It was only four months ago that T-Mobile and HTC released the MyTouch 4G Slide, touting the Android handset as having the most advanced camera of any smartphone, but it appears the Slide's reign was shortlived. Now, the new HTC Amaze 4G holds that claim to fame, bringing some new tricks to help create and highlight the best images. On top of that, the Gingerbread-based phone boasts a dual-core processor, a gorgeous Super LCD touch screen, and impressive data speeds. All of this makes the Amaze 4G one of T-Mobile's best Android smartphones, but it comes at a cost. The HTC Amaze 4G is priced at $259.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. Is it worth it?
Weighing in at 6.1 ounces and measuring 5.12 inches tall by 2.58 inches wide by 0.46 inch thick, the HTC Amaze 4G is a good chunk of hardware. In fact, the first thing we noticed when we picked up the device was its weight. It's one of the heftier handsets we've seen in a while, but as with most things, we got used to it with time. Plus, with its metal construction and soft-touch finishes, the Amaze is definitely one sturdy handset.
The second thing we noticed is the Amaze 4G's display. The 4.3-inch qHD (960x540-pixel resolution) Super LCD touch screen is quite eye-catching. Text and images looked crisp and sharp on the bright screen. The screen's large size also makes it great for viewing Web pages and video. The Samsung Galaxy S II's Super AMOLED Plus display shows off more saturated colors and has slightly better contrast, but we were still very happy with the Amaze's display. The touch screen was responsive and features a built-in accelerometer, pinch-to-zoom support, and a proximity sensor. Note that it only comes preloaded with HTC's virtual keyboard, but it does offer Swype-like functionality (HTC calls it Trace) so you can drag your finger from key to key for quicker input.
Below the screen, you get your usual Android controls: home, menu, back, and search. On top, you'll find a power/lock button, while the Micro-USB port is located on the left spine. The right side features a volume rocker, a camera button, and a dedicated video button. Holding down the video button activates the camera in video mode. You can also launch the camera right from the lock screen by either doing a long press on the camera button or dragging the camera shortcut to the center ring (see the user interface section below for more). In addition to the 8-megapixel camera and dual-LED flash on back, there is a front-facing 2-megapixel camera just above the display in the upper right-hand corner.
The HTC Amaze 4G comes packaged with just the basics: an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.
The HTC Amaze ships with the Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread operating system and the HTC Sense 3.0 user interface. First appearing on the HTC Sensation 4G, the latest version of Sense offers a number of enhancements, many of which can be found on the lock screen. Aside from a display of the date, time, and other vital statistics, you now get shortcuts to four of your favorite applications. By default, the shortcuts are set to phone, mail, camera, and messages, but you can change them in the phone's Personalize menu. To open a specific app, you can simply drag the icon to the ring at the bottom of the screen, instead of having to unlock the phone first.
In addition to the shortcuts, HTC wanted the lock screen to showcase more user content, so now you can personalize the screen with your photo gallery, friend stream, favorite stocks, or weather. The content then floats by or flies by (depending on which option you choose) onscreen.
Once you unlock the phone, you'll find even more improvements. For example, the home screen features a 3D carousel so you can more quickly flip through the seven home screens, rather than swiping through each panel. (Of course, you can also use the Leap screen function.) The pull-down notification tray has a second tab called Quick Settings where you can manage your wireless connections and access other settings. The mail app and widget now give you a preview of each message, and the photo gallery widget features a flip-board effect.
It would be nice if there were the capability to remove some of the home screen panels as on the HTC Rhyme, but it's not a big deal.
The HTC Amaze 4G's 8-megapixel camera offers many of the same features as the MyTouch 4G Slide's camera, and adds several new tricks. This includes a new shooting mode called SmartShot, which takes a series of pictures and combines elements of each in an effort to create that perfect picture of everyone smiling. So for example, if one person's eyes are closed in one shot but open in another and another person is smiling in the first shot and only half-smiling in the next, the final image should show one of everyone showing their pearly whites with open eyes.
Also new is the Perfect Pics gallery feature that takes the top 10 percent most technically correct photos from your camera roll and automatically combines them in a separate album. A photo that meets a number of predefined parameters (such as for lighting levels, colors, and contrast) is considered to be Perfect Pics material, though you can manually add photos to and remove them from the Perfect Pics gallery as well. You can share these photos or view them in a slide show, as you would with any other image in your photo gallery.
