HTC Wildfire S review: HTC Wildfire S

The Good The HTC Wildfire S is a decent phone at a bargain-basement price. Despite its size, it's a full-fledged smartphone, which includes the user-friendly HTC Sense interface. For those wary of bulkier smartphones, the HTC Wildfire S offers a refreshing departure.

The Bad If you're used to any normal-size smartphone, this device is going to feel tiny. The small screen makes Web surfing, watching videos, and playing games tough. If you have large hands, steer clear.

The Bottom Line If you can get past its small size, the HTC Wildfire S is a bargain for first-time smartphone customers with few-to-no expectations.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

If you think smartphones have gotten entirely too big, you may want to consider the HTC Wildfire S. The phone is diminutive by regular smartphone standards--it makes the compact iPhone 4S look towering--but it makes for a nice transition if you're used to a petite flip phone.

In fact, if you're looking to jump on the smartphone bandwagon, you may not need all the horsepower and features that come with higher-end devices. After all, those also tend to come with higher-end prices. And that's where the HTC Wildfire S comes in.

It's attractively priced--free with a $100 mail-in rebate and new, two-year contract--which makes it an excellent bargain. Don't be fooled by the size; it offers all of the features of your standard Android smartphone. Likewise, the build quality is surprisingly good. However, the petite dimensions will turn off some.

Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the HTC Wildfire S for T-Mobile, since the devices are essentially the same.

At 4 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.49 inch thick and weighing 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, with a matte rubbery backing that's less prone to scratching. It comes in gray or purple at U.S. Cellular (I reviewed it in gray).

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-pixel resolution) 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 support for pinch-to-zoom and an accelerometer.

The HTC Wildfire S is petite, very petite.

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.

U.S. Cellular packages a charger, Micro-USB-to-USB cable, and headphones with the phone.

The HTC Wildfire S delivers a decent set of features for the price. As a phone, it offers a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Wildfire has Bluetooth 3.0, GPS/AGPS, and 3G support. The phone runs on U.S. Cellular's CDMA network, so it is limited in where it can go overseas.

The smartphone ships running Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with the HTC Sense user experience. The Wildfire is two versions behind on 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.