HTC's entry-level Desire 616, in theory, should have been a great budget phone for the masses.
The 5-inch HD display has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, sharp enough for even mid-range devices. The phone comes with dual-SIM capabilities, allowing you to have a secondary SIM card for when you're roaming without having to worry about being uncontactable on your usual number. It comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a microSD card slot, which you'll definitely need to make use of, as the phone only has 4GB of built-in storage.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite come together to make the Desire 616 what it should have been. Powered by MediaTek's octa-core processor, the phone was often sluggish, with apps sometimes failing to respond after a noticeable pause. While this is most likely a software issue, potentially fixed by an update, it is really holding back the phone's real potential.
It's not widely available, but you can find it unlocked from online retailers -- it's £183 from MobiCity in the UK or AU$270 from Expansys in Australia, for example. It's not currently available in the US, although may be in the future. It's S$298 in Singapore, which converts to $239.
Resembling a smaller version of the HTC Desire 816, the 616 has the same large speaker holes and rounded corners. It also sports the same removable, glossy plastic rear shell. Unlike the 816, the 616 has a removable 2,000mAh battery. You'll need to take out the battery to insert your SIM and microSD cards.
Instead of "BoomSound" front-facing speakers, HTC has engineered a more conventional rear output for the phone. A bad move, in my opinion, as front-facing speakers have really made HTC handsets stand out amidst a lot of tough competition.
As with more recent HTC smartphones, the 616 sits comfortably in hand, and thanks to the rounded corners it doesn't dig uncomfortably into the palm. While the design is great to look at, the glossy plastic is a fingerprint magnet, and you'll end up with a very smudged rear cover.
Internally, the 616 is powered by a MediaTek MT6592 octa-core processor, but only clocked at 1.4GHz. It has 1GB of RAM and a paltry 4GB of onboard storage.
The phone runs on 3G networks and features the standard Wi-Fi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0. There is no NFC.
Software and features
If you liked HTC's Sense UI, the good news is that the Desire 616 uses the Android skin on top of Android 4.2.2. The bad news is that it's an older version (5.5) and not the newer Sense 6 found on the HTC One M8 or the Desire 816.
This means no color codes for apps or new font, but you still do get HTC's social news aggregator BlinkFeed, and video highlights (found on last year's HTC One). Basically, you're getting last year's software at a much lower price. Of course, to be fair, it's not like Sense 5.5 is a bad UI -- it's just as good as Sense 6 -- but I suspect if the Desire was running Sense 6, and therefore Android 4.4 KitKat, the phone wouldn't be plagued by performance issues and laggy applications.
Sense 5.5 does do a few things better -- it lets you change the default home screen from BlinkFeed (or even remove it entirely). If you like using BlinkFeed though, then you'll be glad to know that you can add updates from specific news sites manually.