HTC Wildfire Review

With the overabundance of Android handsets on the market today one particular device seems to be gathering polarizing opinions ever since its retail debut a couple of weeks ago. Some people hate it while others think that it is really good product. I’m going to finally weight in a share with you my thoughts about the HTC Wildfire , the company’s new low-end / entry level Android smartphone.

Hardware

The HTC Wildfire hardware is really at the center of the critics and the praises so let’s look at what we have got here. At first glance you will notice the Wildfire looks like a mini HTC Desire; it have nearly the same design and colors, same optical track pad but borrows the capacitive touch buttons of the Nexus One. On the back you will find the same 5Mpix camera with a LED flash next to it. The Micro-Usb connector is located on the side and the headphone jack on top. The front of the device features a 3.2” capacitive screen with a QVGA (320×240) resolution LCD panel. This QVGA is definitely the worst thing about the device. I must admit that when I was booting up the device I was expecting to see an HVGA display (I totally forgot the Wildfire specs-sheet) and was really shocked to see what was being rendered on the handset. The last QVGA device I used was an HTC P3600 back in 2006 and that was a 2.8” screen. HTC has then released devices with 2.8” VGA screens and 3.2 WVGA handsets too so I really don’t understand why the company decided to slap such a poor display panel on the Wildfire. To make things even worst, the panel used exhibits really bad ghosting when panning and scrolling happens in the UI and because of the low resolution many applications aren’t compatible with the device, but more on that later.

Under the hood is a Qualcomm MSM7225 Chipset @ 528Mhz coupled with 512 MB of ROM and 384MB or RAM (there’s micro-SD slot and a 2gb card should be included in the retail box). The Wildfire feature a digital compass, accelerometer, Wifi b/g, BT 2/1with EDR, GPRS/Edge/3G/HSDP up to 7.2Mb/s, FM Radio, aGPS and is powered by a 1300Mh battery. The device is 0.48 inch (12.19mm) thick, 2.3 inch (60.4mm) wide and weights 118g. Check out my hardware tour video to see how it looks like:

Software

The HTC Wildfire runs Android 2.1 with the Sense UI slapped on top. There isn’t much else to say about it given that the offering is identical to what is found on the HTC Desire so I suggest you take a look at my HTC Desire review here. HTC has added ability to recommend applications to your contacts and an application that enables the camera flash to be used a flashlight (both of these functionalities are now available on other HTC devices via the Android 2.2/ Froyo updates). The UI is super smooth and responsive even on the MSM7225 chipset but once you load the browser things get a little south. As you can see in my software tour video below the browsing experience is really smooth at all and the low res screen renders the text barely readable unless you zoom all the way in. To speed up things a little bit you’ll have to make sure that the Flash plug-in is enabled by default in the browser settings. The vast majorities of the applications pre-installed and available on the phone run perfectly and are totally usable. Unfortunately because of the screen’s QVGA resolution big chunk of the third-party apps that you can get on the Android Market are either totally incompatible (they won’t appear in the market when you search for them) or will have rendering/cropping issues. This problem first came to light with the HTC Tattoo a little while ago (it near identical specs minus the 5Mpix camera and capacitive panel..)

                                                                                                                                  

It should be noted that the most important applications (mainly Google’s own stuff like Goggles, Places, Maps, etc) work perfectly on the Wildfire so the average users won’t really be affected by this. Intensive Gaming on the device isn’t really an option because of the slow MSM7225 core so you will be stuck with games developed for the last generation of Android device.

Once you finally leave those issues behind, which I admit are big issues to me but probably not so important to the type of users HTC is aiming at with the Wildfire, the handset is without any major flaw. Everything works as it should and I didn’t encounter any major bug or crash. I espcially liked the HTC Contact syncing applications that enables the user to easly import contacts located on an other device via Bluetooth:

Check out my software tour video below:

Camera

The HTC Wildfire seems to features the same 5Mpix camera (with autofocus) and LED flash as the HTC Desire and the photo quality looks quite similar in some cases. When I fired the camera for the first time and took some test shots I as appalled by what I was seeing on the screen: it looked like a total mess. Turns out that the low res QVGA panel really doesn’t do the photos any justice. What looked like a crappy and blurry shot on the device is actually a decent picture once you transfer it to your PC. The downside here is that you will never know if you shots are good before checking them out on a higher-res screen (remember that the camera viewfinder is….the screen….).  As with all HTC phones there are some white balance and color shifts when taking outdoor photos as seen below but macro shots are top-notch.

