Dual-core and 4G smartphones might dominate the headlines these days, but the fact of the matter is that not everyone is after the latest and greatest. Some don’t need all the bells and whistles; some are just making their first jump to a smartphone. There’s also the fact that the higher-end devices come with premium price tags, so there’s certainly a market for affordable, entry-level devices. The HTC Wildfire S is one such device. At $79.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate, the Wildfire S brings a wallet-friendly Android smartphone to T-Mobile’s lineup. It’s certainly not the first–the carrier also has such models as the Samsung Gravity Smart and the LG Optimus T–but the Wildfire delivers better build quality and updated features. If you’re on a budget or new to smartphones, the Wildfire S is certainly a good option, though its petite size will be a turnoff to some.
At 4 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.49 inch thick and 3.7 ounces, the HTC Wildfire S is a nice break from today’s mammoth devices. The petite handset easily slips into a pants pocket and feels very comfortable to hold. The Wildfire also has a very nice build quality–not plasticky or cheap–and is available in black or a cool white.
The flip side of the Wildfire’s compact size is that it’s not going to be for everyone, especially with its smaller display. The 3.2-inch HVGA (480×320 pixels) touch screen makes it a bit difficult for people with larger digits to navigate through the menus and type messages on the cramped onscreen keyboard. Reading text and viewing Web pages and media are also a bit more challenging on a smaller screen, but at least the display offers pinch-to-zoom support and a built-in accelerometer. The smartphone also comes with the Swype keyboard, so you don’t have to peck away at the smallish buttons.
Below the display, you get four touch-sensitive navigation keys for the home, menu, back, and search functions. On the left side are a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port. The top of the device houses the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack, and on back you’ll find the camera and flash. There is no front-facing camera for video calls.
T-Mobile packages the HTC Wildfire S with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, and reference material.
The HTC Wildfire S delivers a decent set of features for the price. As a phone, it offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. With support for Wi-Fi calling, you can also make calls over a Wi-Fi network. The feature is free, but be aware that minutes are deducted from your regular voice plan. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Wildfire has Bluetooth 3.0, GPS/AGPS, and 3G support.
The smartphone ships running Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with the HTC Sense user experience. The Wildfire doesn’t feature the latest version of Sense, which is found on such devices as the HTC Sensation 4G, so you won’t get some of the new enhancements like the revamped lock screen. Still, Sense provides an aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-use interface.
In addition to the standard Google services, the Wildfire S comes preloaded with a number of extra applications from T-Mobile and HTC. This includes HTC Peep, HTC Likes, T-Mobile Mall, and Slacker. The amount of bloatware isn’t as bad as on some other phones, but there’s no way to uninstall it, either.
The Wildfire S also includes a DoubleTwist link to help you get started syncing your music, videos, and photos with the smartphone. The handset supports the standard set of music and video formats, but note that the device doesn’t have a ton of internal memory (512MB) so if you have a large library, it’s best to save the files to a microSD card.
The Wildfire S comes equipped with a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, which can also record video of up to 640×480 pixels in resolution. The camera app offers a number of editing options and tools, including white-balance controls, ISO settings, face detection, and a number of built-in effects. Picture quality didn’t exactly knock our socks off. The camera did OK with shots taken outdoors, but photos taken indoors or in dim lighting looked soft and had a pinkish-gray hue. We got similar results with recorded video.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) HTC Wildfire S in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was pretty good. We had no problems hearing our callers, and voices sounded true to life. During lulls in the conversation, we could hear a bit of a background hiss, but it wasn’t disruptive or terribly distracting. Friends gave mostly positive feedback, noting the clear call quality. However, several people mentioned that we sounded a bit tinny.
Listen now: HTC Wildfire S call quality sample
Speakerphone quality was decent. The audio was sharp, without sounding too hollow, and there was enough volume to hear our callers in a noisier environment. We also paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and were able to make calls and listen to music without problems.
We didn’t experience any dropped calls during our review period, and we got reliable 3G coverage here in Manhattan. Using the Wildfire’s stock Android browser, CNET’s full site loaded in 29 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 8 seconds and 13 seconds, respectively. The Wildfire can play high-quality YouTube videos; they took a few seconds to load but played back continuously.
Under the hood of the Wildfire S is a 600MHz processor. It’s certainly not the fastest processor, but the smartphone felt quite responsive. Most apps launched as soon as we tapped them, and we were able to switch between tasks easily. There were times when the smartphone would lag, but the delays were minimal.
The HTC Wildfire S ships with a 1,230mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6.7 hours and up to 13 days of standby time. Generally speaking, we had to recharge the smartphone by late afternoon or early afternoon after moderate to heavy usage. We are still conducting our battery drain tests and will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the smartphone has a digital SAR rating of 0.92W/kg.
The good: The HTC Wildfire S offers a decent set of features for a wallet-friendly price. The Android Gingerbread device has good build quality and call quality.
The bad: The smartphone’s compact size won’t suit everyone. The smaller display makes it a bit hard on the eyes when viewing Web sites and video, and the camera’s picture quality could be better.
The bottom line: Its small size won’t please everyone, but the HTC Wildfire S is a decent, entry-level Android smartphone for a very affordable price.
The HTC Wildfire S fits a solid set of features and good performance into a nice little package. Understandably, its smaller screen will be a problem for some customers, but T-Mobile also offers the similarly featured and priced Samsung Exhibit 4G, which has a slightly larger display. Still, for those on a budget or new to smartphones, the Wildfire S is worth consideration.Source: CNET