The idea of a phone being specially designed for a certain type of person is not a new one. We've seen rugged phones for those who need the durability; we've seen gaming phones for those who enjoy on-the-go fun; we've seen phones that focus on the music aspects of a device for those who are serious about their music collection. So, for HTC to make a phone that targets those who view style as being just as important as substance (or for women, however you want to view this thing) is not the sort of idea that should completely throw people off guard.
I approached the Rhyme with a clean, though somewhat clouded slate. I was willing to give it a chance though I wasn't even sure it needed one. 'This is just a normal smartphone, right? I mean, aside from the lame charm-thingy, that is.' That was my thought-process. About ten minutes into the review period, it hit me.
Design & Features
So, yes, it's plum-colored and so is everything in the box including the box itself. (Literally, everything.) HTC claims that the hardware design has been customized for the Rhyme, but I didn't notice any immediate differences. The soft-touch coating and metal unibody construction, though nice, are not unique to the Rhyme. The soft-touch coating on the back of the phone does feel softer, but that could just be all in my head because of what HTC has said. None of this is a selling or non-selling point. HTC makes beautiful devices so even if the Rhyme does look like every other phone they've made, that's still a positive. (If you're curious about the numbers, the Rhyme measures 4.6-inches tall, 2.4-inches wide, and .4-inches thick and weighs 4.77 ounces.)
The display could be what HTC was talking about with this 'special hardware design' idea. The Rhyme's display measures 3.7-inches, somewhat small compared to the 4-4.5-inch "Hummers" that are becoming the norm these days. It's not too small, especially if the Rhyme is made for women - we tend to have small hands. The Super-LCD display is very crisp. This technology isn't known for producing radical colors and bright graphics, but the sharpness it offers is pleasing and beautiful in its own right.
The Rhyme ships with all of the usual buttons and ports, with the exception of a dedicated camera key, which seems to be a 50/50 feature on smartphones these days. Directly below the Rhyme's display are the four standard Android buttons for Home, Menu, Back, and Search. The right side of the phone contains only the volume rocker buttons and the left side of the phone contains only the microUSB port. The phone's 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top along with the Power/Screen lock button. There is an LED notification light next to the front-facing camera. The Rhyme's 1600 mAh battery is, interestingly, non-removable. The microSD card slot is still accessible by removing the back panel. The phone ships with an 8 GB card and supports cards up to 32 GB. The phone itself has 4 GB of memory.
Usability & Performance
The Rhyme is an Android device and ships with the latest version of this operating system, version 2.3 A.K.A Gingerbread. On top of the operating system, HTC has included a custom User Interface (a "skin" of sorts) called Sense. The Rhyme ships with the latest version of this UI, version 3.5, though it seems to be a special version of this UI made specifically for the Rhyme. Android is basically the same on every Android device so we'll focus on this custom UI and talk about what it adds. Out of the box, the Rhyme's homescreen features a widget designed by HTC. It's called Quick Launch because it allows you to quickly view the time and date, weather information, as well as condensed notifications and information for E-mail, Messages, Calendar, and Camera shots. These icons also act as shortcuts to their respective apps. This widget is useful, though easily removable. The bottom of the display has two shortcuts that remain stationary no matter what homepage you're on. These two shortcuts go to the app drawer and Phone. Along with the Quick Launch widget, HTC has included 79 other beautiful and extremely useful widgets. As another customization, the Notification Bar is divided into two categories - Notifications and Quick Settings. HTC Sense is one of the most popular, beautiful, and easy-to-use User Interfaces on the market, in my opinion.
Google has designed a virtual keyboard for Android, but the Rhyme does not ship with this keyboard. Instead, HTC included its own virtual keyboard. This keyboard works great, is designed well, and gave me few problems. I did notice that typing on the 3.7-inch display felt a little uncomfortable at times. For the most part, though, the size was fine. If it is too cramped for your fingers, you can easily rotate the phone to landscape mode and the keyboard will be much wider.
Let's dive into the guts of the phone. The Rhyme is powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor. Compared to the dual-core processors we see in other phones, a single-core processor may seem unimpressive, but this one is no slouch. Right from the word 'go' the Rhyme has delivered terrific performance. While using it as my everyday phone I have experienced little to no lag. Tasks aren't completed instantaneously, but the .2- or .5-second delay (depending on the task) is probably not something you'll even notice most of the time. Transitions are smooth and pinch-to-zoom in the web browser is nearly seamless. The Rhyme scored a 1,467 on the Quadrant Standard test and a 1,341 in the Smartbench Productivity Index.
