The sequel to the pint-sized Android wonder that was the HTC Wildfire, this subtle revision manages to rectify some of its predecessor's niggles, but those expecting a cutting-edge experience may be disappointed.
The Wildfire S is available for around £15 on a monthly contract. Expect to part with approximately £200 for a SIM-free version.
Released alongside the best-selling HTC Desire, the first Wildfire was pitched as an entry-level Android device for mobile users on a budget. While it closely mimicked the look of the Desire, its poor screen and lack of processing power prevented it from truly shining. Being launched so soon after the similarly specced (but much more attractive) HTC Legend didn't help, either, although great deals made it very popular.
HTC has returned for another attempt at scoring gold, and there's no denying the Wildfire S is successful in solving the major issue that blighted its forerunner: the screen.
With its pitiful 240x320-pixel resolution, the Wildfire's display was woefully inadequate -- so low-res that some Android apps refused to function on it. While the Wildfire S retains the same 3.2-inch LCD panel, the resolution is now a more agreeable 320x480 pixels. It may not be in a position to challenge the iPhone 4's retina display, but it's a step in the right direction.
The Wildfire S' metallic body instantly reminds you of the Desire S and its single-piece aluminium frame. The Wildfire S doesn't actually boast a unibody construction, so it's not as robust as its bigger brother, but the predominant use of metal gives the phone a reassuring feel.
Like its ancestor, the Wildfire S is a diminutive little handset -- it's not amazingly thin at 12.4mm thick, but it's only 101mm tall and 59mm wide. It may even be a little too dinky for those of you with large mitts. The benefit of such a svelte frame is that the phone slips effortlessly into almost any pocket, and is a million miles away from behemoth blowers such as the Dell Venue Pro.
Another area where the Wildfire S improves on its earlier incarnation is the inclusion of Android 2.3, otherwise known as Gingerbread. To be more precise, it's actually running 2.3.3 -- very nearly the most bang up-to-date iteration of Google's mobile OS.
Sadly, the Wildfire S isn't actually capable of taking advantage of many of Gingerbread's best features. There's no front-facing camera so video calls are off the menu, and the lack of an NFC chip means you won't be able to take advantage of wireless payments (when they eventually become commonplace in the UK, that is).
There's further disappointment when you investigate a little further into the Wildfire S' specifications. Just like its predecessor, it's lumbered with a slow processor -- although at 600MHz it is at least a slight bump up from the 528MHz chip that was inside last year's Wildfire. While this is the norm for modestly priced Android handsets, such a CPU simply isn't up to the task of running the latest Android apps and games.
Demanding titles such as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are prone to moments of stutter, and the normally silky-smooth HTC Sense user interface is uncharacteristically jerky.
Sense user interface
Speaking of which, the Wildfire S comes with the latest version of Sense, which offers pleasing new features such as enhanced settings in the notification bar and the ability to filter your app drawer based on items you've downloaded or recently used.
The Wildfire S' 5-megapixel camera is largely unchanged from the one on the original, offering middling picture and video-recording quality. Thankfully, there's an LED flash for shooting in darker environments -- something that's usually missing in entry-level handsets.
Storage and battery life
A 2GD microSD card is included out of the box, and this amount of storage should be enough to please casual users. If you want to take plenty of snaps and make use of the Wildfire S' 3.5mm headphone jack for music, you'll want to seek out a larger card. The Wildfire S has perfectly respectable connectivity, with both Wi-Fi and 3G.
Despite its relatively modest technical demands, the Wildfire S' 1,230mAh battery will only last you about a day before it needs a top-up. This is in keeping with most modern smart phones, and the small size of the handset means a larger capacity power cell probably wasn't feasible.
The Wildfire S improves on the previous model by boosting the screen resolution and offering a more up-to-date operating system. It's very much the same beast, however, and the sluggish CPU -- which was just about forgivable when the original Wildfire launched last year -- feels behind the times in 2011.
With a flood of low-cost Android smart phones hitting the market -- including the superb Samsung Galaxy Ace -- HTC has a fight on its hands at this end of the market. Still, unless you're expecting a top-of-the-range device, the Wildfire S is worth a shot. Especially if you're not keen on gigantic, pocket-rupturing phones.
Edited by Nick Hide