- Nice styling and good build quality
- Good quality screen
- Android 4.0 is feature packed
- A little expensive for its features
- Can become quite slow
- Review Price: £180.00
- 3.5in, 320 x 480 pixel LCD screen
- 600MHz Single Core Processor
- 5 Megapixel Camera
- Android 4.0
The HTC Desire C is one of four new and rather similar Desire models hitting the market over the coming weeks and months. In fairness, the C is the most different of the four with a smaller screen and slower processor than the rest. What’s more HTC has at least stuck to keeping the One lineup premium and demoting the Desire range to the budget end, which is a commendably clear differentiation – Samsung take note.
So, what does the Desire C offer? Well, it’s built around an original iPhone-matching 3.5in screen, has a 5 megapixel camera but, key to its budget billing, it has a lowly 600MHz processor.
Design and Handling
As we’ve come to expect from HTC, where the Desire C definitely gets things right is in its styling and build quality. A nicely rounded matt plastic back butts up to a real metal bezel that surrounds an unbroken slab of toughened glass. It’s simple but HTC has really made the most of things with some clever little touches. For instance the thumb notch used to prize off the backplate mirrors the power button on the top edge while the holes for the earpiece speaker are micro-drilled into the metal bezel, rather than there just being a big hole covered with a grille. Then of course there’s HTC’s penchant for making the insides from a brightly coloured translucent plastic – we love it in principle but it is pointless.
With dimensions of 107.2 x 60.6 x 12.3 the phone is a bit chunky by today’s standards, especially for a handset that’s not exactly packed with all the latest tech. But, it’s otherwise small enough to easily handle, and the rounded back feels snug in the hand.
There is one problem though: that matt white finish. It looks great but its abrasive surface picks up dirt like you wouldn’t believe – read a newspaper then handle this phone and it’ll be covered in grey marks from all the print on your fingers. It does wipe off but not always as easily as you’d think.
The other issue with the back is that it’s not as grippy as you might expect. In combination with its rounded edges this can make the phone slip from your grasp more easily than its rough nature would suggest.
Otherwise, usability is good with the three touch sensitive buttons under the screen being responsive and easy to use. The top mounted power button is also an easy reach as this is such a small phone.
While this phone’s build gives up little to more premium models, when we start to look at features the differences become all too clear. The camera on the back lacks a flash or autofocus, the microUSB socket doesn’t support MHL video output (nor is there any other video output) and NFC is only an optional extra. But what you do get is Wi-Fi N with hotspot capability, Bluetooth v4.0, a microSD slot for adding up to 32GB to the miserly 4GB of internal storage (only about 1GB of which can you access), FM radio and GPS. In other words, all the essentials are there.
The HTC Desire C may at first appear to have a fairly lowly screen – 3.5in, 320 x 480 pixels – but it’s worth considering that it has the same specs as the first three iPhones and they did the job. The result is that while not the sharpest screen around, it’s sufficient for all the usual smartphone duties and moreover it’s of reasonable quality with fairly bright colours and good viewing angles. Like iPhones though, it’s a little small to really enjoy watching video on and it can be a bit cramped for gaming.
All told, while perfectly serviceable you can get slightly larger, higher resolution screens for only a little more money, such as on the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, for instance.
The single most budget aspect of this phone, however, is its processor. It’s a single core chip that runs at a mere 600MHz. This sounds like it should make the phone unusable but there’s more here than meets the eye. This chip is based on a newer architecture (Cortex A5 compared to ARM11) that has inherently better performance for any given clock speed. So in actual use, it’s not bad. Moving round the interface, typing and such basics are absolutely fine.
That said, it does have its limitations. So while you certainly can browse fullsize, graphically rich websites, it can be a bit slow to do so. Likewise some of the latest 3D games may not play ball.
Putting that performance to the test we were actually surprised just how slow it is in benchmarks, considering how nippy it feels in use. Both SunSpider and BrowserMark have this phone beaten by all but two of the phones on our current benchmark results. Only the Orange San Francisco and San Francisco II are consistently slower, though a few others do come close.
Part of the reason it remains nippy in use that this phone runs Android 4.0 which, while more demanding than previous versions, tends to feel that bit snappier.
Ultimately, if you’re used to 1GHz or faster phones from yesteryear, you’ll find the Desire C a bit too sluggish. But for a first smartphone or as a step up from something like the super budget Orange San Francisco, there’s enough here to keep you happy.
Despite its chunky dimensions, the Desire C didn’t set any new records for how long it lasted on a single charge. With heavy use it was mostly dead in a day while light use had it last a day and a half or so. So, same old, same old really.
At its core the Desire C is a typical Android 4.0 smartphone with all the latest features that entails, and this one factor is enough to put it ahead of many budget phones running older versions of the software. But HTC has of course had a fairly thorough tweak of the overall look and feel.
