Being an HTC handset, the standard Android interface is replaced with the Taiwanese company's Sense UI. This now familiar customisation provides a horizontal array of seven desktops which you can place shortcuts and widgets on, while along the bottom of the screen are shortcuts for the main menu, the phone, and for customising the home screen layout.
The general look has also been tweaked giving it a slightly smarter all over grey appearance, while many of the core applications, like email and gallery, have also had a visual overhaul. They do look nice, but we don't actually think they add a lot in terms of usability. Certainly based on these tweaks we'd be glad to see the back of custom Android skins as Motorola has recently alluded to.
Overall, though, the Wildfire holds up very well in general use. When you first setup the phone it can seem rather sluggish, which one immediately puts down to the 528MHz processor, which is not a patch on the 1GHz (1,000MHz) ones used on many larger models. However, turn off all the, largely superfluous, widgets that HTC has loaded on by default and it soon quickens up to the point where it's plenty fast enough.
Messaging abilities are good if not outstanding. SMS exchanges are stored in conversations and several email accounts can be accessed, including Microsoft exchange accounts. You can't, however, view messages from all your accounts in a single inbox (as you can on the iPhone 4) and email exchanges aren't arranged into conversations. HTC's FriendStream pulls in status updates and messages from a number of different social networking services, and you can also add Facebook information to your contacts (which of course are imported from your Gmail account).
Despite this version of Android having no official support for Adobe Flash, HTC has still enabled it in the web browser so you can watch streaming video and play all manner of silly flash games, though this is one area where the slow processor really struggles. Overall the web browsing experience is very good, though. You obviously need to zoom in quite a lot to make text readable, but with the text reflow feature text is automatically squashed to fit the width of screen you're using, meaning less scrolling from side to side. The multi-touch pinch to zoom gesture is also supported.
Typing on the small screen is a little more difficult than on larger devices, but thanks to the wonderfully responsive touchscreen it's still considerably better than many cheap rivals.
As for actually making calls on the Wildfire, it's okay but not exceptional. Earpiece volume is adequate, but it can get a bit distorted at high levels, likewise the microphone can sound a little harsh and doesn't support noise cancelling.
The HTC Wildfire isn't perfect. Its low resolution screen won't appease heavy users, or those looking to enjoy games and video. Also, the phone isn't actually that small for such a low resolution screen. However, it has all the essential features of a smartphone, and the screen is still adequate for web browsing, social networking and most apps. Most importantly, though, no other phone of its size and price offers this level of design and build quality. Based on this it's easy to recommend.