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HTC Wildfire S - Affordable Gingerbread

By Seow Tein Hee - 4 Jan 2012
Launch SRP: S$388

HTC Wildfire S - Affordable Gingerbread


Being an Android user has its benefits, and it can be summarized with one word: choice. With so many Android devices to choose from, there’s bound to be one that fits your needs. If budget is of the utmost priority, reasonably affordable Android smartphones are available. One such device that comes to mind is the compact looking HTC Wildfire S with a 3.2-inch display.



Similar to its HTC Wildfire predecessor, the Wildfire S takes on a simple and compact design. The overall design hasn’t changed much between these two HTC devices, save for one obvious spot. While the Wildfire comes with an optical track point, HTC decided to do away with that on its successor. The four shortcuts, namely home, menu, back and search, are now evenly spaced out on the Wildfire S, as opposed to the cramped layout on the Wildfire.

With the optical track point removed, the touch-sensitive shortcuts are evenly spaced out and we also see a slightly reduced dimension on the Wildfire S.

The Wildfire S retains a 3.2-inch screen size, and with the optical track point removed, there were changes to its overall size. With its length and width reduced to 101.3mm and 59.4mm respectively, the oddity comes from a slightly negligible increase in its thickness to12.4mm (compared to the dimensions for the original Wilidfire at 106.8 x 60.4 x 12mm). Fortunately, the Wildfire S didn’t gain any weight, standing at 105g compared to its predecessor’s 118g.

Having mentioned the physical attributes, how did it fare on actual usage? Surprisingly, handling experience of the Wildfire S was easy on our hands, despite the reduction in size. The compact form factor and reduced weight didn’t add unnecessary stress to our pockets or hands. On the flipside, that also meant that we weren't too sure if the phone was in our pockets, and by virtue of its small size, it didn’t give us an assured feeling of durability.

A benefit of the small 3.2-inch display is it doesn’t require you to stretch your thumb across the screen. Unfortunately, typing on a full-sized QWERTY keyboard on the screen can be a challenge.

At 3.2 inches, the display was easy to interact with, and our thumb didn’t have to stretch excessively to swipe from edge to edge. But this is also its downside, as we struggled with typing messages on a full-sized QWERTY keyboard cramped within the 3.2-inch display. Children and those who have small hands however, should easily adapt to it.



When it comes to features, the Wildfire S takes on a modest approach, providing users with a hint of the HTC flavor. Similar to its HTC cousins, the Wildfire S comes with HTC’s proprietary HTC Sense user interface, with version 2.1 loaded within. And this time, HTC managed to port the full Sense experience within the Wildfire S. In contrast, the earlier Wildfire wasn’t given the full treatment with features such as live wallpaper missing from the user interface.

An updated HTC Sense 2.1 and Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread does make the Wildfire S stand out amongst similar budget Android phones.

Underneath the Wildfire S, we have Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread running the show. The Gingerbread update probably doesn’t qualify as a major update from the earlier Android 2.2, but it does equip the Wildfire S with all the practical features such as wireless tethering and Flash support.



The Wildfire S might not have the horsepower of its more powerful siblings with a dual-core processor, but it does pretty well with its Qualcomm MSM7227 single-core 600MHz processor. With Android 2.3 Gingerbread running the show alongside HTC Sense, the Wildfire S wasn’t plagued with visible lags or slow loading apps, aspects that you might have expected on a budget phone. This is aptly seen on the Sense UI, which was handled quite well. While its 600MHz processor is sufficient for basic activities such as web surfing and videos, we did experience some sluggish performance with graphics intensive apps. Loading multiple apps didn’t seem to slow the unit down, with due credit given to the modest 512MB of RAM.

Retaining the same 3.2-inch screen size as its predecessor, the Wildfire S gets a higher screen resolution at 320 x 480 pixels. This effectively raises the pixels per inch density over the Wildfire, which has a lower resolution of 240 x 320 pixels with the same display size. Coupled with a decent audio playback, the Wildfire S will probably suffice for music and perhaps video playback for short spurts. Its screen clarity is sufficient, but we’d prefer to avoid squinting at the modest 3.2-inch screen for too long.

