The HTC Wildfire is targeted at a trendier user group on a budget, very much similar and yet different from its more advanced sibling, the HTC Desire. One should spot the obvious difference in its screen size, which packs up to 240 x 320 pixels on its 3.2-inch screen. Just below the display, you'll find the usual shortcuts for the home, menu, back and search functions. These four shortcuts take a cue from the Nexus One, forgoing physical buttons in favor of a touch sensitive panel.
With these apparent differences laid out, we had a go at handling the Wildfire in our hands. In doing so, we realized that it is much easier on the hands thanks to the compact nature and reduced, 118g weight. Thankfully, the touch panel is within easy reach, though its optical trackpad is pushed too far down to access with ease. This close proximity to the screen also contributed to a few accidental clicks on the home button, thus unintentionally exiting an app.
A slight admission: we do have a preference for the non-glossy exterior, thus having to worry less about fingerprint smudges across the whole device. There is a hint of metal found at the back, bearing a semblance to the HTC HD2's rear layout. Herein lies the confusion, with us thinking the said metal piece is the cover for the battery, only to discover that it is part of a whole backing which needs to be pried out like the HTC HD mini. Underneath, you'll gain access to the microSD card slot, sans the spring mechanism. You'll need to dive deeper and remove the battery to reach for the SIM card slot.
The Wildfire is embedded with a Qualcomm 7225 528MHz processor that powers the same HTC Sense UI seen on the HTC Legend and Desire. There are a few sublte differences, in the aesthetics and feel of it. Firstly, live wallpapers aren't supported on the HTC Wildfire, even though it is a feature supported on the Android 2.1 platform that's used here. This could be a blessing in disguise, since the animated wallpaper tends to draw a bit more processing power, hence shortening the potential mileage of your device.
While the Sense UI looks rich and detailed on the earlier Android devices, the bumped down resolution on the Wildfire removes some of its shine and gleam. Furthermore, the UI didn't feel as responsive, and this was apparent with the delayed reaction when we activated the pre-loaded HTC apps such as Friend Stream or Peep to access our social networks. This isn't widespread across the whole interface, since page scrolling and the pinch-to-zoom features were still as smooth as we expected.
Multmedia hasn't been a particularly strong aspect for HTC devices, so don't be surprised by what you'll get out of the Wildfire's 5-megapixel camera. In fact, we had some trouble with the white balance, which often blasted our images with a warm hue. Details got pretty fuzzy around the edges, with a distinct drop in sharpness. Whilst the Wildfire has an average-sized 3.2-inch screen, it will see a stark contrast to other devices being able to display higher video resolutions for greater clarity. At the very least, you'll get some decent audio playback from its 3.5mm port.
Similar to HTC's earlier Android devices this year, you'll be able to use the Wildfire to tether an internet connection to your PC. Depending on your location and signal strength, the Wildfire can theoretically provide you with download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps on its HSDPA network. On the device, page rendering tends to get a little slow, but once it does, you'll get to read and zoom the web page to a comfortable fit-to-page size.
With our usual internet usage for web browsing, emails and status updates, plus the usual cellular activities which includes calls and messages, the 1300mAh battery lasted for slightly more than a day.
To put this simply, the HTC Wildfire is what the HTC HD mini is to the HTC HD2 - a scaled down and more affordable version of the HTC Desire. And true to that, the Wildfire is priced at S$498, at nearly half of what the Desire is selling for with its introductory S$898 pricing. In other words, should price take priority over features and performance, the HTC Wildfire gives you an almost similar smartphone experience at a reasonable price.