HTC Wildfire Review: Neither Wild nor Fire-y

HTC is the company behind perhaps the lion’s share of Android phones out today. They made the original HTC Dream, known in the US as the T-Mobile G1 — the first Android phone in the States. And they also manufactured the Nexus One, Google’s vision of the perfect Android phone.
The HTC Wildfire is HTC’s attempt at making a budget Android phone, for price-conscious shoppers. But is it worth getting? This review will attempt to answer that question!

The upside of the HTC Wildfire

The HTC Wildfire is shiny, as you can see in the pictures from the Engadget review. It uses the HTC Sense overlay on top of Android, like on my HTC Aria, which makes Android look sleek and black and easier to navigate. Widgets like FriendStream let you keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook, and HTC’s clock / weather widget displays the time in large numerals, and has neat animated effects.

A feature unique to the HTC Wildfire is its “app sharing” widget. Despite the name, it doesn’t let you actually lend people apps (like how the Barnes and Noble nook lets you lend other readers your ebooks). Instead it just sends people a link to check out the app in the Android Market, which I can only imagine would be useful to them if they had an Android phone. I guess if you have a lot of friends who use Android phones, and you’re all over the apps, it might be neat. You could just tell them to “look up such-and-such app”, though, or copy-and-paste the link to the app’s website.

The downside of the HTC Wildfire

The downside is that the HTC Wildfire’s slow. The Engadget review that I linked to says that the HTC Wildfire has a “528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor”, which may not mean much to you, but they also said that the on-screen keyboard was slow to type on. It actually lagged while they were trying to type. And viewing HD video choked the machine.

Perhaps even worse, the HTC Wildfire only has a 320×240 display. That’s half the resolution of the standard for midrange Android phones like my HTC Aria, which has a 320×480 display. What does that mean? That means that a lot of apps won’t even appear in the Android Market, since they require a more hi-res screen. Games, for instance, don’t always have art assets for that screen resolution … assuming the HTC Wildfire’s processor wouldn’t choke on them anyway.

The Upshot

Should you pick up an HTC Wildfire? Well, the thing is, “budget” devices only save you money if they perform adequately so you don’t have to replace them. And with smartphones, nearly all of the cost is in the data plan anyway, over a six month subscription (or two years in the States). So with the HTC Wildfire you’re not saving a ton of money; you’re paying a little less upfront, to get stuck with a slow, choppy phone for who knows how long.

If you’re hurting for cash, it might be better to just stick with the phone that you’ve got for the time being, at least until you can afford something a little higher than entry level. Something that’s adequate for the things that you’ll want to do on it. Try shopping for deals online; that’s how I got my HTC Aria for half the price they had it in the stores. Just remember to look at the phone in person before buying it … and whatever phone you get, I hope you have fun with it!

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