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Despite the recent onslaught of high-end smartphones like the Motorola PHOTON 4G and Apple iPhone 4, the flagship devices aren't for everyone.  While the vast majority of people reading this (myself included) have no problem ponying up a couple of Benjamins every two years for that shiny new gadget, there are plenty of potential first-time smartphone buyers that want a cheaper product.  Grandma may text message, make a few phone calls, and browse the web from time to time, but she probably doesn't need a 3D-toting, dual-core powerhouse that sucks down battery life like there's no tomorrow.

That's where the HTC Wildfire S comes in.  Announced at Mobile World Congress earlier in the year, the Wildfire S is mid-range in every category, with a 600 MHz processor, 3.2-inch display, and 5-megapixel camera.  It's the perfect phone for an often forgotten demographic, and it's available at T-Mobile for $79.99 with a two-year contract.

I've been hanging out with the Wildfire S for a few days now.  My observations:

  • The Wildfire S ships with a 600 MHz Qualcomm processor, and while it's no dual-core CPU, it's sufficient for most day-to-day tasks.  I didn't notice any significant lag while browsing through menus, taking pictures, or sending text messages.

  • The 3.2-inch display is on the small side and pales in comparison to its high-end counterparts, but it's all about perspective.  If you're migrating from a featurephone, you'll probably find the Wildfire S' display to be the perfect size.  If you're coming from anything larger than the 3.5-inch display on the iPhone 4, you're going to find it small.  The size is VERY evident when you're browsing the web.  Be prepared to do a lot of zooming.
  • Wildfire S has Android 2.3 with HTC Sense 2.1, so it's relatively up-to-date on the software front.

  • Packing a 5-megapixel camera, the Wildfire S isn't going to replace your conventional camera for anything more than the occasional "out on the town" shot.  In well-lit situations, the camera performed fine, though it pales in comparison to the other 5-megapixel options in the marketplace (iPhone 4, HTC Desire, etc.).
  • Overall signal strength is pretty mediocre.  It has worked fine in the T-Mobile areas that I've tested it in, but I've noticed that it doesn't perform as well in dead zones.  Despite the minor signal woes, the earpiece is nice and loud, and callers reported that I sounded good when I was in strong signal areas.  The Wildfire S is an HSPA 7.2 device, and while it doesn't support T-Mobile's HSPA+ (4G) technology, data speeds were reasonably fast.  My average download speeds have been between 2 and 3 Mbps, with upload speeds between 0.8 and 1.4 Mbps.
  • The Wildfire S has a 1,230 mAh battery, and given the small size and mid-range features, it's pretty easy to make it through the day with moderate use like calling, text messaging, browsing the web, and downloading a few apps.  If you're a heavy user or text message nonstop throughout the day, you'll want to snag a spare charger.

Check out the unboxing video below, and hang tight for the full review!


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