The HTC Wildfire is best described as a diet-HTC Desire. Meant for those on a budget, the Wildfire has the same looks as the Desire, and the same user interface in the form of HTC’s Sense software. The only real differences are the size, screen and processor – and the price tag, of course. Has HTC managed to create a low-cost smartphone that can compete with the big boys? Read on to see how HTC's latest addition to the Sense family fares.
What we like
The HTC Wildfire is light, compact and fits nicely in the hand - all without feeling flimsy or insubstantial at all. A delicate balance, but HTC has managed it. We're not suggesting that you throw it at a brick wall or anything, but we wouldn't be too worried for its health if we accidentally dropped it.
All the things we love about HTC Sense are present and correct on the HTC Wildfire; leap mode gives you a quick and easy overview of your seven customisable homescreens and allows you to quickly jump between them - a feature we love. Ditto the scrollable backgrounds and the ability to add widgets and shortcuts at just the tap of a button.
As on the HTC Desire and Legend, we're really impressed with the Sense keyboard, even on the Wildfire's smaller screen. Writing texts, Facebook updates, tweets and emails is effortless as basic contractions (I'm, I've, I'll etc) are automatically inputted without you having to dig around in any sub menus for that damned apostrophe. It's also easy to add your own colloquialisms directly to the dictionary.
HTC has traditionally struggled with its handsets' cameras but its 2010 line-up has seen a marked improvement. The 5-megapixel camera on the Wildfire comes with some nifty photo effect options; not only can you easily adjust settings like brightness, contrast and sharpness using touchscreen dials, but you also benefit from filter effects like negative, polarise and sepia effects. We were particularly impressed with HTC Wildfire's touch to focus feature, which is easy to use and very effective.
Signing in to your Google Account and getting set up is effortless. HTC has really put some thought into this and made it as easy as possible, with a wonderful set-up guide getting your Gmail, social networks, Wi-Fi and contacts all set up in one go. We were all ready to go and had started downloading apps from the Android Market within a couple of minutes of having turned the HTC Wildfire on.
The HTC Wildfire comes with an App Sharing tool that allows you to send your friends links to cool apps you've found on the Market. You can send app links to friends via SMS, email or post them to Facebook or Twitter.
Music sounds pretty good on the HTC Wildfire. The default Android music player does the job but isn't mind blowing; there's some nice album art displays and everything but it's pretty basic - there's no equalizers and playlist creation isn't terribly intuitive. Thankfully you supplement this with apps like DoubleTwist from the Android Market to give you greater control.
The 3.5mm headphones which come with the HTC Wildfire are also pretty decent. They're not as leaky as most bundled headsets are but despite this we still relish the option to use our own existing headphones using the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Call quality on the HTC Wildfire is good. There's no noticeable distortion or muffling of sound. In another neat feature, the HTC Wildfire comes with a discreet ringtone silencing system. If you don’t fancy taking a call, simply turn it over to silence the ringer and send the call to voicemail.
What we don't like
The screen of the HTC Wildfire is nowhere near as sharp as sharp as those of its bigger brothers; of course, this is one of the elements that keeps the costs down. While it's not a terrible screen, the QVGA resolution just doesn't have that same eye-stroking high octane power of the HTC Desire and HTC Legend's AMOLED displays. Still, at least it’s not resistive like its predecessor, the HTC Tattoo.
The screen quality also means that pictures taken on the camera don't always look as good as they do on your desktop. Though it would be infinitely more annoying if this were the other way round it does mean that the Wildfire doesn't give you a true idea of a picture's quality. The screen also is difficult to use in bright sunlight so you may struggle to frame shots correctly.
The HTC Wildfire syncs Facebook and contact information so that your friends profile pictures and latest status updates are displayed on the screen when you or they call. While this Facebook integration is pretty nice we found that sometimes it doesn't always assign the most recent profile picture to the contact and nor could we find any way to change this. Also when someone's calling you it's probably not best to pause to read their status update, as there's every chance they'll hang up before you get round to answering them.
On the whole, the Wildfire runs pretty smoothly, but we couldn't help but notice a couple of little things. While the Facebook and Twitter apps from the Market both worked fine, HTC's onboard Friend Stream widget, which aggregates status updates and tweets into one stream, was sluggish and unresponsive on the Wildfire. We've seen this in action on the HTC Desire where it performs better.
Also activating the leap mode by double tapping the home key was sometimes clunky, but you can also trigger leap mode by performing a quick pinch to zoom gesture on the screen which works a bit better. This is probably due to the 528 MHz processor, which obviously wont be able to match the 1GHz processor of the HTC Desire.
The HTC Wildfire is an excellent mid-range touchscreen with some great features. Though it looks a lot like a small version of an HTC Desire it should be noted that the display isn't as sharp and the phone isn't quite as quick on its feet as it's bigger sibling. Despite this, it’s one of the best low-cost handsets around.