HTC Explorer budget Android mobile phone review

The HTC Explorer looks vaguely reminiscent of the ‘Sensation' mobile phone, but on a smaller scale and with a pebble shape. After a mediocre response to the Wildfire S, HTC are hoping that the Explorer provides a much finer balance between price and features, with a design to compete in the fast-emerging mid-range Android budget market.

The mobile has a 3.2-inch screen with a resolution of 320x480 pixels, whilst weighing in at 108grams. There is certainly a ‘weighty' feel to the device, but it also feels durable and as if it could take a few knocks and without testing its limit to destruction. The rubber casing has a good 'purchase feel' when you hold the phone, but no HTC is complete without some brushed aluminium on the back. The handset's microSD card slot is easy to access and you might find this useful, when you discover the Explorer's diminutive memory.

Those looking for their very first Android smartphone can enjoy a full list of features such as mobile email, browsing, Facebook, Twitter and GPS - to name but a few. However, the more experienced users will notice a distinct lack of screen quality and blurring of text on web pages, especially in the corners of the screen.

There is much to ask of the modest 600MHz processor, but only the occasional judder reminds us of its limitations with the phone performing relatively well during most tasks. Running the Explorer is the 2.3.5 Gingerbread version of Android, whilst the user interface comes in the form of HTC Sense 3.5 that now includes a new locked screen. This allows for one-touch access to contacts, messages, mail and camera whilst the phone is locked.

The handset's proverbial home screen has also been simplified, but it lacks only the lavish transition effects and animations of its supercilious siblings. These compromises continue to diminish the phone's ultimate specifications where the in-built memory is just 512MB. There is still full access to the Android Marketplace and with the amount of free apps on offer, you might find a 32GB microSD card is essential.

In addition to a robust, practical handset, you get a basic camera and media player with the HTC device. At just 3 megapixels, the camera is hardly fit for professional use, but at least you can take snaps and record video without consulting the instruction manual. The media player provides some basic equaliser presets, with bass, treble, and vocal boosters which is actually more than many top devices will offer you. You can also expect WIFI with hotspot capability, Bluetooth and 3G from this plucky compact phone.

Although the Explorer has effectively been deconstructed according to its budget, it still doesn't miss out on the main features. The ‘Friend Stream' compiles all tweets, updates, messages and comments from Facebook, in addition to Flickr photos and on the same screen. Features such as these are pretty impressive and also suggest that the HTC mobile is more than just a scaled-down sensation. There are cheaper Android devices which will give you the more value for money, but HTC pride themselves on their simplistic user interface and on a phone that could not be simpler to use straight out of the box.

- review courtesy of LucidCX