Editors' note: The ratings have been adjusted since the original publish date to reflect newer devices that have entered the market.
In April, HTC took to its Facebook page to ask its fans for help in picking a name for its next phone--a phone that the company described as "playful and full of youth." The end result was the HTC Wildfire, which launched in Europe and Asia in mid-May. Though not specifically for the North American market, we thought we'd check it out and eXpansys USA hooked us up with a unit.
As the successor to the HTC Tattoo, the Wildfire packs in a lot of the goodness of the HTC Desire, just in a smaller, more affordable package. However, there are trade-offs for having a lower price point, including a lower-resolution screen and less powerful processor, which didn't go unnoticed. Still, it's a fairly solid option if you're on a budget or purchasing your first smartphone. You can purchase the Wildfire unlocked for around $350, but there are better options for the North American market, such as the HTC Aria, which has a better screen and 3G support.
The HTC Wildfire looks a bit like a mini version of the HTC Desire. It has the same brown coloring (though you can get it in black, red, or white, as well) and shape, but is smaller and lighter at 4.2 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and 4.2 ounces. As a result, it's easy to carry in a pants pocket and fits nicely in the palm of your hand. It's also much more attractive than the Tattoo.
With the smaller size, though, you also get a smaller screen. The Wildfire has a 3.2-inch capactive touch screen, and because it's more of an entry-level, budget-friendly model, the display also has a lower QVGA (240x320) resolution. It's still clear and bright enough to view text and images, but it's just not as sharp or vibrant as some of the latest smartphones, so it's a bit of a strain on the eyes.
The display's smaller size also makes the virtual keyboards a bit cramped. However, the touch screen was responsive, as well as the built-in accelerometer. There's also support for pinch-to-zoom so you can easily zoom in and out of Web pages, photos, and more.
Below the display, you'll find the standard Android buttons: home, menu, back, and search. Unlike the Desire, they aren't physical buttons, rather they're touch sensitive like the ones on the Droid Incredible. You also get an optical joystick. The left side has a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port, and the top of the device has a power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack. As usual, the camera and flash are located on the back of the phone.
The HTC Wildfire comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Despite being a budget-friendly phone, the HTC Wildfire doesn't skimp on the features. The smartphone ships with Android 2.1 and the latest version of HTC Sense, which includes the Friend Stream widget and Leap screen. However, it's also in line to receive the Android 2.2 Froyo update and HTC has already begun to roll out the update to some devices, according to some reports. You can read more about the new Froyo features in this article.