In addition to these new capabilities, the camera continues to offer a backside-illuminated sensor (BSI) for better low-light performance, and ClearShot HDR, SweepShot (panoramic), and Burst shooting modes--all of which were introduced on the MyTouch 4G Slide.
Picture quality was a bit mixed. The camera did an excellent job outdoors. Images came out looking sharp with good detail and bright colors. The ClearShot HDR and SweepShot modes also worked well, but the SmartShot feature didn't really work in our testing, as we still ended up with photos of people with their eyes closed. Also, even with the BSI sensor, photos taken in low light (see above) came out looking a bit soft and washed-out.
HTC and T-Mobile also claim that the Amaze 4G's camera has zero shutter lag, but we didn't find that to be the case every time. It was definitely fast, but we did experience a slight delay here and there.
On the video side, the camera can record up to 1080p HD clips, and the results were very similar to those of the still camera. Great quality in outdoor and brightly lit environments, but videos taken inside had a slight haziness to them. You can share your videos and photos through a number of channels, including e-mail, Facebook, YouTube, Picasa, and Flickr. You can also mirror content to your HDTV via DLNA or using an HDMI MHL adapter. The HTC Amaze 4G has 16GB of internal memory and an expansion slot that can accept SD cards up to 32GB, but sadly, an SD card is not included in the price of the phone.
The HTC Amaze 4G is a quad-band world phone and offers a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling via Qik, and text and multimedia messaging. Like the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Amaze is also compatible with T-Mobile's faster HSPA+ 42 network, meaning it can reach a theoretical download speed of 42Mbps--double that of its HSPA+ 21 network. Currently, this network is available in more than 150 markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area, and covers 170 million Americans.
The smartphone can also be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five device and features Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), and GPS, as well as NFC support. With the embedded NFC chip and the preinstalled Tags app, you can use the smartphone to scan, read, and share RFID (radio frequency identification) tags. In the future, once Google Wallet support is expanded beyond the Nexus 4G, you should be able to use the Amaze 4G to make mobile payments.
In addition to the standard Google services, the HTC Amaze 4G comes preloaded with a number of other apps and tools, including the Polaris Office suite, a flashlight, an FM radio, HTC Watch, T-Mobile TV HD, and TeleNav Navigator. Unfortunately, unlike other carriers, T-Mobile does not let you uninstall any of the preloaded apps.
We tested the quad-band HTC Amaze 4G in New York using T-Mobile service, and call quality was decent. In general, we enjoyed clear audio, but we did notice a slight background hiss during lulls in the conversation. There wasn't any type of voice distortion, but the sound was a bit tinny. Friends also noted the same thing, but overall, they were happy with the call quality on their end.
HTC Amaze 4G call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality was good. The sound was clear and full, There was also enough volume to have conversations in a louder environment. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music.
We didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period, and T-Mobile's HSPA+ network provided impressive speeds here in Manhattan. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net, we recorded an average download speed of 8.52Mbps, peaking at 13.9Mbps, and an average upload speed of 1Mbps, peaking at 1.71Mbps. CNET's full site loaded in a zippy 7 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 4 seconds and 6 seconds respectively. High-quality YouTube clips played within a couple of seconds and playback was smooth and continuous.
The Amaze 4G is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S3 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has 1GB RAM. The smartphone was able to keep up with our demands, as it launched and switched between apps with little to no delay. Flash content and 3D games presented no problems for the Amaze either.
The HTC Amaze 4G ships with a 1,730mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours and up to 16 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Amaze provided 5.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Amaze 4G has a digital SAR rating of 0.46W/kg.
As we said when we first saw the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide, it's great to see manufacturers like HTC concentrating on improving smartphone cameras. The HTC Amaze 4G shows great potential in terms of what smartphone cameras can do, though its features didn't always perform as advertised. Even so, you're still getting a fast and powerful Android device, and it's one of the best smartphones in T-Mobile's lineup right now. However, its high price tag will be a barrier for a lot of people. There are some good alternatives: for example, for $30 less, you can get the Samsung Galaxy S II, which also has a great camera, supports T-Mobile's faster HSPA+ network, and comes with a Super AMOLED Plus display. Or, for $60 less, you can get the MyTouch 4G Slide, which comes with some of the same great camera features and has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.