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HTC Wildfire S Review: In Depth

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The Wildfire S is HTC’s follow up to last year’s Wildfire. It’s an inexpensive, mid-ranged phone that comes wrapped in a stylish shell and gives users a taste of the smartphone experience for less. The HTC Wildfire S available in three distinctive colours – a metallic grey, a shimmering mauve and, as our review model did, a smooth opaque white.

The HTC Wildfire S runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the latest version available, meaning you’ll be able to download the majority of the apps available from the Android Market.

However the lack of a dual-core chip means that the Wildfire S won’t satisfy demands for things like high-end gaming.

 

What we like

We didn’t half bang on about how small and light the Wildfire S was in our What’s in the box? piece earlier, but it really is worth shouting about.

The curved shape of the plastic and its lightness make the Wildfire S both look and feel like an object from the future, or a prop from a sci-fi TV show. This is how 21st Century communication ought to look and feel; svelte, compact and light as a feather.

Despite having just a single 600MHz processor beating away at its core, navigating through homescreens, menus and web pages feels pretty zippy on the Wildfire S. The animated backgrounds and rainbow colours of the HTC Sense custom interface sit nicely with the exterior design of the phone – everything on screen looks pretty nice as well.

The 5-megapixel camera is produces good (but not amazing) shots. It comes with a single LED flash and the usual settings and effects we’ve come to expect from HTC now (see below for results of what its capable of).

Popular games like Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and Robot Unicorn Attack might not look as sharp as they don on screens with higher resolutions but they play well enough on the Wildfire S’s 3.2-inch screen. Likewise, Google Maps looks fine on the Wildfire S performs as well as you’d like it to.

We liked that as soon as we’d entered our Google Account details and finished the set up process, the Wildfire S started downloading all of the apps we’d previously purchased on our other Android devices. Yes, this is a feature of Android 2.3 Gingerbread (and a welcome one) and yes we’ve mentioned it in reviews of other phones running on Gingerbread as well. But it’s a feature we really like and thought it worth putting in.

The limited storage space of the Wildfire S means that the internal memory will fill up pretty quick if you’re in the habit of downloading lots of apps (more on that later). But again, thanks to Android 2.3, managing your apps and downloads is easier than it was on the original HTC Wildfire.

Call quality is pretty good, and a lot louder than you’d think a little phone would be capable of. Sound quality through the 3.5mm jack is commendable as well, considering the Wildfire S isn’t being sold on its music credentials.

The supplied headphones are a little on the uncomfortable side, but they’re not leaky and you can always swap them out for ones more for your liking.

 

What we don’t like

The low resolution of the Wildfire S’s screen hobbles the effectiveness of its camera, in that you don’t always get a clear idea of how good.bad your pictures are until you upload them to a computer. This is a common complaint of the review team at Recombu; phones with powerful cameras but low resolution screens.

Browsing the web is sometimes frustrating, as HTC’s custom browser only lets you have four windows open at any one time. You can circumvent this somewhat by downloading Dolphin Browser Mini, which allows you to browse with more tabs.

We said earlier we liked that the Wildfire S started downloading all of our previously bought and downloaded apps as soon as we’d set up our Google Account. While this is indeed useful, we found that the 512MB of internal memory got used up pretty darn quick – it actually filled up before half of our apps had been downloaded.

Thanks to the ability to store (most of) your apps on an SD card, you should be able to juggle for space, but it’s going to be a bit of a squeeze if you want to download more than a handful of apps.

Granted, we probably download a few more apps than the average phone user, but 512MB just isn’t a lot of space in this day and age. Be prepared to buy a bigger memory card if you want more room for other things like MP3 playlists as well as apps.

Battery life we found to be pretty average. Not unbelievably bad or anything, but you’d want to give the Wildfire S a good daily charge, to be on the safe side.


Conclusion

The HTC Wildfire S is a neat little mid-range phone with a stylish design. It has a lot to offer, but isn’t without its limitations. The limited storage space, will frustrate those who want to download and use plenty of apps, who should check out the HTC Desire S or wait for the HTC Sensation. It’s otherwise perfectly capable of fulfilling all of the basic features of a higher-end smartphone (checking emails, taking and uploading pictures to Facebook, using Google Maps) while not being the most cutting edge phone out there.

Specification

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