Anyone remember the HTC Desire? I was a proud owner and user of this handset until way beyond its sell by date. I grew into it quickly, really liked it and it felt like a great phone. I wasn’t the only one, either. The Desire was an extremely popular mobile and I still see it being used today.
I mention this not because I am having a sudden bout of nostalgia, but because The Desire was a top-of-the-range handset when it launched, and HTC is trading on that fact now with the Desire C, a phone that is very, very far from the top-of-the-range.
The Desire C is a budget phone, costing all of £190 including VAT. That makes it considerably less expensive than the £230 HTC One V - the lowest priced handset from the new HTC One range - so it’s probably best evaluated as the new replacement for the Wildfire S, which I found still available for around £160.
It is quite clear from the price of the HTC Desire C that you aren’t going to get anything top-notch. HTC has, though, built the Desire C around Android 4, which is a good selling point when some budget smartphones still run Android 2.3.
There are also some nice touches to the build. The off-white backplate has a slightly rubbery feel, which I always think is rather classy. The slight wave along the long edges where the backplate meets a silvery side band looks much nicer than a boring straight edge connecting line. And the silver side band wraps round the top and bottom front of the phone adding a little more visual appeal. Remove the backplate and the insides are a rather striking brilliant crimson rather than the usual dull black. The colour has no usability function, but it’s a nice touch.
It is annoying that the micro-USB connector is on the left edge rather than sitting on the bottom edge, but that’s a relatively small niggle, and the headset slot is right where it should be on the top edge. There’s a thin volume rocker on the right edge and a small on/off button along the top, with a tiny notch next to it that helps you remove the backplate.
HTC’s link up with Beats Audio has been retained. This should in theory deliver relatively high quality sound, though I found the speaker to be tinny and the output to headphones not much better. HTC has also implemented its relatively recent tie-in with Dropbox giving you 25GB of online storage for two years. This complements the 4GB that’s on board and which can be expanded with a microSD card. A 2GB card is included. It’s impressive that HTC has built NFC into the Desire C too.
This is a small phone. On the plus side that means it’ll fit little hands easily, and sits well in even the smallest of pockets. Reaching across the screen one-handed when using the other to hold on to swaying public transport is easy too.
What the overall size means, of course, is a relatively small screen. It is arguably about as little as smartphone screens can usefully be these days at 3.7in. It suffers from a low pixel count with just 480 x 320 pixels viewable. That inevitably means that web browsing is not a particularly comfortable experience. I had to do a fair bit of scrolling and zooming to read pages, and found this quite irritating.
The small screen also means text entry can be tricky. If your hands are bigger than average you might have trouble typing accurately. And if you are generally a fan of catch-up TV or other video rich activities, then a bigger screen might do your needs more justice.
The 600MHz processor is a bit of a problem right from the start. I’ve said before that reviewer’s comments about relatively slow processor speeds have to be tempered carefully. Users looking for a budget handset are unlikely to have the experience of multi-core top-grade processors that we reviewers have, making comparisons there redundant. But users do have the right to expect a processor that delivers ‘acceptable’ performance.
In this case, I’m not entirely sure that what users get is acceptable. There is a noticeable pause looking at a blank screen while waiting for an app to load. Once running, apps switch acceptably quickly, but that very first firing up can be slow. I found music took a while to kick in when I hit the play button, and sometimes web pages were a bit slow to render. These things might not put people off at the point of purchase, but they may irritate on an on-going basis and I wonder whether a 600MHz processor with 512MB of RAM backing it up was really the way to go.
Other compromises are the lack of a flash for the fixed-focus 5-megapixel camera, and a top video resolution of 640 x 480. Still, you can shoot a still while capturing video, and it’s nice to see that relatively new HTC feature in this low cost phone.
Battery life is only so-so too, with HTC having opted for a 1,230mAh battery that managed to get me through a day if I was frugal, but on which I wouldn’t want to rely over a weekend without mains power.
It’s the processor that really lets the show down here for HTC though, and if I were recommending a new handset on a budget to someone right now I might suggest they look at the Huawei Ascend G300 instead. If you don’t mind something older, then a browse round last year’s models might bear fruit. You’ll miss out on Android 4 of course, but you might find a phone with more oomph.
The Desire C is HTC’s lowest cost handset. It has some headline-grabbing specifications such as Android 4, 25GB of Dropbox storage and NFC, and the hardware design is appealing. But it is let down by an underpowered processor, average camera and low-resolution screen. Arguably, this is the handset HTC should never have built.
Manufacturer and Model
HTC Desire C
GSM 850/900/1800/1900 HSDPA 900/2100
Qualcomm Snapdragon 600MHz
3.5in, 480 x 320 pixels
107.2 x 60.6 x 12.3mm