The HTC Wildfire S is an entry-level Android smartphone stuffing lots of features into a small package, and if you want a sturdy, affordable phone from T-Mobile, it's a good choice.
One of the standout features of the Wildfire is its compact size, at just 4-inches tall and 2.3-inches wide. Despite being little, it has a solid build quality that does not have the same plastic-y feel as other devices. It looks a lot like the Desire S, another handsome device. Due of its small size, it's easy to slip in pockets or handbags, but the screen is only 3.2-inches, which is pretty small. If you have larger hands, you'll find it a pain to use the on-screen keyboard. As for the quality of the screen itself, it's more than acceptable. For a handset at this price, the 480-by-320 pixel resolution is a good deal, and images are well-defined and easy to see.
The Wildfire has four touch-sensitive navigation keys on its bezel, which help free up room on the screen and move through Android menus. HTC got rid of the optional trackpad from the original Wildfire, which lends the phone a more modern feel.
Devices in the same price range aren't known for their photo quality, but the Wildfire's 5-megapixel lens is actually pretty good. The camera comes equipped with LED flash and shoots video in resolution up to 640-by-480 pixels. The quality won't make you forget about your point-and-shoot, but it's a worthy alternative for those times you want to snap a photo but don't have anything else at hand.
Meanwhile, the Wildfire runs on Android 2.3 software, supplemented with HTC's Sense overlay, which significantly changes the feel and functionality. It lacks some the skin's newer features, like the lock screen on the Sensation 4G, but its version comes with social media enhancements, the FriendStream, which aggregates updates from Facebook and Twitter into one place. It's a convenient way to see what friends are doing, but it can slow down the phone when several apps are running in the background. Sense is fine, but vanilla Android would be better.
In addition, you'll have to deal with some bloatware, like HTC Peep, T-Mobile Wall and a few others. It's not ideal, but it's far from bad, like on other entry-level smartphones. Unlike some budget devices, the Wildfire did not skimp out on the call quality. Audio sounds crisp, whether you're holding it up to your ear or you have the speakerphone turned to full blast. But unfortunately, battery life does not fare as well. If you're a heavy user, you'll reach for the charger by mid-afternoon.
The Wildfire is a solid device, but it's not for everyone. There aren't a ton of flaws, but there also aren't a lot to recommend it above other budget phones. It's a good option if you're looking to go on the cheap, but check out the Samsung Exhibit if you're a heavier user, at least as far as T-Mobile goes. ♦
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