The Freestyle is unique and in a good way. It's made by HTC, one of the leaders in the smartphone market, and runs HTC's Sense UI, a popular and much-loved user interface. I have to admit, I was excited about this one, but I still had my reservations. Is it a dumb smartphone or a smart 'dumbphone'? The latter scenario would make this one of the best featurephones on the market and answer the prayers of kids and teens alike who have been dying for a phone that their parents will agree to buy but that isn't poorly constructed.
Design & Features
HTC is known for making beautiful and solidly-built phones. I'm impressed that they didn't abandon these principles when designing the Freestyle. Originally, I was under the impression that the Freestyle was built out of plastic. However, after using it and doing some research, I found that it's actually built with a "metal alloy body" - aluminum, I'm assuming. Because of this, the phone is very solid and looks like an expensive phone. It measures 4.2-inches tall, 2.2-inches wide, and .49-inches thick. It is a smaller device, something even I noticed with my tiny hands.
The small design translates into a small-ish display though I don't personally see this as a downside. The 3.2-inch display was large enough and I never had problems with reading text or typing. (The typing experience using the virtual keyboard will be discussed further later on.) The resolution of the display is slightly higher than most featurephones, coming in at 320x480 pixels, and I enjoyed it. Pictures and graphics were very clear and bright.
The front panel has four main buttons for navigation. Send/Talk, Back, End, and a Menu button. Pressing the Menu button will bring up a menu related to the program you are in. It functions similar to the Android menu button. Along with a 3.5mm headphone jack and dedicated camera button, the phone also has a microSD card slot. It's difficult to get to, as you have to remove the battery door and fold down a plastic hinged panel to access it. This slot supports up to 32GB of additional storage with a card. The phone has 150MB of internal memory.
Usability & Performance
The Freestyle runs on the Brew Mobile Platform and uses HTC Sense UI, a UI generally reserved for HTC's smartphones (one reason why the Freestyle is often confused as an Android smartphone). Sense UI is what really makes the phone so great. Popular features like HTC's weather widget, calendar, and Friend Stream app are included with the Feestyle. The notification system is also top-notch. If you miss a call or receive a text message, you are notified with a symbol on the unlock screen, at the top of the homescreen clock, on the Messages icon at the bottom of the homescreen, and on that person's contact icon if it is added to the optional People page. The Freestyle even has a notification bar similar to what we see on Android devices. Dragging down from the top of the display reveals a list of missed calls, texts, or any calendar events you set reminders for.
Sense UI also adds a lot of customization features. You are given ten options for home pages. These options include People, Messages, Friend Stream, Weather, and more. Though these widgets resemble their smartphone counterparts, they all by default take up the entire page and this cannot be changed. Some of these features require a data plan. If you do not have a data plan, the Sense clock on the homescreen that includes the current weather will simply display the time.
I mentioned earlier that the display was small, 3.2-inches to be exact. I initially thought that this would cause problems when using the virtual keyboard. The reason is because the Freestyle is equipped with one of the best autocorrect functions I've seen on a featurephone. I could type fairly rapidly and not have to be too careful to press the letter exactly on its key. Most words were corrected and I rarely had to go back and fix a word. The keyboard can be used in landscape mode as well, which is helpful, but I could use it just as effectively in portrait mode as I could in landscape mode. The phone doesn't have an accelerometer so you have to press a button to make it switch from portrait mode to landscape mode. The phone also features threaded text messaging.
One question that I've been asked a lot about the Freestyle is whether it supports WiFi.
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