- Elegant slim design, if you like purple
- Speaker dock is a nice addition
- Great camera interface
- Stylish software design
- Good battery life
- Only a single core processor
- Other accesories aren't convincing
- Non removable battery
- 3.7in, 480 x 800 pixel display
- 1GHz single core processor
- 5 megapixel camera
- Android Gingerbread 2.3.4 OS
- Comes with three accesories
As you may have guessed, this also means the phone isn’t packing the utmost in technology – girls have no need for powerful handsets, right? There’s no enormous screen as seen on the Galaxy Nexus or the venerable Samsung Galaxy S 2, and no dual-core processor as sported by just about every high-end handset going. No, instead this is a thoroughly mid-range handset with a 1Ghz single-core processor, 3.7in screen and 5Mpixel camera. The question is, do its accessories and styling make up for its lowly specs?
HTC has certainly nailed the styling, at least in the opinion of this muchos macho, masculine reviewer. The front is a typical expanse of glass touchscreen with just a narrow border of purple anodised aluminium. Flip the phone round and this finish continues as a narrow band across the back, bisecting two large patches of slightly differently-coloured purple soft-touch plastic. Combined with a really pared down, smooth, sleek and symmetrical design this makes for a really attractive phone.
One womanly stereotype that isn’t served by this handset is the desire for diddiness. While this isn’t a pocket bursting bruiser of a handset, it isn’t a miniature one either with decidedly average dimensions of 116.8 x 61 x 10.1mm. With a weight of 135g, it’s not exactly featherweight either. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S 2, with its 4.2in screen, weighs a mere 116g while on the flip side, the 3.5in iPhone 4S is a hefty 140g.
The 5Mpixel camera sits on the back alongside an LED flash, and the outlet for the fairly weedy speaker. Up top is the headphone jack and screen lock/power button, as well as a noise cancelling microphone. The screen lock button is a bit of a stretch to reach one handed but the button has such a light action that it’s not too much of a struggle to get the thing unlocked in a hurry.
The right edge is home to a simple volume rocker that, while it doesn’t have nice raised edges for easily feeling your way around when you’ve gloves on, has a nice light action so is easy to operate. In fact both it and the power button have almost too light an action and are easy to knock accidentally.
On the left is the standard microUSB socket for charging and connecting the phone to a computer. It’s covered by a rather flimsy plastic flap that were this the primary method of charging, wouldn’t stand a chance lasting the life of the phone. However, this isn’t the primary method, as we’ll see in a moment.
Slide the battery cover off and you’ll not find a battery, or at least not an accessible one – HTC has taken inspiration from Apple and locked the battery down. Thankfully it’s a hefty 1,600mAh unit, which is about 30 percent more capacious than average. Under here you’ll also find the SIM slot and a microSD slot, which should come filled with an 8GB card. Should this prove too little you can add up to a 32GB card in its stead.
The screen of the HTC Rhyme may be relatively modest in its proportions but it’s of a decent quality. Its 480 x 800 pixel resolution results in a sufficiently sharp 252ppi. Colours are a little muted and overall brightness is modest but viewing angles are good.
Overall, then, the HTC Rhyme is at least competent on the hardware front with the only outright omission being an HDMI socket for connecting the phone to your TV, a feature that was becoming relatively common but seems to have fallen out of favour again. But how about performance…
A lowly single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon lies at the heart of the HTC Rhyme but despite this it feels reasonably nippy while moving through the majority of the interface. Sliding from homescreen to homescreen, checking your notifications and opening most apps are all tasks it copes with easily, however jump into GoogleMaps, or even the web browser and it will start to chug a little. In comparison, dual core handsets would still be silky smooth.
Oddly it’s not just these more demanding apps that cause it to come a cropper. Particularly when scrolling through the main menu, there’s a slight shimmer to the display, almost like the display itself is running at too low a refresh rate. We suspect it’s the menu scrolling being poorly coded that is causing this though.
To test this performance we ran the SunSpider and RightWare BrowserMark benchmarks. In SunSpider it scored 3780 compared to 4057 on the iPhone 4 and 2261 on the iPhone 4S (lower is better). Meanwhile it returned a figure of 45024 in BrowserMark, compared to 37827 and 89530 (higher is better) for the same phones.
