MODEL: HTC Wildfire
RATING: 7.5 out of 10
PRICE: $349 pre-paid (Telstra.com)
WEB: www.htc.com/au

It’s fast becoming one of the most popular smartphones on the market – as much for the fact that it’s now available in Australia as a prepaid for a tiny $349 as anything else – but there’s one issue there’s no getting around on the new HTC Wildfire.

And that’s the screen.

The 2.8-inch TFT LCD panel used here delivers 240×320-pixel resolution but on our testing, we’d call it “rough”. Despite the fact that it only comes in at the lowest resolution supported by the Android 2.1 operating system on board, the Wildfire’s screen doesn’t deliver a spectacular view.

We noticed on some apps for example that list row divider lines occasionally disappeared because the lines were thinner than the LCD panel could display.

That said, it does have a full quota of extra features including a 5MP image sensor, GPS capability, FM receiver, accelerometer, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi wireless networking and it works on Telstra’s 3G network. Battery life is also excellent with up to 8hrs talk time/690hrs standby time on 3G networks.

The one thing you’ll notice about the Wildfire is how slow it is to boot up – the 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor is about as slow as you’d want to get on a smartphone although to its credit, it is capable of playing video files at 25fps for full motion. Something we noticed in testing was its inability to downscale video clips that were larger in frame size than the 240×320-pixel native screen resolution. Both the HTC Legend and Desire phones will play video files where the frame size exceeds the native screen resolution.

However, what we can’t fault is the HTC Sense user interface – despite being on a lower-resolution screen, it’s the same interface as you’ll find on the HTC Desire. And, you get the same access to the Android Market so there’s a bucketload of apps just waiting to explore.

All that said, Telstra has already put out the “out of stock” shingle on its website for this one, so there’s no doubt this has been a popular phone. However, with today’s news that rival Motorola will be launching a similar spec phone on Vodafone for $299 pre-paid mid-next-month, it could be worth waiting to take a look and see how it stacks up before going with the Wildfire.

If you can’t wait, the Wildfire isn’t actually bad value – just make sure you get to see that screen in operation first before you sign on the dotted line. You may find yourself looking elsewhere first.

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