HTC has come up with another budget Android smartphone in the shape of the HTC Explorer. It’s a small handset with a rubberised back – perhaps well suited to younger users who don’t always take as much care of their phones as they should. But at a price under £150, can it really deliver?
Small and sturdy
There’s a definite no-nonsense appeal to the build of the HTC Explorer. Black chassis, rounded corners, four touch buttons beneath the screen. That rubberised back also helps with grip.
We have two general issues with the build. The first is that the handset is a bit on the thick side at 12.9mm. We don’t see many handsets that thick these days, and when it’s otherwise so small – 102.8 x 57.2mm – the thickness really stands out. This isn’t a very big deal, but it is noticeable.
What irritated us more was the way the backplate is fitted. It curves all the way round the edges of the handset and it is a tight fit. It’s difficult to get off, and even harder to get back on. This matters because you may find yourself removing the back plate fairly regularly as the SD card slot that allows you to augment the mere 90MB of built in storage is under there.
Life on screen
Cleary the 3.2in screen is not ideally suited to web browsing or viewing video, though both are perfectly achievable thanks to Wi-Fi and 7.2Mbps HSDPA connectivity options. Nor is the screen great for text entry for SMS or email. It is responsive enough, but unless you have tiny hands, you may find that, particularly in portrait mode, achieving typing accuracy is a challenge.
The 320 x 240 pixel resolution, while low by today’s standards, looks fine and the screen is bright. There is a little blurring as you sweep between different screens, but it doesn’t affect things like watching video or gameplay.
Keeping the price down
Low cost handsets always feature compromises that allow manufacturers to achieve the desired price point. In this case the relatively small amount of internal memory is one. Another is the presence of a 3-megapixel camera without flash. That’s very much an entry level smartphone specification these days. And there’s also the use of a 600Mhz processor, which doesn’t support Flash. To be fair here, we found the processor didn’t cause lagginess, but we did miss the ability to view embedded video in many web sites.
Battery life might also be an issue, depending on what kind of user you are. The 1230mAh battery is good for 460 minute of talk and 485 hours on standby, says HTC, but of course that doesn’t account for how you might use the handset outside of taking calls. As ever, a lot of GPS, music playback or mobile Internet activity might result in the need for a mid-day power boost.
- Attractive price; solid build
- Hard to remove backplate; short on internal storage; so-so camera; no Flash support
The HTC Explorer is a little on the chunky side, but solidly built. It's quite small and not best suited to web browsing or text entry, and its camera isn't great. Still, it is attractively priced, and younger users or those who don’t need to push their smartphones hard might find it appealing.