HTC Wildfire S review: S-size droid

GSMArena team, 18 May 2011.

Poor 5 megapixel snapper

The HTC Wildfire S packs a 5MP camera for stills of up to 2592x1952 pixel resolution. The phone does VGA videos @ 24fps too. There’s a single-LED flash, which can also be used as video light.

The camera interface is very space efficient. Most of the controls are on the right side of the viewfinder, with the virtual shutter in the center. There’s a virtual zoom slider on the left.

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HTC Wildfire S Review HTC Wildfire S Review
HTC Wildfire S camera interface

The HTC Wildfire S features touch focus and face detection; geotagging is enabled too.

Continuous autofocus lets the camera focus as you reframe – quite useful given the Wildfire S doesn’t have a proper shutter key and you can’t do that with the virtual shutter key either. The camera supports face detection too, which also can be enabled in self-portrait mode.

The image quality is not as good as you can expect from a 5MP camera. The color rendering is fine, but the contrast need some further tuning. The noise levels are kept low, but the amount of resolved detail is really disappointing – it’s the biggest issue of its camera.

You can check out the camera samples below.

HTC Wildfire S Review HTC Wildfire S Review HTC Wildfire S Review
HTC Wildfire S Review HTC Wildfire S Review HTC Wildfire S Review
HTC Wildfire S camera samples

Photo quality comparison

The HTC Wildfire S enters our Photo Compare Tool to join the other 5MP shooters. The tool’s page will give you enough info on how to use it and what to look for.

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HTC Wildfire S in our Photo Compare Tool

As you can see for yourself the Wildfire S camera falls behind most of its competitors and will surely not satisfy the average user. As we said above the biggest problem we met is the unsatisfactory captured detail.

Poor VGA videos

The interface of the camcorder is similar to the still camera’s and there are lots of customizable options. You can set the video resolution, recording limit and add effects.

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The new camcorder interface

Autofocus works here too, but only before you start shooting – then the focus is locked and won’t change even if you get closer or move back. Still, the Wildfire S had no problems focusing at even very close distances.

Videos are stored in 3GP format and the result is pretty much the same as the still shots – poor amount of captured detail and some contrast issues. There are also some duplicated frames, but that’s hardly noticeable on the poor quality videos. Once again HTC has proved to us it is not in the camera business.

Here goes an untouched VGA@24fps video clip (4MB).

Connectivity

The HTC Wildfire S has a complete connectivity set. There’s quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and dual-band 3G: 7.2Mbps downlink and 384kbps uplink thanks to HSPA.

The local wireless connectivity has Wi-Fi b/g/n but there is no DLNA support. The Bluetooth version is 3.0, but you should not expect high-speed transfers either.

When you plug in the microUSB cable you’re presented with a long list of options - Charge only, Disk drive (mass storage), HTC Sync, USB tethering (use the phone as a modem) and Internet pass-through (the phone uses the computers Internet connection).

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Selecting a USB connection type • Starting the personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Last but not least is the HTC Portable Hotspot. It can support 1 to 8 devices (default Froyo app maxes out at 5), you can WEP, WPA or WPA2 encrypt the hotspot and you can enable only “allowed users” to connect or leave it open for anything (unsecure, but the quickest setup).

The app can be set to power off automatically after 5 or 10 minutes of inactivity, saving your battery in case you forget to switch it off manually.

Good web browsing, but Flash is a no-go

The HTC Wildfire S has the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread web browser. There are some performance improvements over Froyo, but the Wildfire S can’t take advantage of the full Flash support (not supported processor). There is Flash Lite instead, so you can interact with some banners and other basic Flash content.

The user interface keeps mostly out of sight, which leaves the entire screen to the web page. The minimalist UI is still quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up.

There are back and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out yet more options – anything from finding on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).

The Wildfire S browser also supports pinch/double tap zooming and text reflow, which makes it extremely easy to read even longer texts on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.

Once you select some text, you can copy it, launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share the text over a message or social networking.

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Web browsing is a pleasurable experience on the HTC Wildfire S

The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history. Tabs are displayed as 3D cards too – a really neat trick is that if you pinch zoom out beyond the minimum zoom level you go straight into the tab selector. This may be a cool way to manage tabs but too many of them open at once will seriously slow down the browser.

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The bookmarks and History lists • Text reflow in action • Tabs are supported

The HTC Wildfire S comes only with Flash Lite support so Flash videos and games are a no-go. As we already mentioned above you can only see some banners and other similar Flash basic content. Interesting enough you can play embedded YouTube videos right within the browser (such as our UI demo videos). We have no real explanation for that, may be the Flash Lite plugin somehow converts them.

You could always use the YouTube app though, which partially compensate for the lack of Flash support.

Mind you, the Android 2.3 browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag but that is a few years (at best) away from becoming the norm.

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