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I needed a new phone to use as a second phone alongside my iPhone but didn't want to spend too much. I kept hearing rave reviews about Android so thought I'd try it out, as it would give me more functionality than a normal mobile. I chose the Wildfire, an entry level Android phone from HTC, costing me £170. I got the pure white version, which has a bit of silver and looks really nice! The usual brown version was too common for my liking.
After popping in the SIM under the battery, MicroSD card in the slot and the initial eight-hour or so charge, powered on the phone and off I went. As it's a smart phone, there are endless things I can do but what I quite like is how it lets you choose customise the Home screen with different "Scenes" to determine what options are there. i.e. 'Work', which puts Stocks and Shares, Calendar, News, Mail, 2 clocks, etc as opposed to 'Social' which customises the screen with Friend Stream, Email, Favourite Contacts, Email, Texts, etc. There's also Play, Travel, Clean State and a HTC 'Scene'. Each one can be customised by pressing and holding an item or an empty area to add new widgets. All of them have a screen where you can conveniently enable and disable Wireless and Bluetooth whereby it's very longwinded on the iPhone.
Transferring contacts from phone to phone can be a pain in the backside, especially if the other phones is from a different manufacturer. However, I found it very easy to transfer contacts from my iPhone to the Wildfire using the Transfer Data option, which did it all via Bluetooth in under 5 minutes! Very impressed! I also managed to import a CSV (Comma Separated Values file, a text file but with information separated with commas so it can open up neatly as a spreadsheet) with contacts into Gmail (Google Email). These contacts showed up on my phone after linking my Gmail account to the phone.
Setting up Email on the phone is also extremely easy as the phone finds most settings for you. You just need to know your email and password. It will require a few more settings if the settings for your email provider are less obvious. It also has an option
for Exchange (work email) if you want to connect to work emails.
NAVIGATION AND USING
The wildfire is a touch screen phone and I find moving around the screens very responsive and requires very little effort. I can slide up, down, left, right without having to press down hard and it moves around smoothly from screen to screen or up / down / left and right along pages. 'Pinching' the screen to zoom in and out works okay most of the time but I find it's not as smooth and lags sometimes. This may be because the processor isn't fast enough to keep up, but it still works to an acceptable level.
I installed Angry Birds on it and it lags a bit whereby it runs smoothly on my iPhone 3GS, so it seems graphics and processor heavy Apps may not run as smoothly on the Wildfire as they can on higher end phones. Navigating around the phone is smooth in general though. One annoyance though is that I often end up calling the wrong person due to the bigt of lag when navigating the call lists. I find a person's name/number in the missed/received call and press it but somehow, I manage to click on the wrong one quite often.
Certain screens take a bit of getting used to if you're accustomed to using an iPhone though. For example, instead of sliding from left to right of a text message or email to bring up a delete button, I need to first press Menu and then choose the Delete button to let me select multiple messages or open the message I want to delete and then choose Delete from the Menu.
Other things like the date or time selector (e.g. slide day up or down to choose day, then same for month, then same for year) seems to be copied from the iPhone's interface but isn't quite as accurate and easy to use as the one on the iPhone. These things aside, the phone is very intuitive to use.
Using it to make and receiving calls is easy enough. Slide up to ignore calls, slide down to take the call. Finding the phone function is easier than on the iPhone. I have no complaints with the sound quality. It's just as good as any other decent phone on the market. Loudspeaker is also adequate. A bit tinny but that's to be expected from a phone, especially an entry level one. For listening to music, you can use external speakers or headphones as the Wildfire has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Phone reception is also very good (but depends on your network as well). I'm using an Orange SIM and I swear the reception is superior compared to when I had the same SIM in my 3GS!
The on screen keyboard for texting and emailing is easy to use and can also be changed to landscape if you turn the phone round for a bigger keyboard if you prefer, as it's got a built-in accelerometer, which can also be used with some games. When typing, Android gives you word suggestions like predictive texts. I find it to be a bit better than iPhones annoying auto-correct which often causes people to substitute typos with incorrect words. (Some of which are hilarious if you search for examples online).
The Wildfire has an optical track pad, which just looks like a circular button but it lets you navigate by sliding your thumb/finger across it (up/down/left/right). It also acts as a button when you press down on it to make selections or to take pictures when you have the Camera App open. It's nice to have but I rarely use it. Didn't even realise that that what I was supposed to use the take pictures. One thing that bugs me a bit is how I need to press the power button (top right button) to turn on the screen when it's off. This is mainly because I'm so used to using the big round button on the iPhone though so a very minor niggle.
It has a built-camera but it's quite a disappointment, especially if you're expecting high quality snaps from the 5 Megapixel camera and flash. The flash often causes over exposure and reflect the light. Not using the flash doesn't help with the quality of the pictures either as I often find it difficult to get a good focussed picture. There's an auto-focus feature but it's really hit and miss. To get good pictures, you'd need good lighting and steady hands. It can record video as well and the picture seems okay so the blurry still pictures is most likely due to the slow shutter speed / poor auto-focus. The camera 'flash' can also be used as a torch via the 'Flash Light' App. This is something I've always liked on my trusty old Sony Ericsson W810i but is missing on my iPhone 3GS (they included it on the iPhone 4).
With the Android Marketplace at your disposal, you have a lot of choice of Apps for customising and adding functions to your phone. Some Apps are free, some aren't but sadly, there are nowhere near as many Apps in the Android Market than there is in the Apple App Store. The Android Market doesn't seem to be separated by Language or country specific Apps either as I've noticed a number of foreign (quite a few Korean) Apps mixed up with the English ones. This is fine for some but things that are currency specific will be useless to me if they're not in Pound Sterling. I've found that I managed to download an eBay price check App, which only searches eBay Germany! Quality of the Apps vary so it seems the Android Marketplace doesn't have a stringent quality control process in place like Apple have with their App Store. Some Apps found in the Apple App Store cannot be found in the Android Marketplace. Some show up later, others never will but at least the more popular ones are more likely to be in both.
There are already a number of useful Apps pre-installed on the Wildfire, such as Calendar, Maps, GPS (Google Maps Navigation Beta), etc but my favourite has to be the 'Wi-Fi Hotspot', which lets me turn the phone into a wireless hotspot so I can use the phone's 3G Internet connection on my laptop, iPad or whatever you have that needs wireless connectivity. This works for up to 5 devices(?)
The battery life can last around a day with moderate use, which is quite the norm with today's Smart Phones. I find I only charge mine once every 1 and half to 2 days (with WiFi and Bluetooth off most of the time) but this will vary depending on usage (Wireless, games, GPS can drain the battery). The battery is removable so a spare battery is always an option.
The Wildfire can't run certain Apps smoothly, some features aren't perfect and the Marketplace is a bit hit and miss but I feel that these aren't enough reason to overlook this phone. The Wildfire is a good performer as an entry level phone. Recommended for those after an entry-level Android Smart Phone.