The 3.2-inch screen, while keeping the device compact, is also not the best choice when it comes to mobile visual entertainment on the Wildfire S. We agree that PMPs of the past were probably about this size, but we've since progressed much and people expect more. Having said that, the Wildfire S is definitely a capable phone but would-be buyers should set expectations right.

When evaluating its 5-megapixel imaging performance, we went with lower expectations as HTC phones have generally not done excelled in this test. As we found out, detail levels weren’t too high, especially so along the finer areas within our test image. A 1:1 crop of the test image also revealed distinct noise across the image. The results won’t be a match to other higher-end devices, but our lowered expectations for a budget smartphone meant that users can live with it.

Considering that it's a budget smartphone, we weren't too surprised at the average details and distinct noise across the image.

Lastly, its overall battery mileage, as measured on out test, was compared against devices with similar screen sizes, battery capacity and processing power. As such, we took the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini and BlackBerry Bold 9900 under consideration. The battery test was conducted under the following conditions:

  • Screen brightness and volume at 100%

  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections active

  • Constant data stream via email and Twitter

Smartphones Compared
Specifications/Device HTC Wildfire S Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini BlackBerry Bold 9900
  • 600MHz
  • 1GHz
  • 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 3.2-inch
  • 3.0-inch
  • 2.8-inch
Display Type
  • TFT
  • TFT
  • TFT
Display Resolution
  • 320 x 480 pixels
  • 320 x 480 pixels
  • 640 x 480 pixels
  • 101.3 x 59.4 x 12.4mm
  • 88 x 52 x 16mm
  • 115 x 66 x 10.5mm
  • 105g
  • 94g
  • 130g
  • 1230mAh
  • 1200mAh
  • 1230mAh

Considering how the Xperia Mini and Bold 9900 come with a smaller screen size than the Wildfire S, some might say the higher mileage on both devices can be easily explained. But you have to consider that the Wildfire S utilizes a Qualcomm Snapdragon single-core processor clocked at 600MHz, whilst the Xperia Mini runs at 1GHz and the Bold 9900 adopts a 1.2GHz clock speed. HTC’s Sense UI might have made the experience much more intuitive, but it is also most likely a power hog that resulted in these figures.

Lastly, we come to the portability of the device, which is affected by not just the battery life, but also the overall dimensions and weight. To give it a tangible measurement, we calculate it as a portability index.

Portability Index = Ratio of Battery Life to (Weight x Volume)

The ratio of a higher battery life, coupled with a lower weight and volume, would indicate a better portability index. For the Wildfire S, it lost the advantage with its lower battery mileage, while its dimensions didn’t manage to pull the numbers higher in its favor.

The intensive battery test is only one indicator of the battery performance, while the other is its mileage under normal day-to-day usage consideration. We look at the following factors when it comes to daily usage:

  • Cellular activity such as calls and messages
  • Internet activity through emails, web surfing and social networks
  • Multimedia activity through music and video playback

Across these three general activities in a typical day, we managed to get a full working day worth of usage out of the Wildfire S. This isn’t incredibly impressive, but neither too sloppy given that it managed the busier part of the day.



Initially priced at S$388, the HTC Wildfire S has spent sufficient time in the market and should see a few price adjustments from its authorized resellers. The same can be said for its immediate competitors, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini and Huawei Ideos X3, with similar price adjustments made since its launch. However, the Wildfire S has an edge over these two from a few angles.

On the aesthetics level, its matt surface and balanced weight distribution had a stronger appeal, keeping us glued to the handset. Its greatest differentiator, HTC Sense 2.1 interface, alongside Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread running underneath, gave it an edge when it comes to usability and intuitiveness. If you can live with its slightly below average battery mileage and expectedly lackluster imaging performance (which is decent for its phone class), the Wildfire S will suffice as a compact Android smartphone for those on a budget.

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  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 8
The Good
Full HTC Sense experience
Compact form factor
Decent performance with smooth screen transition and fast loading times for apps
The Bad
Below average battery mileage
3.2-inch screen can be straining on the eyes for extended usage
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