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HTC Wildfire - Controls, Battery and Screen

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Upon seeing the row of touch sensitive buttons that run underneath the screen we were very apprehensive as those on the Nexus One were rather poor. Thankfully there are no issues with those on the Wildfire, in fact they're very responsive and easy to use. We still feel, however, that Android devices in general have too many buttons – the search and back buttons in particular are superfluous and should be replicated in software on a touchscreen device.

Likewise, while the optical trackpad that sits below the buttons works very well, it is so seldom used that it really could/should be dropped. In fact this is one thing the Samsung Galaxy S got spot on as it used just three buttons (home, back, menu) and no trackball of any description.

HTC Wildfire front

Take the back off and you'll find a 1300mAh battery, which is slightly less than the 1500mAh cells you get on most larger phones. Nevertheless, due to the smaller screen, we found battery life was on a par with those devices. Typically you'll want to charge every night or you'll be running very low towards the end of day two, but conservative users might stretch to three days. Thankfully you don't have to remove the battery to reach the microSD slot, which lets you add up to 32GB of storage to the miserly 128MB built-in.

HTC Wildfire Leap

Turn on the Widlfire and inevitably the low resolution of its screen is immediately obvious; pretty much everything looks pixellated and almost blurry. There's no denying it's a limiting factor. Certainly you won't want to watch high quality videos, view many pictures, or read large amounts of text (i.e. eBooks) on it. However, in general use it's absolutely fine. Normal web browsing, reading emails and texts, navigating on Google Maps, and using Facebook is easy to do without too much hassle.

One potential problem is that some Android apps don't support such a low resolution, with games being the obvious casualty. The vast majority of general productivity apps do, however, as do some games. Potentially more of a problem is that the soon-to-be-released version of Android, 3.0 Gingerbread, has a minimum hardware requirement that will mean it definitely won't work on this device.

HTC Wildfire UI

As it ships, the Wildfire comes with the 2.1 version of Android, which is one step behind the latest 2.2 version that adds native Adobe Flash support, quick switch multi-language keyboards, and many other small improvements. However, 2.1 is still very capable and we expect a 2.2 update to arrive at some point.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


August 19, 2010, 12:26 pm

@"while its processor is only 600MHz"

It's 528MHz.


August 19, 2010, 12:28 pm

How does this compare to the HTC Hero that can be bought for the same or less money?


August 19, 2010, 2:32 pm

@hb1742: Thanks, fixed. <br />

<br />

@Tim Sutton: This is the problem with reviewing phones. While the Hero is still more expensive SIM free, on contract its the same price and given its higher resolution screen (480 x 320) it's going to be the better bet for most people. That said, the Wildfire is smaller, slimmer, feels better built, has a better camera, and (this is subtle point) the screen is a more comfortable proportion for general use (it's not as tall and slim) so it's not clear cut.


August 19, 2010, 2:46 pm

Good review, I was interested in the HTC Wildfile as it seemed like quite a good option for a cheap smartphone, however what comes across in the review is that although its a solid phone the budget background does make it suffer a bit (the odd resolution and dodgy camera) which is a shame.

Im not sure if its just me but it seems like the prices of top of the range smartphones are above and beyond what they actually should be, case in point compare the iPhone 4 and the iPad price points, which are £499 and £529 respectivly. The general thought is that the Pad is already too expensive and should be down at around £300ish, but surely the iPad with the much larger screen should be more expensive than the iPhone so that would mean the iPhone 4 should be below £300, and thats kind of my thinking now for the price I would be aiming to pay for a smartphone, tho I doubt thatll ever happen if im honest!


August 19, 2010, 2:54 pm

While the iPad certainly seems quite expensive considering its relatively limited functionality (no phone etc), considering the quality of components it uses I've never viewed it as being particularly poor value. All the competing products I've seen that are set to cost in the region of £300 have lower quality screens and build quality. That all these products should be cheaper is a possibility but then I'm sure if you scrutinised the total bill of parts for most products and compared them to the price you pay, it will seem like poor value.

There's certainly an argument for saying smartphones should be cheaper due to their smaller size but then smaller devices require even higher levels of miniaturisation so it's swings and roundabouts.


August 19, 2010, 2:58 pm

theres a typo on page one,were it says htc wildfire top deals,it should say htc wildfire top RIP OFF deals,£20 pm for 100 minutes?.

cant see this selling when the legend costs the same on contract.


