The HTC Wildfire

The HTC Wildfire

Lounge Review | The ‘droid uprising

Lounge Review | The ‘droid uprising

First of all let’s just admit it.

When Google announced the Android operating system for mobile phones two years ago, hardly anyone gave it a serious chance. Yes, yes, many pundits jumped up and down with excitement, but that has become standard protocol for the industry now. It doesn’t matter who launches what—for a day or two after an entirely unremarkable iteration of an entirely unpopular device, bloggers and journalists all over the world go crazy. Hundreds of articles are written with the headline: “Is *boring new product* the next *name of category leader device, such as iPhone*?"

Some do it for the traffic. Most people are just hedging their risks. On the outside chance that the 1,534th new e-book reader launched this year becomes a hit, no one would want to admit that they didn’t predict it. Which explains the mass hysterical salivation that accompanied things such as the Palm Pre, Google Sidewiki, Google Wave and that horrible PlayStation Portable (PSP) revision from Sony.

And so it was when Android happened. The fact that Google was involved was a plus point. Otherwise, deep inside, most people didn’t see how anything could dethrone Apple and iOS. Many still don’t.

But lo and behold, Android is a triumph. Phones based on the operating system have proven to be usable, versatile and available in all kinds of price ranges. This week, for instance, we look at the Motorola Milestone XT720 which is a substantial investment at 27,490 and the cheaper HTC Wildfire, at 16,590.

Several things seem to be working for Android. A vibrant developer base is making interesting applications. Several manufacturers across the value spectrum are willing to experiment with it. And, for a change, this is an open source project that does not ask for many, if any, compromises on design or usability.

The HTC Wildfire

Although one would expect a sub-Rs 20,000 smartphone to be a plasticky, poorly finished device replete with cut-price compromises, the Wildfire can, in fact, easily take on similarly priced BlackBerry Curves. If you can look past the slightly tacky build quality, the Wildfire is an easy phone to get used to. HTC has replaced the traditional Android UI (user interface) with its proprietary Sense interface.

From a look and feel perspective, the Wildfire looks like the HTC Desire and the Google Nexus One. It is easy to hold in the hand and the tiny optical trackpad is adequate. The phone is not a processing powerhouse—it uses a feeble Qualcomm processor with 324MB RAM but then neither are most of the phones you are going to compare it with.

The Motorola Milestone XT720

There are other little thingumajigs in the phone, such as gesture commands for apps. But nothing that should make the buying decisions for you.

None of the phones come with the latest Froyo version of Android. Which is such an improvement on the older Eclair, that you miss it here. Before buying these devices, you might want to make sure you are OK with the compromise.

The Wildfire has lag problems and a mediocre display. But you get what you pay for.

My biggest gripe with the Milestone is the design. The device takes up complete jeans pocket real estate.

But it doesn’t matter if you don’t like these models and want to wait. Expect to see several more Android models in the market, including more at the sub 10,000 price point. The droid uprising is already on its way. You have been warned.

sidin.v@livemint.com

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