Dual-core and 4G smartphones might dominate the headlines these days, but the fact of the matter is that not everyone is after the latest and greatest. Some don't need all the bells and whistles; some are just making their first jump to a smartphone. There's also the fact that the higher-end devices come with premium price tags, so there's certainly a market for affordable, entry-level devices. The HTC Wildfire S is one such device. At $79.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate, the Wildfire S brings a wallet-friendly Android smartphone to T-Mobile's lineup. It's certainly not the first--the carrier also has such models as the Samsung Gravity Smart and the LG Optimus T--but the Wildfire delivers better build quality and updated features. If you're on a budget or new to smartphones, the Wildfire S is certainly a good option, though its petite size will be a turnoff to some.
At 4 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.49 inch thick and 3.7 ounces, the HTC Wildfire S is a nice break from today's mammoth devices. The petite handset easily slips into a pants pocket and feels very comfortable to hold. The Wildfire also has a very nice build quality--not plasticky or cheap--and is available in black or a cool white.
The flip side of the Wildfire's compact size is that it's not going to be for everyone, especially with its smaller display. The 3.2-inch HVGA (480x320 pixels) touch screen makes it a bit difficult for people with larger digits to navigate through the menus and type messages on the cramped onscreen keyboard. Reading text and viewing Web pages and media are also a bit more challenging on a smaller screen, but at least the display offers pinch-to-zoom support and a built-in accelerometer. The smartphone also comes with the Swype keyboard, so you don't have to peck away at the smallish buttons.
Below the display, you get four touch-sensitive navigation keys for the home, menu, back, and search functions. On the left side are a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port. The top of the device houses the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack, and on back you'll find the camera and flash. There is no front-facing camera for video calls.
T-Mobile packages the HTC Wildfire S with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, and reference material.
The HTC Wildfire S delivers a decent set of features for the price. As a phone, it offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. With support for Wi-Fi calling, you can also make calls over a Wi-Fi network. The feature is free, but be aware that minutes are deducted from your regular voice plan. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Wildfire has Bluetooth 3.0, GPS/AGPS, and 3G support.
The smartphone ships running Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with the HTC Sense user experience. The Wildfire doesn't feature the latest version of Sense, which is found on such devices as the HTC Sensation 4G, so you won't get some of the new enhancements like the revamped lock screen. Still, Sense provides an aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-use interface.
In addition to the standard Google services, the Wildfire S comes preloaded with a number of extra applications from T-Mobile and HTC. This includes HTC Peep, HTC Likes, T-Mobile Mall, and Slacker. The amount of bloatware isn't as bad as on some other phones, but there's no way to uninstall it, either.