Video capture is totally forgettable because of the 320×240 limitation imposed by HTC (and the MSM7225 isn’t a beast) so you will be stuck with HTC P3600 style videos and there’s no way to increase the bitrate via simple REG tweaks like on WinMo devices. Check out the sample below:

Call Quality

Call quality on the Wildfire is on par with what HTC has been offering lately so there’s no bad surprise here. It is definitely a tiny bit better than the HTC HD2 and identical to the Desire. You will here to other person clearly without much distortion even if you are located in a fairly poor signal area.

Battery

The Wildfire comes equipped with a 1300Mha battery which is enough to have it up and running for more that 24hours with moderate usage. This time you should thank the relatively slow chipset and low-res and small screen for this. But like all the Android handsets I have used the battery sometimes drains in just a few hours without any apparent reason. I seriously think that this problem comes from Android’s power management because it happened on the Desire I had and is now also happening on my Samsung Galaxy S.

Conclusion

I think that it is now clear to you that the HTC Wildfire is really the hottest thing around and frankly is doesn’t have to be. My main problems with it are the use of a QVGA LCD panel instead of HVGA and the relatively slow MSM7225 SoC. Everything else about it is decent and even really good. The build quality and form factor are top notch. Android is packed full of features and HTC’s Sense UI is the best way to appreciate Google’s OS in my opinion. Would I recommend the Wildfire? The depends on your carrier’s pricing and the other handsets offered. For example the Wildfire is only €1 in France on SFR with a 2 year contract but you can have the Samsung Galaxy S with the same contract for only €49! In other countries things are vastly different with the Wildfire costing €100 etc. Just make sure to check out all the offerings before making a choice. Also remember that this phone is not guaranteed to be upgraded to Android 2.2 / Froyo and will also never be able to support Flash 10.1 because of its MSM7225 chipset.

Pros:

- Size
- Form Factor
- Android 2.1
- Sense UI

Cons:

- QVGA LCD Screen
- Slow and outdated MSM7225 Chipset
- No Android updates guaranteed
- Price (on some operators)

  • Geon

    It is no use for quick photos. I have been using camera phones for 10 years and 3 to 5 megapixel for the last five years. I have yet to get the shot I want with the HTC Wildfire. I’m really glad I didn’t pay the extra and get he Desire. Getting to the camera app takes time, the auto focus takes time and the apparent shutter speed is very slow. Nokia and other phones have the dedicated camera button which brings up the app and takes the photo. My files on this laptop are a lovely reminder of what I’ve done over 10 years. The HTC just can’t cope with life. All I need is a phone and camera function.

    I also guess that if you are using a touch screen phone of any kind on the go you will be calling the wrong person lots of time while searching contacts. Adding extra phone numbers to existing contacts, how hard can that be? Not found a way yet. How do you get rid of the keyboard on some entry screens to see the next box on a form? Turn video on and off when catching fireworks images? So good for some, but beware the vagaries of a touch screen that interprets your stroke as a press.

  • heavenlyandroid

    I am more than happy with my HTC Wildfire entry level smartphone. For me the decision to buy had nothing to do with price but rather the leap from a standard mobile phone to android, besided which my partner has the Desire and other friends and family have the iPhone. I wanted to break myself in gently to this ‘new to me’ technology. After falling in love with this phone to the point of starting a blog, I have to say that the majority of issues affecting the Wildfire do not really bother me.

    I can cope with the lower resolution screen and the camera with its limitations (I tried to take a photo in good daylight but only captured blackness). Generally I am okay with the phone anyway as I have a seperate camera for this purpose. What annoys me the most about the Wildfire is the slowness when accessing the internet, I lose patience altogether after about 5 minutes of waiting for a site to load. I presume that if we ever receive the anticipated Froyo 2.2 update the slowness will be at least partially rectified, although I understand that the 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor has a lot of impact on this matter.

    I have decided to lobby HTC over their cloak and dagger attitude towards communication with customers regarding the Wildfire Froyo 2.2 update. I am gathering poll votes and comments to measure the feeling of discontent HTC’s poor customer service is cultivating in relevance to Wildfire Froyo 2.2 update. It was afterall arriving in August and now we are almost in December. If anybody wants to help towards getting a firm answer you can vote on the poll at my blog:

  • Amaad1997

    what is the best compeny to get it on like orange’02′t mobile’vodaphone’

  • N00B :((

    I have a Wildfire it is my first android device I am a little dissapointed cause of the processor running so slow

  • Steve_jm_kidd

    Didn’t like my HTC Wildfire, I found the touch screen impossible to hit with my big clumsy greasy hands, especially when gouing througfh the ‘hit key’ hurdles that helplines love to use to deter complainants getting through to real people. I gave it to my daughter and went back to old scholl Nokia 6120