We've long-held the belief that what the mobile phone market needs is a small, low-cost handset that packs in all the key features of top end smartphones and is reasonably well made. We've had reasonably feature-packed cheap handsets like the T-Mobile Pulse and we've had small handsets like the HTC Tattoo and HTC Smart, but none has yet delivered on all fronts. Hoping to finally crack the nut is the HTC Wildfire.
What makes this phone special is that, while its processor is only 528MHz and its screen only 3.2in with a resolution of just 240 x 320, it retains all the build quality of its bigger siblings. Indeed, this can be thought of as the child of the HTC Desire and Google Nexus One sporting as it does the key features of these two handsets, namely the metal and soft-touch plastic construction, glass capacitive touchscreen, touch sensitive buttons, and an optical trackball.
That combination of factors makes this easily the most attractive small Android handset we’ve seen. The taupe metal sections and grey soft-touch plastic create a great muted combination of colours, while the smooth expanse of that glass screen looks as good as ever. Moreover, this is as well put together as any handset we've ever seen (iPhone 4 aside) and really just highlights our problems with the build quality of more premium handsets like the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and Samsung Galaxy S – if HTC can do it at this price than those handsets should be just as good for twice the price.
The phone's small size also makes it nicer to handle than many larger handsets. Certainly it's a darn sight easier to reach with one hand the screen unlock button on the top edge of the phone. Admittedly with dimensions of 106.8 x 60.4 x 12 mm, it's not the smallest of small handsets so it may still be too hefty for some. However, it is around 8-12mm shorter than the big-guns and around 20g lighter as well.
Along with the unlock button there is a headphone jack on the top edge, while the left is home to a volume control and microUSB socket for charging and plugging the phone into a PC. There sadly isn't a dedicated camera button, which makes taking photos slightly cumbersome. At least the camera application is fast and easy to use and produces acceptable quality photos of up to 5 megapixels. As ever they're still some way off even a basic dedicated compact but will do for the occasional snap of friends. However, video is rather let down by a low resolution of 320 x 240 that is simply not enough to see any sort of detail. At least with an LED, you can capture both videos and photos in the dark.
Update: Upon further investigation, we came to the conclusion that the images and video we first assessed were hampered by a smudged lens. We've now updated the above paragraph pertaining to the camera quality and updated the samples pictures at the end of this review.