HTC Rhyme review: HTC Rhyme

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good

Average User Rating

4 stars 3 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Appealing design; Loads of accessories; the latest Sense 3.5 interface.

The Bad Specs are underwhelming; Headphones are poor quality.

The Bottom Line The HTC Rhyme lacks dual-core power and has a small screen, but it boasts the latest version of HTC's Sense interface and a box packed to bursting point with trendy accessories.

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The HTC Rhyme is an Android 2.3 smartphone with a 3.7-inch screen and a unique range of bundled accessories, including a glowing charm and docking station.

It's available on monthly contracts for around £25, or SIM-free for about £350.

Should I buy the HTC Rhyme?

If the plum colouring, glowing phone charm and cream leather carry case weren't enough of a reason buy the HTC Rhyme, the first appearance of HTC's latest Sense 3.5 user interface may draw you in.

However, the phone lacks a dual-core processor and has a relatively small 3.7-inch display. It's also running Android 2.3 , which is soon to become outdated when Google releases version 4.0 in the next few weeks. 

HTC Rhyme back cover
A leather case is included in the box to keep the HTC Rhyme protected when it's at the bottom of your handbag, or man-bag, as the case may be.

The phone's 5-megapixel camera is decent rather than breathtaking, and it captures HD video at 720p rather than full HD 1080p. There's also no way to replace the battery, which is a rarity on an Android device.

Taking all of this into account, it's obvious that the Rhyme isn't going to be of interest to those Android fanatics who are getting hot under the collar about the forthcoming Galaxy Nexus .

However, for the phone's fashion-conscious target audience, the entry-level specifications will be less important. The Rhyme's big selling points are that it looks great and comes with a range of attractive items which you'd usually have to pay additional cash for.

If your primary concern when purchasing a mobile is how good it looks rather than how well it performs on 3D graphics benchmarks, then you'll find a lot to like with the Rhyme. However, those of you expecting a cutting-edge rival to the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2 should direct your attentions elsewhere -- towards the likes of the HTC Sensation XE and XL .

HTC Rhyme benchmark tests
Compared to older devices, the Rhyme fares well (Quadrant benchark score, left), but it's outpaced by more recent phones (AnTuTu benchmark test, right).

Sense 3.5

HTC's Sense interface sits on top of Android's Google operating system and offers a raft of improvements, tweaks and exclusive applications. It's arguably one of the most appealing of all the manufacturer-made Android skins.

HTC Rhyme home Sense 3.5
Sense 3.5 offers subtle changes over 3.0 -- you can now delete unwanted homescreens but you're still limited to seven in total.

The HTC Rhyme is one of the first handsets to boast version 3.5 of the Sense UI . The general setup is the same as ever, but there have been a few changes in terms of animations and overall look.

HTC Rhyme home notifications
The trademark Android pull-down notification bar has been embellished with shortcuts and quick settings options.

The most striking difference is the new home screen widget, which displays a bank of shortcuts and a small digital clock at the bottom of the screen.

HTC Rhyme home screen
Sense 3.5 features a new home screen widget with fly-away shortcuts to various apps and functions.

Although it initially appears to only occupy two-thirds of the screen, this widget actually takes up a full panel, leaving a large space to showcase your home screen wallpaper.

You can't drop widgets and shortcuts into this space although it looks as though you should be able to. The reason for this is that each of the icons on the left-hand side of the screen has a fly-away tab; these can be expanded to reveal additional information, such as unread emails, text messages and your current music track.

There's also a new animation when scrolling through your home screens. A single swipe of the finger will simply transition to the next panel, but repeated swipes result in a zoomed-out carousel effect; here you can see all of the available home screens spinning around as if stuck in a tornado. It's a basic cosmetic alteration, but it looks impressive.

HTC Rhyme home screen swipe
With Sense 3.5 it's very easy to showcase your home screen wallpaper.

Sticking to the topic of home screens, you can now remove unwanted panels if you feel that seven screens is too many. It's possible to re-add them at a later date, but the total number remains limited to seven (which is still two more than stock Android 2.3 allows).