Both benchmarks are browser-based so performance depends not only on the hardware but the browser and the software sub-system of the phone. As such their results must be taken with a pinch of salt but nonetheless provide an indication of the performance difference you will feel. As such, these results backup our sense that this is a mid-range phone.
When it came to making calls we had no problems with reception, though call quality itself is nothing special and the speaker is particularly poor.
As we suspected given its capacity, the HTC Rhyme’s battery keeps it going for a surprisingly long time. We’re not talking record breaking figures but two days sensible smartphone usage should be easily achieved.
Ostensibly the HTC Rhyme has an easy to use and feature rich interface. It uses Android 2.3.4 at its core so it benefits from the excellent basic features that operating system has – when it comes to web browsing, email, texting, making calls, and all such basics, it’s a cinch to use, if a little geeky at times. You’ve also got the huge selection of apps available in the Android Market and the knowledge that you can go about replacing many key components of the interface – such as keyboards – to suit your preference.
However, HTC couldn’t help but have a good old muck about with the styling, and some of the functionality, by giving it what the company calls its HTC Sense interface. And, while some of the changes are welcome, there’s also plenty that we’re not so keen on.
Starting with the good stuff, though, we like the lock screen that allows you to jump straight into your choice of app by dragging the icon into the circle. This is particularly useful for calling up the camera app as quickly as possible.
Get to the home screen and you’re greeted by a very elegant looking wallpaper and arrangement of icons, with four widgets in a column on the left, a clock display on the right, and main menu and dialler buttons in the bottom left and right corners. Indeed, navigate around much of the device and the same muted grey elegance has been sprinkled throughout.
HTCs long standing adaptation of the dialler and contacts system is also welcome. This overlays the dialler on the list of contacts allowing you to just grab the contacts and start scrolling through them or if you start typing a name or number it will shorten the list of matching names until you’re left with just one at the top. This sort of ‘smart dialler’ is quite a common feature on Android devices but it’s particularly well presented here. Social networking information is also very well integrated into your contacts list so you can quickly and easily see all your messages and emails with a contact, what updates they’ve posted and photos they’ve shared.
Drop down the notifications bar from the top and you’ve got quick access to useful features like Volume and switching to Airplane mode.
When it comes to the bad stuff, though, some of it is particularly annoying. Chief among these is the home screen carousel. This activates when you flick quickly between the seven widget- and app-filled home screens, whereupon it proceeds to zoom out and spin all the home screens round at high speed. While visually impressive, it’s also incredibly irritating as it makes simply swiping at pace from one home screen to the next a real bind.
Next up is the main menu which has been vertically paginated, i.e. you scroll through it vertically but rather than one long flowing list, it’s broken into pages. This irritates as you can’t just casually scroll through the list at a leisurely pace but must constantly flick up and down with intent – it’s just unintuitive.
Our final gripe with HTC Sense is the keyboard, which we find a bit too visually fussy and swaps the conventional placing of the special character key for the hide keyboard button (a useful button, but not a useful placement), making it less easy to effortlessly type.
You can get round some of these irritations – such as by installing a new keyboard – but you really shouldn’t have to when this is supposed to be a lifestyle device.
When it comes to multimedia, the HTC Rhyme doesn’t set new records but is competent. It does a perfectly acceptable job of playing back video in terms of viewing pleasure but format support is mediocre at best. MKV, MOV, DivX and rmvb all fail to play, though avi and mp4 are fine. This is fairly typical but Samsung notably includes better video support in some of its phones.
The music player is also particularly poor thanks to a custom interface that makes navigating your music markedly more cumbersome than on most devices. It’s not disastrous, and you do get useful extras like a quick player in the notifications drop down and on the lock screen (though they only appear when music’s playing) but it is certainly not the slickest system going. There’s no inbuilt music download service but there are of course plenty of options in the Market.
”’The screen on the left is what greets you every time you start the music app when music isn’t already playing. The right shows the rather clunky library interface.”’
Making up for many of these shortcomings is the camera which has a superb interface (though no physical shutter button). Shared by several other HTC phones, it includes a host of options including manual ISO setting, resolution, and white balance. What’s more there are built in effects that are really easy to use and look rather nifty, and after you’ve taken your shot you can apply further filters to get more funky effects.
