HTC Wildfire

Style and handling summary for HTC Wildfire review
The HTC Wildfire has taken a little something from each of the other flagship devices from HTC –it has the Tattoo’s size and shape, yet offers the Desire’s classy, matt feel. It is wider than the Legend, so offers a more comfortable experience when using the touch-screen keyboard, while the optical trackpad allows navigation without touching the display.
HTC Wildfire

User friendliness summary for HTC Wildfire review
Android 2.1 is fun and easy to use on the HTC Wildfire , offering multi-touch, and allowing you to pinch and zoom in any home screen. This lets the user view all programs in helicopter mode.

Feature set summary for HTC Wildfire review
We were disappointed by the five-megapixel camera, which resulted in slightly soft pictures, even in daylight conditions. However, its standout features include the responsive capacitive touch-screen and impressive social networking abilities.

Performance summary for HTC Wildfire review
Like its predecessors, the Desire and Legend, the HTC Wildfire runs on Android 2.1, featuring HTC’s updated Sense interface. Everything runs smoothly – social networking, apps and web browsing – though we found many web pages appeared pixelated on the QVGA display. And when using memory-intensive programs we experienced lag on the touch-screen.

Battery power summary for HTC Wildfire review
You’ll get 490 minutes of talktime from the HTC Wildfire ’s battery.

Full Review and Specification for the HTC Wildfire
The full HTC Wildfire Review

Android fans are usually a bit geeky, thanks to the opportunities that it offers for tweaking. However, HTC is doing its best to push Android to the masses, with an offering of easy-to-use handsets, customised with the HTC Sense interface. The Wildfire sits somewhere in the middle of the group – cheaper than the Desire and Legend, but a touch slicker than the Tattoo. In terms of hardware, it’s more akin to the older HTC Hero, but its range of software ensures it sits firmly among the ranks of the latest smartphones.

Mix it up

The HTC Wildfire has inherited something from all its cousins – it’s the same size and shape as the Tattoo, yet has the Desire’s classy matt feel. However, while the Desire was clad in Teflon, the Wildfire is constructed from metallised plastic with a soft sheen. It’s wider and shorter than the Legend, offering a more comfortable experience when typing on the touch-screen keyboard. Using the optical trackpad allows the user to navigate without touching the display. Above it sit four touch-sensitive areas for home, back, search and menu.

Just like the Legend and Desire, the HTC Wildfire runs on Android 2.1, with the updated Sense interface from HTC. Offering support for multi-touch, you can pinch and zoom in any home screen to allow for viewing in helicopter mode, and you’ll find all the HTC widgets here, including Friend Stream for social networkers. The only thing that betrays the Wildfire’s low price is the pixelated QVGA display. The Wildfire also has a five-megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash. But there’s no dedicated camera button – you have to use the optical trackpad. The camera produced somewhat soft images, even in daylight, but you’ll find the colours are warm and true.

Social butterfly

Considering it’s available for free with a £20 contract, the HTC Wildfire offers an impressive range of social networking capabilities. There’s Friend Stream, which shows an aggregated stream from Twitter, Flickr and Facebook, while a calendar extracts all your Facebook Friends’ birthdays. The contact book is really useful, merging friends with their social networking profiles. Not only that, but it displays all your messages from them in one place, along with their status updates and pictures. As if that wasn’t enough, the Wildfire even suggests links if it discovers matches between your Flickr, Twitter and Facebook lists and your contacts.

Something that’s on no other HTC phone except the Wildfire is App Share. This great new feature allows the user to send friends a link to their downloaded Android apps. You can link to App Share on your home screen. Once started, it will present a list of other apps, which can be shared one at a time using Friend Stream, email, text or any other social networking apps. The message you send will contain a link to the Android Market – it makes it so much easier to tell your friends about your favourite apps and is more reliable than just telling them and hoping they’ll remember which one it is when they go shopping at the Android Market.

Email and Gmail

Android phones have two interfaces – one for Gmail, one for all other email. Though we’re not sure why this is, the Gmail interface works perfectly, and even offers up suggested email addresses that you’ve typed before – on a desktop or another mobile. Once logged in, the user is synced automatically with the Google Calendar.

The interface for other email isn’t quite as good, but it has some neat touches, such as being able to select a tab to view emails as conversations. You won’t see this in many webmail services – Hotmail for instance. You can even use multi-touch in email, which we really liked. Words autofit so they don’t run off the page, and zooming in reveals smoother looking text.

If you’re typing an email, the touch-screen is not quite as fast as the Desire and Legend – but then considering the Wildfire’s lower spec, this is not that surprising. However, the keyboard is just as accurate. The touch-screen keyboard is one of the better ones we’ve tried, but still expect some jerkiness, especially as the phone gets filled up with data.

The bigger pixel

Web browsing was quite speedy using the full HTML browser – non-mobile sites were loaded in about ten seconds. A neat touch is being able to type in the address of some well-known sites, and letting the Wildfire suggest the name of the website. You can view in landscape or portrait, thanks to the accelerometer, although we found landscape preferable for browsing.

What does let down the browsing experience is the QVGA display, which makes web pages look rather pixelated. However, we found zooming in produced both smoother text and pictures, and mobile sites appear as they would on a high-res screen. It’s a bonus that text always autofits, too.

It is possible to bookmark pages, or choose to share them via Friend Stream, email or text. Fire up Google Maps and you’ll probably get the best experience available on any budget handset. A digital compass shows you which way you’re going, and the Wildfire also offers support for Google’s voice navigation. Unlike the Legend, multi-touch works here on the Wildfire. The GPS fix, meanwhile, is fine for driving, but probably not good if you’re wandering along narrow roads and streets in a city centre as it has an accuracy of 70m. The fix was fast though.

There was some touch-screen lag when using memory-intensive programs such as GPS, the phone and the web. While at other times it was responsive, in these instances the screen occasionally froze and scrolling was jerky.

The verdict

The Wildfire looks good and has some top-class features packed into its low-cost body. However, we love the added bonus of App Share, and it has all the required apps, social networking and fast internet access. While Android is still considered something of a geek’s choice when it comes to smartphones, the Wildfire brings it one step closer to the mass market, offering a fun, easy-to-use platform.