Android 2.3

With Android 4.0 just around the corner, you could say that the timing of the Rhyme is unfortunate. HTC has already stated that it intends to update most of its recent portfolio to Ice Cream Sandwich, but that's no guarantee that the Rhyme will be coming along for the ride -- especially when you consider it's only equipped with a single-core 1GHz CPU.

Version 2.3.5 of Gingerbread is installed here, which puts the Rhyme ahead of phones like the Xperia Arc S and Xperia Ray -- if only by a nose. You can do all of the usual Android tricks, such as download apps and games from the Android Market, sync your Google accounts, share to various services such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and so on.

Also included in this version of Gingerbread is the ability to conduct video calls in Google's pre-installed Talk application, thanks to the inclusion of a 640x480-pixel front-facing camera.

Processing power and internal storage

With HTC's Sensation leading the dual-core CPU charge, one might have expected the Rhyme to follow suit. Unfortunately, the manufacturer clearly decided that your average purple-phone-fan-about-town doesn't require such brute technological power. Perhaps that's why it has packed the handset with a single-core 1GHz processor.

It's backed up by 768MB of RAM, which offers a smoother experience than you might expect. However, there are times when the phone is reduced to a crawl -- usually when processes such as downloads and syncing are occurring simultaneously, and you have multiple applications running.

While a faster CPU would have been very welcome, it's important to remember that this is cheaper than most high-end phones.

The Rhyme has 4GB of internal storage, and there's an 8GB microSD card included with the device.

Design

The Rhyme is a fairly typical example of HTC's recent mobile output. It combines a metal unibody chassis with rubberised plastic sections, creating a feeling of quality while maintaining that all-important grip.

The phone's metal frame runs around the 3.7-inch screen and the back of the device, where it divides the rubber-coated top section and the similarly-clad SIM card and microSD card cover.

HTC Rhyme back cover
Removing the back cover reveals the SIM and microSD card slots but sadly not a removable battery.

You'll have noticed we didn't use the term 'battery cover' there because the Rhyme's power cell isn't user-replaceable. Those of you accustomed to the Apple iPhone will already be familiar with this built-in obsolescence, but most Android phones allow you to change the battery. It's disappointing to see that HTC has taken this route, but we're guessing that the choice was instrumental in giving the handset a thickness of just 10.1mm.

HTC Rhyme slim
At just over 10mm, the Rhyme is a slim handset.

Also on the back of the phone you'll find the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, and below this, a trio of peculiar metal dots. These allow the Rhyme to charge when placed inside the bundled dock.

HTC Rhyme back
Those three metal dots under the camera are used to charge the phone when it's placed in the bundled dock.

On the left-hand side of the phone you'll discover the USB charging port, which is protected from the elements by a thin plastic cover. We're pleased that HTC has taken steps to prevent the ingress of dust and other detritus, but the cover itself feels loose and worryingly flimsy. Even with delicate handling, we can't imagine it will stay in place for very long.

Accessories

The HTC Rhyme comes with plenty of accessories. Unique among them is the glowing cube-shaped charm, which gently pulsates when you receive a phone call or text message.

HTC Rhyme charm
This unusual cube-like charm plugs into the headphone socket and gently pulsates when you have a call or message.

This particular item is supposed to clasp around the handle of your handbag so that it remains visible at all times. We can imagine this working quite well in a situation where your phone is in silent mode or you may be unable to hear the ringer over environmental noise, but there could be negative repercussions too.

By having the charm on public display, you're making yourself a target for savvy thieves who could easily pull the Rhyme from your bag by grabbing the cable.

Also included in the box is a charging dock, which is covered in soft fabric. This connects with the Rhyme via the charging points on the back of the phone, which means you don't need to mess about with cables or wires to top up your battery.

The dock also doubles as a handy nightstand, or a viewing platform for watching movies and looking at treasured photos. The dock also contains a pair of speakers that turn it into a portable music player. The quality of the audio produced by these speakers isn't stunning, but it's good enough to serve as an impromptu music centre when you're away from home.

HTC Rhyme dock
The dock makes a perfect viewing platform for watching movies, and the built-in speakers perform well enough -- just don't expect home cinema quality sound.

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Where to Buy

HTC Rhyme

Part Number: CNETHTC Rhyme

Typical Price: £350.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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