Similarly the video camera offers real time effects and has a trim mode for cutting your clip to size after it’s recorded. There’s also a slow-mo mode but it doesn’t actually result in very good quality footage.
The same could be said of the photos and videos this phone generally produces, in so much as they’re nothing special. The five megapixel camera noticeably lacks detail compared to 8 megapixel rivals and it struggles in the dark, while the camera is similarly only 720p compared to the 1080p of rivals. It’s not so much that you absolutely need the extra pixels of these higher resolution modes but by having more detail to work with you do have more scope to get a better picture at the end.
”’In standard mode, the HTC Rhyme takes a perfectly reasonable shot – not helped by the dusky lighting.”’
”’Various fun filters create surprisingly nice effects”’
In terms of other apps that come preloaded, there’s not a whole lot of significance but you do get HTC’s Watch app that provides movie trailers and downloads, though the selection is quite poor. You also get Reader, which is an ebook reader app that includes a store powered by Kobo (one of the bigger ebook stores).
Of course, when it comes to the web, you’ve got support for Flash to ensure you can access the majority of online multimedia goodies. That said, it does slow the device down considerably when in use and Adobe plans to wind down support mobile flash, thus admitting that it’s becoming less and less of a big seller (maybe they heard that TrustedReview’s videos now work without flash and realised the game was up).
What really sets the HTC Rhyme apart from the rest of the smartphone fraternity is its host of bundled accessories, all of which come free with it.
The first is a speaker dock. This holds the phone horizontally and bolsters its audio abilities considerably, giving it enough oomph to suffice for quiet bedside listening, or you could use it as a portable speaker. You could, that is, if you keep the cable and a power source nearby, as it doesn’t contain a battery. Once plugged in via its microUSB socket on the back, the dock will not only charge your phone (through the gold contacts on the back of the phone) but allow you to sync it with a computer as well. Also, despite the fact that the dock actually connects via Bluetooth, you can’t connect to it wirelessly. Nevertheless, thanks to a nice solid build and stylish finish, it’s a nice little addition.
The same can’t really be said for the second accessory; a pair of earphones. These look similar to the Dr Dre Beats in-ear sets but while they match them for style (assuming you like purple), they don’t satisfy when it comes to build or comfort. Their plasticky build wouldn’t concern us too much normally considering they come bundled free with the phone but when we literally pulled them apart when trying to swap the rubber tip, we knew these weren’t a high class set of ‘phones. Moreover, while their sonic performance is okay, the large design meant only some of us could even get them to stay in our ears properly.
So we’ve had the good and the bad, so is the next accessory the ugly? Well, you could say so. Called the Charm, this peculiar purple cube sitting on the end of a 30cm cable is designed to clip to the strap of your handbag and flash at you whenever your phone, which of course is buried somewhere in the bottom of your bag, receives a message or call. It’s an ingenious idea that does work but we can’t help but wonder how many people would really use it. It’s not that many people wouldn’t want to use it but that because it requires being plugged into the headphone socket of the phone, it’s all so much effort that we imagine most people would forget to ever plug it in – it needs to be wireless to really work.
Finally we come to look at value and it’s here that the HTC Rhyme stumbles, as opposed to falls down completely. You do pay a small premium for those accessories and given that one of them is of debatable benefit and the other is largely useless, you’re not really getting your money’s worth. However, the speaker dock is an accessory that you could easily pay £30 or so for, so it largely makes up for any price premium. Nonetheless, there’s no one thing that truly makes this a compelling handset aside from its smart looks.
At its most basic level the HTC Rhyme is a nice handset. It’s simple design is lovely, it has enough performance to get by, and the included speaker dock is a nice addition. However, the Charm accessory and headphones don’t really add much to the package, and given you do pay a small premium for them it becomes hard to recommend this phone. It’s a perfectly decent mid-range handset, but no bargain.
Score in detail
|Operating System||Android OS|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3.7in|
|Screen Resolution||480 x 800|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||4GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5 Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||Yes Megapixel|
|Camera Flash||1 x LED|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs
|CPU||1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255|
|App Store||Yes, 250,0000 apps|