Review: HTC Wildfire

3 Aug

Unlike in the past, when HTC just relied on Windows Mobile for its smartphone portfolio, today the Taiwan-based smartphone maker’s regular fare consists more of Android devices across price segments, with a rare Windows Mobile smartphone peeking out from an obscure corner. HTC has probably been the only Android smartphone vendor that has been able to provide its consumers with the best specs at the lowest price point possible.

The Wildfire is a good example as it shares most of its specs with the HTC Hero (processor and camera included) and is still at least Rs 7,000 cheaper. Being a Hero user myself, I find the Wildfire to be a better option for the price conscious folks. The only compromise one has to make is its inferior 320×240 pixel QVGA display.

At a glance, the Wildfire looks like a mini HTC Desire. I won’t be surprised if the name HTC Desire Mini crossed the marketing teams’ mind before they settled down on Wildfire. Unlike many smartphones that go with a glossy plastic finish, especially for their entry-level phones, HTC has made no compromises on the materials used. The phone feels good to hold, especially thanks to its soft plastic finish, and does not look like a cheap product. Everything fits perfectly without any creaking sound when it is held tightly. Like the Desire, it has an optical joystick but rather than having physical soft touch buttons, the Wildfire has a touch-sensitive panel below the display.

The Wildfire has the same HTC Sense UI, which is found on the Desire, Legend and even the Hero (after updated to Android 2.1). I won’t delve into details over here but in a nutshell, the UI works smoothly though there is an occasional lag while typing, something that I’m used to given my experience with the Hero.

One area where it trumps the Hero is its camera. The Wildfire has the same 5.0 MP camera but it is accompanied by a flashlight. More than the flashlight, I found it easier to click pictures on the Wildfire because the optical joystick is much better to trigger the camera rather than the Hero’s trackball. Neither of them, however, can beat a dedicated camera button like the one found on the Milestone.

The biggest shortcoming of the Wildfire has to be its inferior display. HTC had to cut costs somewhere to achieve its price point (currently selling at approximately Rs 15,000) and it decided to use a QVGA display, which pixilates when the pixels are spread over a 3.2-inch screen. Someone who is upgrading from a mid-end feature phone might not notice the difference but I could immediately see pixels on the display, which ruins the experience. Pictures lose sharpness, text feels too big and some apps get rendered poorly. In fact, there are many apps in the Android Market that don’t support a QVGA display and hence don’t even show up on the app store.

Given a choice, I’d prefer a combination of a 3.2 MP camera and a HVGA (320×480 pixels) display and retain the same price. However, I understand that most people out there do not understand the importance of having a higher resolution display and would give preference to a higher resolution camera.

The only contemporary phone at the moment that could rival the Wildfire would be the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Mini, which has similar specs but a smaller 2.6-inch display, which makes it look sharper than the Wildfire’s as the same number of pixels are spread on a smaller area. However, I find that size to be very small for an all-touch phone and find it a pain to type on it. Moreover, the X10 Mini runs on Android 1.6 at the moment and will get updated only in September. Given the smaller display size and an older OS version, I would favour the Wildfire.

Some of you have asked me to compare it with the higher-end spectrum of Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S and the Milestone. I have been using both of them and surprisingly, I don’t mind substituting either of them with the Wildfire when it comes to making calls, checking e-mails and Tweeting. However, when it comes to multimedia, using certain apps and Internet browsing, I’d prefer either the Milestone or the Galaxy S. But that is when I have the option of using the other two high-end phones. If I did not have that option, I could easily browse the Internet and even use it as a standby camera.

I would happily recommend the Wildfire to anyone who wants to test smartphone waters and wants to upgrade from a feature phone to an Android smartphone without burning the proverbial hole in their pockets. It does what a smartphone is expected to do and makes it simpler for first-time users by providing one-click access to their online social networks. I won’t hesitate to recommend a buy for the HTC Wildfire.

No Responses to “Review: HTC Wildfire”

  1. John Smith August 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Will I be able to upgrade to Windows 7 or will I have to buy new hardware

    • Rajat Agrawal August 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

      The Wildfire runs on Android and not Windows Mobile.

  2. Samarth August 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Which one should I go for HTC Wildfire or Samsung i5700 Galaxy Spica or wait for Motorola to launch some cheaper Android phones in India.

    • Rajat Agrawal August 3, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

      Hi Samarth,
      The Wildfire has better specs than the Samsung Spica i5700. We have no indication from Motorola about when they will launch their cheaper Android phones.

  3. Vasu August 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Hi, I am planning to buy this phone. As you said, many apps will not support QVGA resolution. Are there many apps?
    i personally like social networking apps and some info entertainment apps like Google googles, GPS related and other free apps available. Not a gamer as such i am.
    Can you tell us which all famous app may not work properly?

    • Rajat Agrawal August 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

      Hi Vasu,

      The Wildfire has an integrated social networking app called Friendfeed that would give you access to Twitter and Facebook. The official Twitter app also works but you might face some minor rendering problems. Google Googles also works but in a couple of places (like when enabling or disabling search history) it won’t show the complete page on the screen.

      Engadget’s Android app is not available for QVGA display. Most simple apps without much graphics will work perfectly.

      I have been using the Wildfire for the past week instead of the Milestone/Galaxy S/Hero and have not faced any problems. It works like any other Android 2.1 smartphone. The QVGA display really becomes a hindrance when it comes to browsing images or watching videos.

      Hope this helps.

      • RajeeV August 4, 2010 at 12:45 am #

        thats very good info as i was thinking of buying a Android phn ….so let wait for X8 than

  4. bruce December 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    i have the wildfire and like it, but i need the manual in english please assist me cause what i have is in deutsch.


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