As much as we love high-end handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Sensation, they are often too big or too powerful for some who just want a small, basic phone. For others they're simply too expensive.
With the exception of Apple (unless this changes with the rumoured iPhone 4S/4 Nano) all the major manufacturers, including LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and HTC have produced cut down versions of their high-end flagship handsets.
Two of the most popular of these are the HTC Wildfire S and Samsung Galaxy Ace, both are Android handsets packed with features and priced in the mid-ranges. Which one should you go for? Read on to find out.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Design and Build
Both handsets look like mini version of their high-powered siblings: the HTC Desire S and Samsung Galaxy S. The Samsung is slightly longer; measuring 112.4mm to the HTC's 101.3mm, both are around the same depth at 11.5mm to 12.4mm and feel comfortable to hold.
Our version of the Wildfire S has a silver metal trim around the edge and white plastic back, you can also choose from black, purple and silver editions too. It looks and feels far classier than the Ace, which although is attractive with it's black-gloss front and textured back, feels cheaper and is a magnet for fingerprints.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Storage and connections
Specifications here are very similar, each has a 3.5mm jack in the top for plugging in a pair of headphones and a microUSB slot for charging. Internal storage of the Wildfire S is 512MB, which trumps the 158MB of the Ace. Both include microSD slots; the Ace’s is behind a wobbly plastic flap and to access the Wildfire S’s you need to remove the entire back, which is safer, if slightly more time consuming.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Screen
In terms of real estate the Ace comes out on top, with a 3.5-inches, in contrast to the HTC Wildfire S with a smaller 3.2-inch screen. However both screens have the same number of pixels (480 x 320), so because the Wildfire S's screen is smaller text is slightly sharper.
Side-by-side whites seem far purer and colours brighter on the Wildfire S, bright colours like orange and red in particular are muted on the Galaxy Ace. However off-angle viewing is better on the Ace, in bright sunlight the Wildfire Sis slightly easier to see, although neither phone is fantastic.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Interface
Both phones run Android. However the Ace is lagging somewhat with Android 2.2 Froyo, while the Wildfire S offers the more up to date Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread.
Advantages that Gingerbread offers over Froyo includes improved text cut and paste and a feature which automatically downloads any apps you've bought previously - useful if you're moving to the Wildfire S from another Android phone.
The Ace offers far closer to the vanilla Android experience, despite being overlayed with Samsung’s Touchwiz UI; this includes some neat extras like ThinkFreeOffice and All Share. For social networking you get Samsung’s Social Hub app, but it’s more of a portal for launching Twitter and Facebook via the browser, so we’d suggest downloading the Android apps instead. DLNA is welcome touch at this price though.
In common with all HTC Android handsets the Wildfire S runs HTC Sense, and a totally different experience. With instant customisation buttons and features. Friendstream pulls in Twitter and Facebook feeds, although the large widget won’t appeal to everyone.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Keyboard
With its bigger screen the Ace has the advantage here, especially if you have larger fingers; it makes the Wildfire S look pokey in comparison. The addition of Swype on the Galaxy Ace where you run your fingers over the letters to make a word is a bonus.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Browser
Browsing is a pleasant experience on both handsets. The slightly larger screen on the Ace is slightly better for reading text and scrolling, but the Wildfire S more than makes up for it with the excellent text wrapping feature where the text fits the space automatically.
The browsing experience can't match that of a high-specced handset though. Neither handset can run BBC iPlayer (or supports Flash) and you can only open a maximum of four screens on each.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Camera
Both phones can capture 5-megapixel stills and include autofocus and flash. When taking photographs with the Wildfire S, even when set to Auto White Balance, which continues through to the photos.
The Samsung Galaxy Ace struggles more with bright sunlight, one of our test shots was taken on a extremely bright day with the sun behind us and the sky looks artificially blue. The Wildfire S (left) was sharper and more natural, but suffered more with chromatic abberation (purple fringing between high/low contrast areas).
Both phones offer a good selection of tweakable features though. Wildfire S features include adjustable ISO and White Balance, you can also add around 4-5 other filters like Greyscale, Sepia, and Posterise. The Ace matches it with Metering, ISO and White Balance, along with 13 scene modes.
Unsurprisingly at this price point, neither includes a dedicated shutter button. Focus speeds are similar, although we like the ability to tap to focus on the Wildfire S.
When it comes to video however, the Wildfire S is the easy winner, mainly because it can shoot far larger footage at 640 x 480, compared to the Galaxy Ace at 320 x 240. Although the quality of footage from the Wildfire S isn’t great, it’s very soft and the colours aren’t as natural as the Ace.
HTC Wildfire vs Samsung Galaxy Ace:Music
The Samsung Galaxy Ace has the louder speaker, plug in some headphones (we used the Sennheiser CX281) and both phones are evenly matched.
Both phones have a similar layout with: Artists, Albums, Playlists and Tracks options, you can easily create playlists and Set as Ringtone, elsewhere the Wildfire S, with a newer version of Android comes with features like ‘Find Videos’ ‘You Tube’ and better sharing options.
Surprisingly only the Ace includes equaliser settings, with 12 to choose from including Bass Enhancer.
Audio file support is better on the Wildfire S, with AAC, WMA and OGG, alongside MP3 and AAC, while the Ace only supports MP3 and AAC.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Performance
The HTC Wildfire S is equipped with an 600Mhz processor and 512Mb RAM, while the Samsung Galaxy Ace has an 800Mz processor, but with slightly less RAM at 278MB. Neither is going to be blisteringly fast and in everyday use them seem very similar, with no problems swapping between applications, although sometimes the touchscreen responds slightly quicker on the Wildfire S.
Although for battery performance, the Wildfire S lags behind the Ace, with 350 minutes 3G talk time to the Ace with 390 minutes talk time. In use we found we had to charge the Wildfire S at the end of the day, but the Ace could make it into the second day. With heavy use - such as push email, GPS and Bluetooth all on, you'll have to charge every day though.
HTC Wildfire S vs Samsung Galaxy Ace: Verdict
If you are looking for a mid-range Android smartphone, you'll be happy with either of these handsets, both of which have advantages and disadvantages.
The HTC Wildfire S looks more premium, with superior build quality and although the screen is smaller, text looks sharper. Thanks to HTC Sense, the Wildfire S looks and feels far smoother to use with neat shortcuts and widgets, although the Samsung Galaxy Ace certainly is very user-friendly, although it's a real shame it doesn't run Gingerbread. For many Android fans, the ability to root the Ace will certainly appeal.
While both phones are fine for capturing quick snaps and uploading videos to YouTube, neither of these phones should be bought for their cameras, it's also a shame neither supports Flash video either.
Ultimately it's a close call between both handsets, for the overall user experience we prefer the Wildfire S, partly because we like HTC Sense, but many people will love the more 'pure' Android feel of the Ace. Android fans on a budget won't be disappointed with either.