The homescreen experience is pared down compared to HTC’s flagship One series, with only five homescreens on offer, but we hardly see this being a problem for most users. Likewise animations aren’t rendered in 3D so screens simply slide left and right rather than rotating as though on a carousel. Also missing is the zoomed out thumbnail view of your homescreens that is normally activated by a tap of the Home button when already on the main homescreen. Both these latter changes we’re actually quite happy with as they’re rather superfluous anyway.
To customise your homescreens it’s just a case of holding down your finger on the homescreen and up will pop the customisation interface. This is really nicely implemented, making it really easy to get all your favourite apps and widgets arranged as you like.
Jump into the App Launcher and you’ve got options for Frequently used apps and Downloaded ones as well as the standard list of everything you have loaded on the phone. Again, it’s simple and easy to use.
As with most new mobiles coming out at the moment, HTC hasn’t used software buttons – as stipulated by Android 4.0 – for Back, Home and Multitasking but instead has these as touch-sensitive buttons under the screen. On a phone this small this makes sense and we felt overall navigation was a cinch.
Setting up the phone is also very easy thanks to plenty of easy to follow setup instructions and Android’s in built support for most online email and social network accounts.
Calling and Contacts
Another area prone to corner cutting on budget models is call quality, and so it is here. The microphone isn’t noise cancelling so doesn’t deliver the best audio to the person you’re calling while the earpiece is nothing special either.
Likewise, the loudspeaker is pretty weedy, just about sufficing for hands free calls in quiet environments. We had no issues with reception though.
As ever with HTC’s Android phones, the contacts interface is excellent providing quick access to the dialler and a contacts list from one screen. Social network integration is also very good making it easy to get to not just basic information about friends and family but see their Facebook pictures or latest updates.
Text messaging is as simple as we’ve come to expect on a modern smartphone, as is the overall email experience. However, we do have a few niggles.
HTC has implemented its own onscreen keyboard rather than use the default Android one and while it has its plus points, certainly when it comes to word prediction and text editing, it’s not the best we’ve used. But it’s a simple procedure to download and install another one.
If you’re a fast typer the slowness of the phone may cause you to make a few mistakes, whichever keyboard you use, but with a modicum of patience it keeps up pretty well.
As for email, as is common on a number of Android phones, you can’t view the whole of html emails in a zoomed out view so you have to constantly scroll around, which is very annoying. Like with the web browser, it can be a little sluggish with large graphical emails too.
As mentioned, despite its slow processor this phone does surprisingly well with web browsing and is perfectly adequate for mobile sites. In fact, it also copes pretty well with full size web pages and can run Flash – it just gets a little sluggish, and we wouldn’t recommend running too many tabs at once.
With a screen this size video playback was never going to be the primary use of this phone, but driving the final nail in the coffin – HTC One S style – is the poor playback quality. The slow processor simply can’t cope with anything of remotely high quality, making youtube about the limit of your video ambitions.
Camera and Gallery
Continuing the ‘less than stellar’ theme is the camera which not only lacks autofocus and a flash but also produces pretty grainy shots. There’s also little in the way of effects or extra modes. All told, it’s really only for the most occasional of use. Likewise video, which is only offered in up to 480 x 320 pixel resolution.
Viewing images isn’t so bad with the simple to use Android Gallery app and that decent quality screen. However, you don’t get any fancy integration of photos from your social networks or such like – hardly a surprise at this price.
Along with video, the big advantage of this and most Android phones is that you can load up your files without the need for any extra software of fancy syncing procedure – just plug the phone in and go – and with a microSD slot on hand there’s potentially plenty of room for your vast music collection. HTC has also done a good job in terms of the music interface.
The big draw here, though, is of course the Beats branding, and it means precisely naff all. It amounts to an EQ setting that boosts bass and treble. Overall sound quality is okay but is noticeably a step below higher end rivals.
But, all these issues have to be weighed up against the cost of this phone. At just £150 on PAYG (on Three) and £180 SIM free it is very definitely budget. You can get cheaper phones such as the original Samsung Galaxy Ace or Orange San Francisco II but they’re a step down in quality and features again. That said, it doesn’t take much of an extra outlay to get a lot more capable device. At £250 you can get a brand new larger and much faster Galaxy Ace 2, while second hand you’ll be able to pick up some of last year’s high-end phones for that money.
It’s always a difficult task to judge a budget phone as for some people the compromises made won’t matter but for others they’ll be fundamental – like the missing LED on the flash in this instance. Also, there’s always the competition from second hand models to consider. But overall we think HTC has done enough to make this a sensible option if you’re looking for a first mobile for a child or just for a stylish low cost handset for yourself.
How we test phones
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 7
|Operating System||Android OS|
|Available Colours||Polar White, Stealth Black, Flamenco Red|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3.5in|
|Screen Resolution||320 x 480|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||4GB|
|Expandable memory||MicroSD up to 32GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5, no autofocus Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|WiFi||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|3G/4G||HSDPA 900 / 2100|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs
|CPU||600MHz Cortex A5|