quite as accurate as we’d like, some - such as pink and yellow - look a little too artificial.
HD movie quaity is one of the Rhyme’s less successful features, at 720p, the frame rate is around 15fps, resulting in juddery motion. In addition footage is soft with notable blocking, something we’ve noticed with previous HTC cameras - in fact it doesn’t look like it’s high definition at all, especially next to 720p footage from the Nokia 700. Sound quality is poor too, sounding muffled and windswept rather than crystal clear.
DLNA is included, so you can stream movies and photographs directly to a compatible high definition television television, via a streaming device.
There’s also a front-facing VGA camera, but we can’t use this make video calls via Skype yet, although we know Skype is working to bring it to as many phones are possible soon.
HTC Rhyme: Accessories
Of course, one of the most unique things about the Rhyme are the supplied accessories. It comes with a dock for charging, along with coordinating purple headphones and charm.
The dock can be used on a desktop or bedside table, it’s magnetised so you can clearly see the screen. Once plugged into the mains, desktop mode activates, displaying weather, calendar and call information, there’s also a night dimmer. Built into the dock is a speaker, which isn’t powerful enough to replace your iPod dock, but musters enough volume to listen to songs for a desktop or bedside table.
Plugging into the 3.5mm jack, the cube charm flashes intermittently every time a call or text is received. If you are the sort of person who frantically searches in your bag for your phone (as we are), you’ll find it useful, otherwise it’s just a rather tacky extra. Although if you use the charm you can’t use headphones.
HTC’s included ‘tangle-free headphones’ which are horrible; the unusual shape of the housing means they kept falling out of our ears (we tried all three included bud sizes) and they’re incredibly uncomfortable. Sure they don’t tangle; that’s because the cable is so thick, looking closer to tagliatelle than traditional headphones. Sound quality isn’t great either, lacking warmth and separation.
HTC Rhyme: Performance and battery
Included on the Rhyme is a 1Ghz processor with 768MB RAM (matching the Desire S) and making the phone feel very nippy. 3D graphics of the homescreens whizz by when you flick them. We had no problems streaming from iPlayer over WiFi and it swapped between browsing, movies and games without a hitch.
With moderate browsing, WiFi and push email on and some streaming of music and movies, it will last until the end of the day, but you’ll easily get more juice with lighter use.
HTC Rhyme: Verdict
With its gorgeous build, unusual colour and the inclusion of a charm (while gimmicky), the Rhyme seems to be aimed at a female demographic, some (not all) of whom would prefer its plummy charms it that of a standard black/grey smartphone.
What’s really refreshing is that despite focusing on style, HTC hasn’t compromised on features and performance. Sure there's no dual-core processor, but that's missing the point about the Rhyme. It's not designed to compete with dual-core phones for gaming. The 1Ghz processor is ample and, pitches the Rhyme against the HTC Desire S (for a short while the creme de la creme of the Android phone crop), Nokia 700, Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray.
Exclusively available on O2 free on £27 a month tariffs, or sim free for £299-£399.
The camera feels a bit of a step back compared to previous HTC models, the screen is good rather than amazing and the headphones are horrible, but with a rare combination of fashion and performance HTC Rhyme deserves to be a big hit for HTC.