If we look at the 10-15K price bracket, HTC has no product offering worth considering right now. As far as Android handsets go, Sony’s Live with Walkman is still the best offering here followed closely by the much older, but still relevant Samsung Galaxy Ace. LG has introduced a new handset for this price bracket, the E612, which looks pretty good on paper. HTC's Wildfire and Wildfire S too were in this price range, but neither of them did very well. So there was opportunity for HTC to swoop in and fill this gap, effectively grabbing some lucrative marketshare in this segment, which is what it hoped to achieve with the Desire C. This budget droid is a slightly beefed up version of the HTC Explorer with Beats Audio thrown into the mix. Let’s see if it’s good enough to take the crown from Sony.
Design and Build
The design and feel of the phone is heavily inspired from the Explorer. The Desire C has the same pebble-shaped rubberized body except for the addition of the chrome strip that sits along the bezel. The phone feels light at just 100g and is very comfortable to hold. The rubber back also adds to the grip, so it won’t easily slip out of your hand. We have the three capacitive buttons in the front and a proximity sensor and ambient light sensor but no front camera.
A handsome looking phone
The microUSB port, volume rocker and power/sleep buttons are placed along the sides along with the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The placement of the ports and buttons are quite ergonomic and everything is within reach. In the back we have a 5MP fixed-focus camera and the speaker grill beside it. The Desire C is available in different colour trims, out of which we like the black and red theme the most. The rear panel snaps back to reveal the removable battery, SIM card tray and a microSD card slot. Overall, HTC's done an excellent job with the design and build of the phone.
We were quite surprised to see HTC bundle Android 4.0 along with Sense UI on a phone powered by just a 600MHz CPU. By today’s standards, this is way too underpowered and usually one expects phones that cost around 6-7K to use this kind of CPU. And it’s not like it’s a new one either, HTC has used an older MSM7227A SoC with an even older Adreno 200 GPU. Thanks to the 512MB of RAM, the UI is manageable and while it’s not the best ICS experience, you won’t find yourself tearing your hair out either. With Sense 4.0, you get all of the bundled apps we’ve see in phones like the One S, One V etc.
Sense 4.0 gives you a very familiar experience
The 3.5-inch screen features a resolution of 320 x 480, which is a bit low so icons and menus are not the sharpest but not too bad either. There is a major colour banding issue, which is very noticeable across most colour backgrounds, especially white and black. We'd have expected HTC to fit a better quality screen for the price tag they've attached to this phone, but sadly they haven’t. Multi-tasking is present as well, with the dedicated task switcher key.
You get the new media player thanks to Sense 4.0, which is a complete overhaul of their previous versions of Sense. We now have TuneIn Radio, SoundHound and 7digital, which are integrated into the default music player. A simple tap fetches you the music info, the option to purchase music, find lyrics and similar artists as well as locate tour dates. A couple of them, including the similar artists and music info proved to be quite useful to get more out of your existing music library. There aren’t any equalizer presets any more - you only have the options to enable or disable Beat Audio. The audio quality is good but for more flexibility in tweaking the sound, we’d recommend something like Poweramp.
Good media playback options
The stock video player will only playback MP4 and AVI and that too only up to 480p. 720p will playback but with a lot of stutter. The Beats Audio option is available in the stock video player as well. HTC doesn’t bundle the Beats in-ear headphones anymore, so to get the most out of it, we’d recommend a good pair of IEMs.