Since I touched on web browsing, I'll also comment on 3G data speeds. The Rhyme uses Verizon's EV-DO Revision A network for 3G data on the 850 and 1900 CDMA frequencies. I've been testing the phone in the Dallas area of Texas and 3G speeds have been great and up to par with my experience with other Verizon 3G smartphones. Average download speeds using the Rhyme were about 1.6 Mbps, but I had lows of about 200 kbps when the signal strength was very low and the phone switched over to EV-DO Revision 0. Data speeds can be very subjective and depend greatly on coverage in your area, but my test results have been satisfactory.
The Rhyme ships with a 5-megapixel autofocus camera that captures 720p HD video and is equipped with a single flash. I've included a video sample in the video review of the Rhyme. While audio quality wasn't terrible, video quality left much to be desired. The video was blurry and lacked detail. The colors showed up well and the video was smooth, but the lack of detail was disappointing. As far as still pictures go, the Rhyme's results were great. HTC included several advanced camera features like Action Burst and Backlight HDR, a feature we're all familiar with from the iPhone 4. On top of the camera's already great picture quality, there are also filters you can add when capturing a photo as well as effects that can be added to a photo after it is captured. While some phones have features like these, HTC has included more filters and effects and the quality of these are excellent. Overall, pictures were clear in both low-light and typical lighting situations. I've also included pictures taken with the Rhyme in the video review. Along with the rear-facing camera, the Rhyme also has a VGA front-facing camera for video chatting.
Android is not known for being a battery-efficient operating system. Because of its true multi-tasking, the OS is constantly handling dozens of tasks at once. Without hacking, most Android devices do well to make it through a full day. In my tests with the Rhyme, I didn't notice any difference in battery life between it and other 3G Android devices. Battery life, like data speeds, are very subjective to each individual person's lifestyle and usage habits. I've found that I can get a full day of use with the Rhyme, but it was necessary to charge it every night. With heavy use, you will probably need to charge the phone during the day.
The Rhyme comes with a few custom accessories that are very useful - a media/charging dock, non-tangling in-ear earbuds, and a purse charm. Let's discuss these one by one.
The media dock can plug into your computer or an outlet using the charging cable provided. It's small, not much longer than the phone itself, but big enough to have good-sized speakers built in. As soon as I plugged in the dock and began using it, I immediately fell in love with the idea of having one. To begin with, the speakers sounded great. They're not perfect, I noticed the familiar tin-can effect when I listened closely, but the overall sound quality was much better than what I expected from an included accessory. You can choose to have the phone show your calendar or have it go into desk mode where the time, date, and weather are shown as well as music player controls. This accessory is a simple and somewhat obvious idea, but the fact that it works so well and is included with the phone is just plain awesome.
I should have learned my lesson after using the dock for the first time, but I didn't. I still had low expectations for the earbuds. I liked the fact that they were non-tangling and had in-ear tips, but beyond that I didn't expect much. Again, I was wrong. These earbuds sounded great. I still had a few issues with the previously mentioned tin-can effect where the bass suffered a bit, but overall sound quality was impressive. The earbuds also have an in-line mic with call controls as well as music playback controls. I do wish the cord had a clip on it so I could easily clip it to my shirt, but it was no big deal.
Lastly, the purse charm. This was probably one of the most-hyped features of the phone. The idea of the charm is that you can plug it into your phone and even if your phone isn't visible you'll be still be notified of incoming calls, missed calls, or received text messages by the flashing charm. The only problem with this idea is that I still have to look down at the charm to see if it's flashing. Also, the interval between flashes is too long so I'd have to look down for a few seconds. This just isn't practical when I'm out and about or walking around. It would be nice if the charm blinked faster, or perhaps even stayed on when a notification is received. It would also be nice to be notified of missed tweets or Facebook updates if I choose to. I think HTC may be on to something, but it's not quite there yet.
My overall experience with the Rhyme was fantastic. I can honestly say that I've enjoyed my time with this phone. Now, I don't know if that's because it's simply a great phone, if it's because HTC did their job in creating a device that would appeal to women, or if I'm simply buying into the marketing. Either way, I am impressed.
As I said in the introduction, after a few minutes with the Rhyme, I realized what this phone is about. It hit me. It's not about the subtleties that you have to hunt for. It's about the obvious things - the color, the size, the accessories, and the customized UI features. They make a huge difference, more so than I thought they would.
What's Good: As usual from HTC, excellent hardware design; crisp Super-LCD display; additional camera features on top of great camera quality; Sense UI; included accessories are high-quality and useful; fast processor.
What's Bad: Charm wasn't as useful as HTC hoped it would be; non-removable battery; poor HD video quality.
The Verdict: The Rhyme is a great smartphone and the included accessories are top-notch. Aside from the purse charm, this phone should be great for anyone who cares about style just as much as substance.