The Wildfire was almost as popular, coupling HTC's fantastic Sense user interface with a smaller, solid and capable little body – it was a lot of people's first, affordable smartphone. The HTC Wildfire S isn't exactly a cheap phone, either. It's going to be a bloody fight, this.
HTC has refreshed the design substantially, giving the Wildfire S the same workmanlike black and chrome look as seen in the excellent HTC Desire S. There are no physical buttons on the front of the phone, with HTC opting for four capacitive touch-buttons. These are your standard Android Home, Menu, Back and Search options. They're responsive, plus HTC has put in a little vibration feedback to reassure your brain that your finger did indeed just hit the right spot. HTC has removed the optical trackpad, which has allowed it to make the Widlfire S a little shorter than last year's model. It's a very tiny phone and also manages to be lighter – 105g versus the original's 118g.
The 3.2-inch screen runs at 320x480 resolution, so obviously isn't going to be as sharp as displays found on more expensive phones. But it is pleasingly solid, nice and glassy and responsive to even the lightest of touches. Given that the old HTC Wildfire had a screen outputting at a shameful 240x320, this is still a big step up. It's not particularly sharp, mind – there's a noticeable mesh over everything if you look closely. Round the back is your classic HTC moulded rubber cover, which is grippy and feels pretty solid. There's also the 5MP camera lens and, thankfully, an LED flash. There's a proximity sensor in the front case, allowing the Wildfire S to dim the screen when you press it to your ear. But there's no front-facing camera here.
You get Android 2.3 on the Wildfire S, with HTC's latest version of its Sense UI over the top. We like a bit of HTC Sense – it's a very comprehensive re-skin, and one that adds huge amounts of extra functionality to Google's popular mobile OS. The lock screen is in the standard HTC style – swipe down to access the Home screens. Once there you have a choice of seven workspaces to flip through, each holding a selection of app shortcuts, widgets and folders. The standard pull-down Android Notifications window has been upgraded by HTC, now coming with a scrolling list of recently opened apps, plus a quick settings tab for toggling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and more on or off.
The Wildfire S does a pretty good job of keeping everything running smoothly. Some of the more complex apps, such as social network aggregator Friend Stream, can slow the scrolling down a little, but it's generally a solid experience. Friend Stream lets you pull in status updates from Twitter, Flickr and Facebook, presenting everything in one unified timeline. You can scroll up and down within this app, so it's all there right in front of you on a Home screen. It can get a little messy, though. Web links in status updates very kindly open up the website in question, only your view of the page is restricted by having the original tweet at the top and a retweet bar at the bottom – leaving only a minuscule gap for the actual web content between.
HTC has also provided Home screen widgets that create an icon-based list of Contacts you've added to your Favourites, a music player, its famous weather widget and one that streams in your latest text messages. It's all very user-friendly, and no doubt geared towards those who don't do a lot of tinkering. If you do like playing about, HTC's Sense interface has a lot beneath the bonnet. Home screens can be shuffled about, with a two-fingered pinch of the screen bringing up an overview of your workspace and long-pressing on a screen icon enabling you to change the order in which it appears. Enthusiasts will also enjoy HTC's many customisation options. The right-hand button on the curved dock brings up the Personalisation menu, from where users can change scene – a way to create and save Home screen setups – or select entire new skins for the phone's screens and menus.
It's not just visual enhancements, either.
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