August 19, 2010, 3:25 pm


Both of your counts are true, as you say the iPad is a quality item and deserves a higher price tag than competitors, and minitrising everythng to fit into a phone would make it cost more, but when teardown companies come out showing the iPad costs $260 to build


and the iPhone costs $190 to build


Even taking R&D and labour costs into it, IMO it shows that prices are higher than they should be. And apologies I realise im ranting and threadspoiling about the wildfire.



August 19, 2010, 4:31 pm

It doesn't seem good value on contract (I'd take the Legend), but if you are looking for a SIM-free option for Android, it's not bad.

I guess we might see it discounted in a little while, perhaps in the run-up to Xmas, which may make it a good option.

Lee Hammond

August 19, 2010, 4:40 pm

@betelgeus Good point, you can even get the HTC Desire on a £20pm contract (I know, I have one, 18 month at that), making this a bit poor value in comparison.

This is a decent phone, but one that will be made redundant by better phones coming down in price in the next few months, if not already.


August 19, 2010, 4:53 pm

If you actually look further into the deals, you can get the Wildfire for less than £10 a month so yes it is cheaper.


August 19, 2010, 4:59 pm

@Ed Thanks for your comments on Wildfire vs Hero.

And I'm not Tim Sutton by the way.

Tim Sutton

August 19, 2010, 5:21 pm

{Life Of Brian}I'm Tim Sutton! And so is my wife.{/Life Of Brian}


August 19, 2010, 5:24 pm

"the search and back buttons in particular are superfluous and should be replicated in software on a touchscreen device"

*sigh*. I'm sure you could see this argument coming...

So what's the downside of a few hardware buttons like back and search? OK, the nice clean lines of an iPhone fascia are preferable, but aside from the aesthetics?

Practical benefits of hardware buttons include:

- Consistent function and physical location across all apps, affected less by various developers' whims

- 'Click' feedback (though not on touch sensitive buttons as seen on N1 and Wildfire)

- Easier to locate blind, can feel the edges of the button so rarely miss a press (less so with touch sensitive buttons like on the Wildfire, must feel contours instead)

- They don't use up valuable screen real estate

- They don't require the user to scroll up or down to get to their software back or search buttons

Part of what I do is design human interfaces, and personally I'm a fan of hardware buttons for *some* practical applications. Please don't assume that I'd always prefer physical buttons to a touch screen for all applications (there's a reason touch interfaces work as well as they do), it's just that there's a place for both types and I think Android strikes a good balance. Are you sure your problem with hard buttons isn't just that they aren't the way the iPhone does things?


August 19, 2010, 6:21 pm

@Chris: My key problem, particularly with the back button, is that when you're using a touch interface it feels incongruous to use a physical button when navigating around. It's perhaps different when talking about a larger device (like an iPad) where it saves moving your hand around a lot but on a small device like a phone it's just as quick and easy to use an onscreen control.

Just to address your examples:

- the iphone and WebOS have consistant interfaces, as do most of the apps on them.

- you don't need click feedback on a touchscreen interface.

- when would you need to do this?

- Surely that's a problem with any aspect of a touchscreen interface? In which case, if you accept it on one thing (like the keyboard, say) then you'd surely accept it on another.

- You don't need to do that on the iPhone either.

Also, I'm not assuming anything with regards people's preferences. I'm saying that as someone that has used hundreds of these devices and knows well how they feel to use, my informed opinion is that physical Back and Search buttons are not required. As mentioned, WebOS doesn't require them and neither does Samsung Bada, so it's not just the iPhone.


August 19, 2010, 6:47 pm

I for one think the opticial tracker should stay (I have a HTC Desire).

I have never found the touch screen great for selecting text.

Using just the screen, it takes me ages to move to the correct place in a text message to make a corrcetion or add text. Same when editing contact numbers.

It is also good for some sites that are not mobile aware. Some links are almost impossible to click without zooming in.


August 19, 2010, 7:34 pm

@Ed: I do agree, it feels a bit incongruous to use both types, and I think this is the biggest downside of physical buttons when used on a touchscreen device. Perhaps manufacturers should be more innovative with button placement to make it feel more natural.

- Yes, I'm amazed that iPhone apps are consistent as they are, as the developers have generally embraced the interface conventions. It's still not 100% consistent, but then I've seen some Android developers do odd things with the physical buttons as well.

- Touch feedback is superior to other forms, it's more intuitive and more effective, which is why designers use haptic feedback mechanisms or try something like BB's 'SurePress' touchscreen. The 'click' action of a physical button intuitively informs the user that they've pressed the button. A touchscreen control has to make do with visual feedback (you need to be looking at it) or haptic feedback generated by other means.

