In the not too distant past the ‘Desire’ range of smartphones from HTC were their flagship range, this was until MWC 2012 when HTC announced the excellent ‘One Series’. At that point I didn’t think that we would see a Desire branded handset from HTC again, but to my utter surprise here I have the brand new Desire C for review.
It’s the beginning of a new range of devices from HTC aimed at giving absolutely everyone a chance to own an Android smartphone on any budget.
So how does this little device fair against its competitors? And does it do the Desire brand name the justice it no doubt deserves?
Well to find out you will have to read on.
The 10 Second Review:
- Device: HTC Desire C
- Price: £189.99 Sim Free, from £143.99 pay as you go and from £10.50 on contract
- Summary: A lovely device that is unfortunately just crying out for a faster processor!
- Best of: Price, Ice cream sandwich/HTC Sense, design.
- Worst of: Sluggish processor, no camera flash, poor screen resolution, a little small, no HD video recording.
- Buy it now from: clove.co.uk, various UK networks also.
What’s in the box?
This is a review device so the following will include quick start guide, warranty etc as well.
- HTC Desire C
- UK Mains Charging adapter
- MicroUSB to USB sync/charge cable
- Wired headset with push button
HTC Desire C Specification:
- Size (LxWxD): 107.2 x 60.6 x 11.95 mm
- Weight: 98 grams with battery
- Display: 3.5 inch 4-points capacitive touch screen with HVGA (320 x 480) resolution
- Processor: Snapdragon S1 (600MHz)
- Platform: Android 4.0 with HTC Sense
- Memory: Total storage: 4GB
- RAM: 512MB
- microSD slot (supports SD2.0/SDHC)
- 25GB of free online storage with Dropbox
- Network: HSPA/WCDMA: Europe/Asia: 900/2100 MHz
- 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
- NFC (Google Wallet Compatible)
- Bluetooth® 4.0 (GAP, SDP, HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP, GAVDP, OPP, FTP, PBAP)
- Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11b/g/n
- Standard micro-USB (5-pin micro-USB 2.0)
- Camera: 5 megapixel camera with F2.8/34mm lens, fixed focus
- Battery Capacity: 1230 mAh
- Internal GPS antenna
- FM Radio
The left side of the Desire C houses only the MicroUSB port.
On the right side we find the up/down volumes controls.
On the rear of the handset we find the camera lens, speaker grill, the HTC logo and also the Beats Audio logo.
No flash to be seen here.
Over on the front we get the speaker grill at the top of the Desire C.
And under the screen are the familiar capacitive keys.
Finally, on the top of the device is the power/screen lock button.
If there’s one thing that most people know by now it is that HTC are a cut above the competition when it comes to hardware and design.
And the Desire C is certainly a very cool looking device from whichever angle you look. It has a fantastic black and red colour scheme but what really stands out is how small the phone is. They’ve managed to fit a full 3.5 inch display into a device that quite honestly doesn’t looks much larger than a credit card! The 3.5 inch screen is a HVGA which is 320 x 480, and to be honest isn’t awful but it also isn’t all that great either but for a budget device like this, 3.5 inches is a lot especially as you usually see 3.2 or below.
The phone looks a little like the HTC Explorer that I reviewed not so long ago and I remember saying that I liked the quirky back cover which was made from rubber. The reason I mention that here is because although the cover on the Desire C is not rubber it has a rubbery texture which makes the phone feel awesome in the hand, it’s really soft but at the same time you really don’t feel like you will drop it ever.
Moving on from that point I would like to also point out that the build quality is well, just that exact word QUALITY. It oozes quality and for the price point of under £150 pay as you go I would say it’s a real bargain.
The one thing that seriously lets this phone down is the processor, it is a measly 600Mhz. Compare that to the Huawei Ascend G300 from Vodafone which has a 1Ghz for less money and you are looking at a disappointing outcome. Having said that though there are fewer times when I noticed processors performance issues and I think this is due to Ice Cream Sandwich because it is such a fluid operating system, as you will hopefully be able to see in the next section.
In this section some of you will be surprised to see the very same user interface and software that has become so popular on HTC’s One Series. Yes that’s right folks, HTC have managed to somehow squeeze Ice Cram Sandwich AND their brand spanking new HTC sense 4.0 overlay on a phone that has a 600 MHz processor and 512MB RAM. Incredible.
First off we have the Sense lock screen, which if you’ve seen it on other devices such as the HTC Flyer or the One Series then this will be familiar, but if you haven’t here it is just for you:
To unlock the device the process is very simple, all you do is drag the ring from the bottom of the page to anywhere on the screen, but there is also a very cool way of accessing apps without unlocking it first. You see the 4 app shortcuts just above the ring? Well if you drag one of those into the ring then the device will unlock right into the app. It works a treat too as if you receive a text message or e-mail then you can see it right away.
Unlike on the larger HTC devices such as the One S or One X, this phone only has the 5 home screens as opposed to the 7. My theory behind this is due to the lack of power that the device has, you don’t really miss out on too much to be honest so I wouldn’t be too bothered by it.
All 5 home screens are customisable as always with the android operating system. With Ice Cream Sandwich this process has become so much simpler as you will see in a little while, but before I show you that I will show you my 5 home screens to give you an idea of what is possible:
Now obviously these screenshots won’t be reminiscent of how you guys like to customise your phones but I’ve been using this device as my own for a week and thought that I would show you how I like to lay my screens out. There are lots of possibilities with this phones layout, however, as there are so many pre-installed widgets to choose from that I don’t think you could go a day without changing at least one thing on one home screen, I know I didn’t.
Below is the brand new ‘Add to home screen’ process that I mentioned a little earlier. It is so fantastic and simple because it shows you little previews of what each widget looks like to give you a better idea of what you might want on your screens. All you do then to add one to any screen is either drag and drop or simply press it and it will automatically choose an open space. As well as there being a whole new way of adding apps etc to the home screen there is also the ability to create folders on the home screen to make things easier to access. It allows for more apps to be put into a single folder than on iOS anyway, one up for android I’d say!
As you will no doubt be downloading lots of apps and games I thought I would show you where they would all be stored. Although possibly nothing that you haven’t seen before this is the first Ice Cream Sandwich device that I have shown to you guys so I thought I would show as much as I could fit in. Here is the app tray:
Overall the experience of using ICS with Sense 4.0 is fantastically simple, yet at the same time it is brilliant and a huge improvement upon the last version of both Sndroid and Sense. Such a huge improvement even that I would say that anyone could use this device and be totally and completely happy with it whether they have used a smartphone before or not.
There is one application that you will only ever see on HTC devices, it is called HTC Hub. This is an app designed and ‘stocked’ by HTC themselves with apps, skins, wallpapers etc for each different device. Since the update to HTC Sense they have added the ability to link from the Hub straight into an app or game in the Google Play Store to download that too. One thing that I use the Hub for is different skins for my HTC One X, it just creates an extra customisation option that isn’t necessarily for everyone but I like to do it.
The HTC Desire C provides a relatively decent browsing experience considering that the hardware isn’t that great in terms of power. Obviously you can’t expect to see blistering page load times but I was quite surprised to find that the load times weren’t actually as slow as I expected. A decent comparison is between this device and the HTC Explorer again which had the same MHz processor and same amount of RAM with the only significant difference being that it only had Android Gingerbread. Which in my opinion is where the Desire C is unique because the browsing experience on the Explorer was super slow compared to this one which surprised me quite a bit.
There is an issue with the display when browsing though that severely lets the device down. The display is only HVGA which becomes really apparent when you first load a page as you seriously can’t read a thing on the page! I was so disappointed with this but then again I shouldn’t be that surprised because this is at the end of the day a budget device aimed at first time buyers and kids I would say.
To make browsing a nice and simple experience there is as with many other browsers a way of doing ‘tabbed’ browsing. In basic terms this is having multiple web pages open at once to enable the user to easily switch between them at any given time. It’s an often overlooked feature with smartphones as the thing that most people want to know is ‘is the browser any good? Is it fast? Or is it better than Apple?’ So I thought I would add it into the review for you.
As this is a HTC smartphone with the Android operating system you would expect that they have put their own stamp on the ‘Mailing app’ and this is in fact the case with the Desire C.
I have always been a keen admirer of the HTC e-mail application, I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for it but I do know that I find it to look so much nicer than the stock Android app, sync mail quicker and a lot nicer to use in general too.
In essence this application is the basic stock Android version with an image makeover to make it more appealing to look at and to use. HTC have done a really good job with this app as they’ve created something that is very simple to use but also something that displays e-mails better than most other apps I’ve seen before.
There is another e-mailing application that, if users wish to download apps from Google Play etc then they require one of these accounts. It is of course Gmail. This is the very same application that you see on every Android handset although on this device and indeed on my own HTC One X it seems to looks and work that little bit better than most. I’m not sure if it’s something that HTC have done or whether it’s just chance but I definitely have noticed a difference with how quickly I was able to write, receive and read mail.
Something else that HTC seem to re-master every time they update their ‘Sense’ overlay is the calendar application. This is something that in the latest version of the overlay is absolutely brilliant to use but more to the point looks great too.
You will see in the screenshots below that the app definitely screams ‘HTC’ at you but that is such a good thing. You will notice the 4 options at the bottom of the screen. These make navigating through the calendar so seamless that you will find yourself creating appointments and events like you’ve known it all along. One pretty cool feature that I think needs a mention is the live weather on the current day. I know that the phone has a weather app that’s separate to this but for those of us that are jumping in and out of the calendar app throughout each day this will be a great feature I’m sure.
This next section is one of my personal favorites, particularly with the Desire C anyway. All will become clear in but a moment.
The Desire C is part of a collection of HTC devices that has ‘Beats Audio technology’ built into them and for those who don’t know what Beats Audio is be off with you! No, I’m obviously joking, Beats Audio was introduced a few years ago by Dr. Dre, the rapper extraordinaire along with the company Monster, but I think it was in 2010-2011 HTC decided that they wanted in on the venture so bought a stake in the company, and the rest is history as they say. After that purchase the company started putting the technology into their smartphones to enhance music playback for its consumers, and this is where we are now.
The music application (as seen above) is filled with music wonderment not seen on other devices; you will see that there are 4 sections in the app: My phone, SoundHound, TuneIn Radio and 7digital. These all serve their own little purpose. The ‘my phone’ section is basically any music that you have put on the memory card or phone memory just like any other mp3 player or smartphone. What makes this phone special along with all of the One Series devices is the partnership with HTC and SoundHound the music identification app which would normally cost you £2+ but on this device you get it for free. So for example if you hear a song on the radio then you can go to the SoundHound app and tell it to listen, once its finished listening you get something that looks like this:
It will appear with tour date information, song information and also the ability to purchase said track, and that’s where 7digital comes into the equation.
7Digital is an app much like iTunes or AmazonMP3 in the fact that it is a source for music to allow users to purchase albums, songs etc and download them onto the device. It’s not necessarily a partnership but it is a cool thing to have in reserve if you can’t find the music you want elsewhere.
The very last section in the music application is TuneIn Radio, this is basically an internet radio application that allows you to listen to stations from across the globe if that’s the sort of thing you like. My kind of listening is local radio stations and my personal favorite Planet Rock, all of which you can make as your pre-set station so that you can easily switch between then while on the move. The app is a simple but very effective way of drowning out such FM stations as ‘Classic FM’ while travelling in the car or trains to drown out other peoples conversations.
There’s one very important thing that I very nearly forgot to mention, the application has a Car mode! I will attempt to explain its purpose; I own a car at the moment with a DAB radio built in so I can access digital radio on the move, so basically TuneIn Radio having a car mode allows other people with just FM radios and a car Aux slot to play internet/digital stations on the move too! Which I think it just brilliant.
Of course music isn’t the only form of media that this device has to offer, there is also the video player which is simply ok. It does its job and nothing more to be honest. This is because the screen isn’t as good as it could be which means that watching videos isn’t the greatest experience in the world. It is a shame as I have loved watching videos on HTC phones before. I’m not saying that the video watching experience is totally woeful but it’s not exactly worth doing to be honest. The codecs that the phone is compatible with is quite vast, as you would expect from an Android device of course. Supported are: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .m4v which are pretty standard nowadays but it’s still pretty cool to see that a small budget phone supports them all.
As for other methods of video playback there is just the one, YouTube. This is something that I have pretty much always talked fondly of in all of my other Android device reviews, but this time I simply can’t do that I’m afraid and the reason for this is simple: I could barely see what I was watching even in ‘HQ’ because it looks quite fuzzy as if the HQ isn’t even really trying to improve upon the normal image quality. This is something that I haven’t encountered previously on small Android smartphones, so for this reason I was deeply disappointed.
Below you will see a couple of images of the application:
The final little sub-section in the media section of the review is the gallery. The gallery on this little phone is really nice and funky and lays out all photos and videos really nicely as you will hopefully be able to clearly in the screenshots below:
HTC really have a knack of making really boring apps into things of beauty, and the gallery is another one that falls into this category I’m sure you will agree?
I think that having just spoken about where all of your photos are stored that we should talk about the camera itself now don’t you think?
I will talk about the quality of the camera and then about the application to better explain things for you guys. In short, I think that for a phone in this price bracket the camera isn’t too bad at all, but if we are talking about generalised quality I wouldn’t say it’s brilliant by any means. One of the main negatives about the camera is the fact that HTC have for some odd reason decided that it doesn’t require a flash of any kind, which personally I don’t agree with at all because people do quite often take photos in low light conditions for such things like concerts and even random things like a photo of a full moon at night. Some of these types of images do require a flash so I am disappointed that this phone is lacking one.
Other than that though taking a photo is really nice as it has a really quite fast shutter to allow you to catch moments as they happen, much like in HTC’s One Series devices. What I’m going to do now though is let you guys judge the picture quality for yourselves:
I’ve shown you four completely different photos there for a very good reason, that reason is simply because HTC give you options when it comes to taking photos, for example the top right photo is taken using the ‘grayscale’ effect which I thought was quite cool.
So let me know what you think?
So onto the camera application now and this is the best bit as HTC have seriously done a great job with this, the app is slick and so easy to use as you will be by the shots below:
You may have noticed that the app contains the same layout as the HTC One X and One S? Well that’s because HTC have made this part of Sense 4.0 as opposed to just the One Series devices. This in my opinion is an awesome decision because I absolutely love it! The app allows you to record video and take still images whilst you are doing it. This function doesn’t quite work as well as it does on the One X but that’s possibly because of the 600Mhz processor that the Desire C has and the One X has a 1.5Ghz quad-core. There aren’t as many options within the app to enhance the images either but to be honest that doesn’t matter as people who will own this phone won’t be avid photographers I wouldn’t imagine so it won’t matter as much.
I think that I mention this is all of my reviews but most of us will know by now that social networking is so much a part of millions of people’s lives now, which in turn means that more and more smartphone users are joining Facebook and Twitter and alike to ‘connect to the world”. I know this because I am one of them! Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming more than just communication tools as more companies are joining Twitter in particular to help people solve problems and such, all of the UK phone networks are on there in some capacity and I think that because of this the applications available really need to be brilliant to make people want to use them.
HTC have provided their Friend Stream application again on this device but I found an issue straight away within the first hour of using it, there was no pre-installed Twitter!!! This was not cool. What this means is that if you are fond of the Friend Stream app then you won’t be able to log onto twitter with it which is really annoying, so what you have to do instead is download an app from Google Play. This isn’t an issue in itself but the fact that HTC have installed twitter on all of their other new devices makes it a puzzle with this one.
Anyway I will show you Friend Stream first, but to be quite honest with you I really don’t like it at all and I like it even less on this device considering Twitter isn’t there.
The app is basic but does the job, it is quite limited in its functions but for some I imagine that will be a good thing, just not for me.
Here’s the official Facebook application in action. You may or may not have seen it on an Android device before but bear in mind that this is for the purpose of people who’ve maybe never seen it before:
The apps that I liked to use are the official Facebook and Twitter ones. Facebook comes pre- Installed on the device and as I said just now,Twitter you have to download separately. Both apps you will no doubt have seen and heard about before so I will keep this short and sweet. They both work as they should do with minimal effort which is always a good thing in my eyes.
And here is the Twitter app, simple, basic but effective and easy to use. Just how I like my apps:
Battery life and Performance:
One of the biggest issues with smartphones up until very recently is that they’ve had pretty awful battery life with some phones not even lasting half a day on a full charge which is appalling.
So how does the HTC Desire C fair against its massive competition? To be honest with you it fairs very well as I can only remember having to charge the phone 3 times in a whole week which for a smartphone these days is really great. Obviously when you start playing games, browsing the web, making calls etc the battery life does dip dramatically but you will still get a full day out of it.
At this point I think it would be good to mention the performance aspects to the Desire C. As we know there are monstrous smartphones such as the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III on the market with hugely fast quad-core CPU’s, but this little device is at the lowest end of the Android market so we shouldn’t expect it to be hugely fast and it certainly isn’t powerful.
Having said that I didn’t find myself worrying about the lack of power when browsing the web or any other normal day-to-day activity. I think I only noticed that when playing Angry Birds Seasons, and even then it was only a little laggy which isn’t a particular big issue but rather niggling annoyance at times.
What I’ve done to attempt to prove my point that this phones performs above its weight, is run the Quadrant standard benchmarking application 5 times and I’ve chosen to show you the average score that the phone received:
If you notice just how close this phone with a 600MHz processor is to the Samsung Nexus S with a 1GHz processor, then you will be quite surprised just as I was. I think what this benchmark score shows is that HTC are a brilliant smartphone manufacturer and that for £130-150 on pay as-you-go this is a bargain!
Here we are at the end of another smartphone review, and this one has been a real eye opener in to the world of the ‘budget smartphone’ because I have been truly surprised by how good the device is. Considering the specifications are really quite mediocre I have loved using it and was sad to see it go to be honest, but then I remembered that I have a HTC One X so it was all good again.
There is one thing that I have left until the end to mention, and that is that the 3three touch sensitive buttons on the bottom of the device just below the screen didn’t light up once while I was using it. They are meant to light up when you unlock the phone, press them to go back, home or multi-task and they didn’t once, so I’m just saying that if you do wish to buy this phone then it’s something to consider before you do. This may of course be due to the fact that it was a review sample and maybe the software was not final.
Reviewed by: Chris