The HTC Wildfire smartphone has a very similar design to the Desire, albeit in a smaller, more pocketable form factor. Despite targeting a young, budget-conscious audience, the Wildfire's build quality hasn't taken a hit. HTC has once again employed an attractive combination of brushed metal and solid feeling plastics. Like its more advanced sibling, the Wildfire is a delight to hold and has a distinctive slightly curved "chin". It comes in black and white variants.
The HTC Wildfire includes the same responsive optical trackpad seen on the Desire. Above it are four touch sensitive keys — home, menu, back and search. They work well enough, but the lack of backlighting means using them at night is problematic. A physical power/lock button on top and left mounted volume controls complete the physical controls.
HTC has kept the handset's price down by cutting a few corners with the HTC Wildfire's display, opting for a regular TFT LCD screen rather than the excellent AMOLED display used by phones like the Desire and the Legend. The result is a low resolution display that's hard to see in direct sunlight and has poor viewing angles, but at this price, its hard to complain. It uses capacitive touchscreen technology, so it's already a step ahead of some other budget Google Android phones, such as LG's Optimus.
The capacitive touchscreen makes text input a positive experience, and the Wildfire's on-screen keyboard is well designed. Keys are slightly smaller and more cramped than the Desire, but the responsive screen, haptic feedback and excellent spelling correction aid the experience. Our main complaint is slight keystroke lag when typing quickly — the Wildfire is a little sluggish at keeping up with your taps, often taking half a second to register keystrokes on the screen.
The HTC Wildfire runs the 2.1 version of Google's Android operating system and it includes all the regular features and functions of more expensive Android smartphones. Access to the Android Market for third party apps, an excellent notifications taskbar and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services are all part of the experience, as is HTC's Sense UI. The Wildfire can have up to seven home screens for live widgets and shortcuts, and you can pinch the screen to quickly display them and select an active screen.
The Sense UI includes HTC's Friend Stream, which integrates all of your social networking contacts, including from Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, into one organised "stream" of updates, People, which combines all forms of contact with an individual in your phonebook as well as News, Facebook, Web Bookmarks and HTC's much loved weather widget. Finally, Footprints allows you to take a geotagged photo and store the image in a particular category, then instantly share it with others via email.
The HTC Wildfire has a few exclusive features, headed by a "next generation caller ID" function that allows you to see Facebook updates and birthday information when making or receiving a call. The Wildfire also has the ability to import contacts and calendar entries from your old mobile phone via Bluetooth, and includes HTC's Sync software for music synchronisation with your PC.
One of the more impressive features is Swype text input, an option that allows you to slide your fingers over the letters you want to type in a single motion, letting the software work out the word you are trying to write. Swype is an excellent feature and considering the smaller screen size of the HTC Wildfire compared to the Desire, it’s a very smart and thoughtful inclusion.
Although the HTC Wildfire is capable of almost everything the Desire is, most tasks take a second or two longer. In addition to the keystroke lag while text messaging, the Wildfire also chugs along when browsing through images in the gallery, loading web pages, playing videos and taking photos with the 5-megapixel camera. We've clearly been spoiled by playing with faster, more expensive Android smartphones, so the HTC Wildfire's sluggishness is a tad frustrating. When you consider its price though, these minor issues are much easier to live with and are a small compromise to pay for a handset that offers outstanding value for money.
The HTC Wildfire's camera has autofocus and flash, and doubles as a video recorder, but video playback on such a low resolution display isn't ideal. Other standard features include a built-in accelerometer, a digital compass and a GPS receiver, while the web browser displays Flash content and supports multitouch zooming. The Wildfire also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover.
A real positive of the HTC Wildfire is its battery life. No doubt partly thanks to the low resolution display, the Wildfire managed to last more than a full day with moderate use — placing it ahead of the iPhone 3GS and HTC's own Desire and HTC Legend smartphones.
The HTC Wildfire boasts impressive build quality and the full suite of Android features, but it has a low resolution display and sluggish performance. When you consider its price though, these minor issues are much easier to live with and are a small compromise to pay for a handset that offers outstanding value for money.