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Hands-on preview of HTC's new Wildfire S

15 Feb 2011
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Budget Android smartphone gets a serious makeover

One of our most popular reviews last year was the HTC Wildfire, which just goes to show that although flashier handsets get all the attention, it's budget smartphones that most of us actually buy. Available for as little as £15 per month on a two-year contract, the Wildfire certainly attracted a lot of attention - and we hope that this updated Wildfire S can continue the tradition.

HTC Wildfire S HTC sense

At first glance it may look similar to its diminutive predecessor. It's certainly still a compact phone, measuring just 101x59x12mm - that's smaller in every dimension than the original. However, HTC has removed the optical tracking device from the bottom of the handset, which was very handy for making precise edits to text messages.

The body has been totally redesigned and now has a 'unibody' sculpted from a single piece of metal. This makes it feel far sturdier than the original. Admittedly it's a little heavier, but only by a measly 13g.

HTC Wildfire S side

Screen size is unchanged at 3.2in, but the resolution has actually doubled from 240x320 up to 320x480 (153,600 pixels compared with 76,800). This single move eliminates our key criticism of the original design, which made reading text problematic and left pictures and video lacking in detail. The new screen isn't exactly cutting edge, but it doesn't feel like a major compromise. Plus, it's far brighter than the original.

HTC Wildfire S

Processor speed is also up from 528MHz to 600MHz. This may not sound like a big jump, but we suspect the processor design may also have changed as the handset felt snappy and responsive compared to the old Wildfire. RAM is also up from 384MB to 512MB, so there's more space to run multiple apps. The sample we saw was running Android 2.2. The camera remains at 5-megapixels, with an LED flash alongside.

HTC Wildfire S back

That's the new Wildfire S, then, and in many ways it resembles the excellent HTC Legend (owned by a number of the Expert Reviews team). It matches the Legend for screen resolution, build quality and processor speed but is lighter and more compact.

The Legend is now ageing, so the Wildfire S, despite its upgrades, will certainly maintain the brand's budget standing. It should make a great entry level Android smartphone, but it will live or die based on its price. At £15 per month, it will fly off shelves, but at £20 it may struggle to compete with older, more powerful handsets.

Release date, as with all of HTC's new handsets, is Q2 2011. That's between April and June for those that prefer not to use marketing speak.

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