HTC Wildfire S 3 Stars

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When the HTC Wildfire first came out, it was a real first – it proved that it was possible to offer a smartphone at a packet-friendly price – especially as some operators were giving it away for free on contracts of just £15 a month. In fact, it was such a good deal that it pocketed our Best Value Phone at last year’s Consumer Awards – however, a lot can happen in a year and there are now plenty of affordable smartphones out there that boast a better range of features at an even lower price. So can the newest addition to the Wildfire stable – the Wildfire S – prove as popular as its predecessor?

Looking good

The Wildfire S is as pocket-sized as its predecessor – in fact it measures a full 5mm less. It still has the same curved edges and smooth looks of its big brother, except for the volume bar and power key, which protrude so much that you’ll have to be rather careful when making a call. The Wildfire doesn’t have an optical pad – the original did – but there are four touch keys for back, home, search and setting menu. Be aware, though, that to wake up the phone you’ll need to push the power key and swipe across the display to unlock it – it also lacks a dedicated camera key – which is unfortunate. The handset is not bad looking, but it is hardly a stunner – and that Teflon finish on its reverse is really outdated.

The good news is that the Wildfire S sports the latest version of Android – also known as 2.3 Gingerbread – but the bad news is that the phone does not have the punch to make the most of the OS. You can’t make video calls as it lacks a front-facing camera and it doesn’t support NFC for contactless payments. It can multitask, but with a 600MHz chip under the hood don’t expect this to be a speedy function. Like many of its handsets, HTC has laid its excellent UI Sense over the top of the OS. The key feature is personalisation – there's even a key provided for all things to do with personalisation in the bottom corner of each of the seven home screens. To view all seven screens, it’s a simple matter of pinching and pulling to see them all as thumbnails. Pixelation has improved since the original, and the display proves better in terms of clarity and vibrancy, although we still experienced some pixelation on the vertically scrolling menu.


Social networking

HTC’s FriendStream is probably our favourite social networking integration feed on any mobile platform. It performs all sorts of clever tricks – from syncing social network contacts with your existing list to showing and updating news feeds from Twitter, Flickr and Facebook and bringing them onto the phone’s calendar. It is also possible to view all your contacts with one person – that means text, Twitter or Facebook, plus their videos, links, status and pictures. One problem we did experience was that when we first began to type in our passwords and user IDs, we tried turning the device on its side to use the more user-friendly QWERTY keyboard, and we could not use the enter key to log on. We then had to turn the phone back into a vertical position, which meant the keyboard then showed us a virtual log-in key. Not a big deal but rather annoying none the less.

The camera may have five megapixels and an LED flash but its results were disappointing. Our pictures were unimpressive in terms of colour and detail, and it proved uncooperative when taking close-up (macro) images.


The verdict

The Wildfire is a nice addition to the affordable smartphone market, but it has far more competition than its predecessor did, and without any stand-out features, it is likely to disappear into the crowd.

Android 2.3 at an affordable price; neat size; great networking integration.
The camera is a letdown and the processor makes the phone work slowly. While the phone does offer the latest Android 2.3, it’s not powerful enough to take full advantage of it.
  • Look and Feel 3 Stars
  • Ease of use 4 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 3 Stars
  • Battery life 3 Stars

Final verdict: 3 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice