Budget phones aren’t necessarily bad, the Orange San Francisco springs to mind, and the current state of the market shows there’s a lot of choice for people looking to spend sub-£150 on a new device. With so much choice, it takes something rather special to stand out from the crowd, so does HTC’s new phone have enough going for it?
Upon getting our hands on the device for the first time, we can’t really fault the build of the product. The lozenge-shaped device has a plastic face, but a rubber coated back, which makes gripping the device a lot easier. It has a nice weight to it, and its size makes it truly portable. Although we must stress that the bigger handed amongst us may struggle to get to grips with the size of the Explorer. Around the sides you’ll find a volume rocker, power button, 3.5mm audio jack and a microUSB port.
Turning the phone on for the first time will show the 3.2-inch display in all its glory, sporting a frightfully average 320 x 480 resolution. Although we do take in to consideration the budget nature of the device, we were still mightily underwhelmed by the clarity of the screen. Text and app icons look slightly pixilated, and colours tend to look dull.
We did appreciate, however, that the Explorer did come with the stock Google apps, and a few other treats, but we don’t expect to add much to your list of apps until you purchase a microSD card, as the internal storage of the Explorer is a paltry 90 megabytes.
Under the bonnet is a 600MHz Cortex A5 processor with 512MB of RAM. On paper it’s another disappointment, but for the size of the device, the processor copes well. Watching videos through the Youtube app worked fine, and playing less-powerful games was a breeze. Switching between the 7 homescreens on offer was also a doddle, and even when we had packed the screens with widgets, we still had no lag. You’ll notice some slowdown once you start running numerous apps at the same time, however.
The term budget has been thrown about a lot in this review, but it’s the perfect word to describe the camera on offer here. With no flash, the camera often produced sub-par photos, and shooting with just a three megapixel camera left the majority of our shots looking bland and blurred. It doesn’t get much better with the video recording, which at best, can be shot at 480p. Once again, we understand that the phone is being aimed as a budget device, but it simply feels like the camera is just another corner cut.
We were happy enough to see the ever faithful Gingerbread (2.3) OS update on board and it works well enough. Having access to the full Android Market is also a major plus point, so for those looking to enter the Android Market for the first time, you’ll have no problem getting to grips with Angry Birds!
On the whole, before turning on the device, we were relatively impressed with the HTC Explorer. We liked the simple design, and the rubber backplate had a sense of quality about it. But it’s when you start to delve a little deeper when the problems really start to surface. The low resolution, poor camera and disappointing internal storage ultimately let the device down, and overshadow what’s good about the device, mainly its looks and speed. If you shop around, you’ll be able to find a similarly priced phone with better credentials than the HTC Explorer, a wasted opportunity to be different.