- Blind location is useful because it doesn't require you to focus your eyes on the button to use it, you can keep them focused on the relevant part of the screen, something any typist is familiar with. Also, it's easier to locate the button if you can feel for it, so you don't miss presses, as often happens when jabbing repeatedly at a touch screen (particularly inaccurate ones).

- The more screen real estate you have available at any time the better. If you don't need a software back button, you don't have to display one. Likewise, you wouldn't have a virtual keyboard displayed at the same time as you're using a physical keyboard, it would be a waste of screen space.

- If you don't need to scroll around your touchscreen to find your back button then it's using up screen space and vice versa (see above)

- Many of the points above may sound like trivial items, but they all add to (or subtract from) the user experience, particularly when a device is used every day, like a smartphone. I'm just trying to point out that there are a few good reasons why Google chose to go this route, and I don't necessarily consider it to be a bad choice.

- This is possibly the geekiest comment I will ever post on TR...

As for other devices, Windows Phone 7 does employ a hardware back button. You could argue that's a leftover from a legacy platform, but MS could have gotten rid of it if they wanted to with their clean slate approach. Also, the Palm Pre has that swipe area for gesture control, which isn't a button, but it does show that the designers were looking for alternative methods to perform common functions outside of the touchscreen.


August 19, 2010, 8:11 pm

@Ed think of the search & back button like the 'right mouse button' on a Windows PC, a lot of users don't use it. However power-users find it very useful!


August 19, 2010, 9:54 pm

@LetsGo; Yeah, those power users with their right clicking to copy & paste, next you'll be telling me they can use keyboard short cuts too! ;)


August 19, 2010, 9:57 pm

I actually think the physical buttons are perfect. I don't like going through on screen menus to navigate when I can help it particularly when the phone is getting a bit sluggish, I like to press the "back" button and get straight to the home screen.

If you've used the Wildfire then try to use the Nexus One, you wonder why the buttons are placed the way they are. Not very user friendly.

When web browsing the pinch zoom is good for pictures, but really when reading text sites, a double tap zooms into the text optimally and will even try to centre it based on where you double tapped. This negates a lot of the frustrations of browsing as I discovered early on. Since a lot of mobile browsing is about text readability and content, rather than fancy design, I think the Wildfire succeeds in presenting information clearly.

Additionally, as the Wildfire gets more popular, those apps that didn't support the low res screen are being updated to accommodate it. Those 3D games will never work on the Wildfire anyway due to the low processing power, but when I first got my Wildfire, there was for instance no version of Evernote. A month later and there is now a Wildfire compatible version. Pretty much all the "good" free apps are compatible with the Wildfire. I definitely recommend the latest Google Maps update with "Places" coupled with Google Navigation. It turns the Wildfire into an amazing navigation device, helping you find places of interest or bars, petrol stations nearby using GPRS. If you take the capability of the Wildfire for it's pricepoint, it is close to amazing what it can do. I remember paying £130 for a sat nav and £80 for a cheap 3 mobile phone just 2 years ago. For a similar price, I can now in 2010 get both devices + More in a small compact package.


August 19, 2010, 9:57 pm

@jacko: Precisely.


August 19, 2010, 10:36 pm


Lol. The first comment I was going to make was about the buttons but having done so before I thought I'd give Ed a break! As I don't design interfaces I'm glad I left it to you.


August 19, 2010, 11:49 pm

@Jacko Spoken like a true mac owner ;).


August 20, 2010, 1:24 am

@ravmania: I do try to keep it brief, there's just no way to describe the merits of buttons without sounding like some kind of raving loony anorak. I'm really not, honest :)

Brevity from now on...


August 20, 2010, 1:53 am

@LetsGo; Ahh.... I did think your comment might be a dig at Mac users, what with not being able to right click. Oh, wait, that was about ten years ago. And you're still bringing it up?

So, now I'm just confused as to what your comment was really about, if it was just to have a dig at Mac users (I'm both a Mac user and a Win7 user), well done you!

If not, then you're saying that you think only power users need to right click.

Answers on a post card please........


August 20, 2010, 1:49 pm

I've had my Android phone for eight months and would miss the search and back buttons greatly. They become a natural move because I know that those functions are fastest this way. You can't improve the efficiency when it's just one key press. The back button would only be superfluous if apps were all written with a standard gesture for that function. That isn't the case now.

Maybe writing these standards into Android 3 would be a good idea? I still like the the idea of being able to search from practically anywhere though and don;t see how that key could be replaced without a loss in functionality.

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