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HTC Wildfire review: HTC Wildfire

HTC Wildfire

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
6 min read


HTC Wildfire

The Good

The HTC Wildfire features a compact and solid design. As the successor to the Tattoo, it offers an updated OS, a 5-megapixel camera, and good call quality.

The Bad

Features a lower-resolution screen. The smartphone can be sluggish at times. Lacks support for North American 3G bands. Camera quality was rather subpar.

The Bottom Line

Designed for international markets, the HTC Wildfire is a compact, budget-friendly Android phone packed with features, but you can find similar devices in North America for less on contract and with added 3G support.

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.

Similar to the HTC Tattoo and Aria, the Wildfire has a nice, compact design.

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.

Navigation controls include touch-sensitive buttons and an optical joystick.

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.

Aside from the standard Android features, HTC also throws in some a few extra apps, such as its Twitter client, Peep, and its geotagging and travel app, Footprints. Of course, more apps are available through the Android Market, and there's even an App Sharing app on the Wildfire that lets you send links of your favorite apps via e-mail, text message, Friend Stream, or Twitter.

As a phone, the Wildfire offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone also has Bluetooth 2.1 with support for stereo Bluetooth, and Android 2.2 finally brings voice dialing over Bluetooth.

The Wildfire is a 3G device, but since it's designed for the European and Asian markets, the smartphone does not support North American 3G bands, so if you stick in an AT&T and T-Mobile SIM, you'll be running on EDGE. There is Wi-Fi, however, and the device comes with Android's WebKit HTML Web browser, which is quite capable in functionality and performance. It supports multiple windows, Adobe Flash Lite, and it includes the recent feature that lets you look up words and phrases in the dictionary or Wikipedia by performing a long press over some text on a Web site. You can also select a whole paragraph to send to Google Translate.

The smartphone's multimedia capabilities are fairly standard. The built-in music and video player supports a range of music and video codecs, including MP3, AAC, WAV, AMR, OGG, M4A, WMV, MP4, 3GP, and 3GP2. The Wildfire has only 512MB of Flash memory, so it would be a good idea to save files to a microSD card (expansion slots supports up to 32GB cards). The music player features an attractive Cover Flow-like interface and also supports on-the-fly playlist creation, shuffle/repeat modes, and a share via Bluetooth feature. The Wildfire also has an FM radio and a dedicated YouTube player.

We weren't too impressed by the picture quality of the Wildfire's 5-megapixel camera.

You can record and upload your own video clips to YouTube using the Wildfire's 5-megapixel camera. The camcorder can shoot in either MPEG4 or H.263 format at one of three resolutions (CIF, QVGA, and QCIF). Unfortunately, recorded clips came out a bit hazy, though you could make out the subjects in the video. The same effect tarnished picture quality on indoor shots. Images taken outdoors fared better, however, with a bit more sharpness and brighter colors.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) HTC Wildfire in New York using AT&T service and call quality was good. On our end of the conversation, the audio was clear and rich. We weren't bothered by any background noise or voice distortion, and we didn't have any dropped calls during our review period. Meanwhile, friends had mostly good things to say about the sound quality on their end. One caller, however, said he could hear a bit of an echo..

Speakerphone quality was also respectable. Calls didn't sound too tinny or hollow, and there was plenty of volume to hold a conversation in a louder environment. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

Over AT&T's EDGE network, CNET's full site loaded in 1 minute and 17 seconds, whereas the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 19 seconds and 11 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos took a little while to load. There were some interruptions in playback but video and audio were synchronized throughout. Meanwhile, our own videos played back nicely, and songs sounded very rich and balanced through our own headphones.

Powering the Wildfire is a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor and it didn't exactly make the smartphone a speed demon. There were slight delays when launching and switching between apps. Though we're talking a matter of just a second or two, the sluggishness was slightly more noticeable than on other devices. That said, we didn't experience any major problems that required a reboot.

The HTC Wildfire ships with a 1,300mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8 hours and up to 20 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Wildfire provided 8 hours of continuous talk time over EDGE. The Wildfire has a digital SAR rating of 0.754 watt per kilogram.


HTC Wildfire

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 6