HTC’s debut entry into mid-budget Android phones, which happened with the Wildfire drew mixed reactions and didn’t really hit the mark. Thereafter, they launched the Wildfire S, but the phone seemed like a minor update and it was priced a bit high, which failed to strike a chord with its targeted audience. Now, HTC has come up with the Explorer, which does seem to balance out between pricing and features. So is it third time lucky for HTC? Read on to find out.

Gallery

Comes in a range of colours

Design and Build Quality

The HTC Explorer is available in a range of back panel colours and looks like a miniature Sensation, except it’s got a 3.2-inch screen size with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels. It comes in an all-black casing with the four standard Android buttons on the bezel underneath the screen. The back has a smooth matte surface, but it does attract a lot of fingerprints. The camera and the HTC logo are housed on a brushed aluminium design. The phone weighs 108 grams, and it feels incredibly light and fits snugly into your hand, thanks to its cutesy design. 

The sides

The sides

The power button and 3.5mm jack are located at the top, while the volume rocker switch is on the left. The only other connectivity option is a microUSB port. There is no back cover for the phone, instead the entire outer shell of the phone is detachable. The phone looks classy just like the Evo 3D and HTC has done well with the design and build of the Explorer.

Features

Interface

The phone runs on a 600 MHz processor with an Adreno 200 GPU. Our initial thoughts on this phone was that it would be sluggish and slow, like Motorola’s Fire and the Fire XT, but that definitely wasn’t the case with the Explorer. It’s quick, zippy and doesn’t lag. Navigating through the menus is fast and the phone didn’t hang, at all.  HTC deserves praise for that because they’ve managed to put HTC Sense on a slow processor without compromising on efficiency.

HTC Sense 3.5

HTC Sense 3.5

The phone runs on HTC’s latest Sense 3.5 UI, which is an improvement over the earlier Sense 3.0 version. The home screen widgets now show up like drawers and clicking each icon will slide open a window that will show the last update from that particular application. So, your last message or last image can be viewed by simply tapping the appropriate icon. 

HTC has updated the People tab with more social network integration. It comes with a threading feature that neatly shows all e-mails, call history and Facebook updates from that particular contact. HTC has also included a new ‘ice breaker’ feature that shows your contact’s Facebook status when they call you, acting as an ice breaker of sorts. We put the phone through a few synthetic tests and AnTuTu gave us a benchmark score of 2099 and the improvement from the Wildfire is quite visible (which has a score of 509). The Multi-Thread test gave the phone an MFLOPS score of 10.019, while it got a score of 4.914 in the single thread test. 

Benchmark scores

Benchmark scores

Media

The media player is quite basic and consists of the standard options and widgets. HTC has included SRS WOW enhancements, and the equaliser settings include a range of presets along with bass booster, treble booster and vocal booster settings. The phone supports the XviD, MP4,H.264, H.263 and WMV formats out of the box, but you’ll need a third party app if you want playback for more formats. Also, it’s a 600 Mhz processor, so don’t expect it to play 720p videos. 480p videos, however, work just fine. Besides the music and video player, the phone also comes with an FM radio. The speakers are loud enough, but the handset we received for review did not come with any headset, so we couldn’t review media playback via headphones. 

The media player

The media player

Connectivity

The phone comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n with hotspot capabilities, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP and EDR, and 3G with HSDPA speeds of 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA speeds of 384 kbps. The external memory can be expanded up to 32GB, and it’s located right under the cover, so it’s hot swappable, as well. For navigation purposes, there’s GPS with A-GPS support and Google Maps. That pretty much covers your basic connectivity options.

The in-built memory is rather low ( 90 MB with the pre-installed applications), but HTC’s low memory wizard pretty much helps you clear your phone storage by clearing the cache, moving applications to the memory card and deleting old messages. Web browsing is pretty quick, and the phone doesn’t hang even if a few applications are running. That’s quite surprising considering the processor it runs on.

Misc. Features

HTC have included a range of in-built applications and games on the Explorer. The games include Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Uno and Pro Cricket, but you’ll have to download them once before you can start playing.  

Comes pre-installed with a range of apps

Comes pre-installed with a range of apps

HTC has bundled in the Bollywood Hungama application that will be useful for movie buffs and Bollywood fans. Your communication needs have been taken care of, as well with the eBuddy XMS app. The HTC Likes and Hub applications are present too, but the good thing is that they’re not merely adding up in terms of memory space. The Hub application allows you to download HTC content online for free and there are a host of customization options available for the phone. The Likes application shows you what’s currently trending around the world in the apps and games genre and it’s linked to the Android market, so you can download your apps straightaway. There’s a pre-built NDTV application that doubles up as a news reader.

The in-built NDTV Cricket application will please cricket lovers as it provides real time score and commentary updates on the notification bar about the latest games in progress. Music streaming app Saavn has been loaded onto the phone as well and it’s nice to see HTC trying to take care of all your additional needs by pre-installing these apps onto the phone.

Camera

The phone comes with a 3.15 megapixel camera and it’s just a above average in performance. Outdoor shots aren’t much of a problem; in fact they’re quite good, but shooting in low light surroundings causes images to turn out grainy, and there’s no LED flash. Autofocus hasn’t been included, so close-up shots are out of the question. Face recognition has been included, though. The camera is decent for still images and suits only casual photography. There’s 480p video recording, so that’s pretty limited in terms of quality. However, we’re talking about a 600 MHz processor, so you can’t really expect more.

Camera is decent

Camera is decent

Battery Life

The Explorer comes with a 1230 mAh Lithium-ion battery and pairing it with a 3.2-inch screen translates to a better than average battery life. We ran it through our video drain tests and it lasted for 6 hrs 40 min, which is pretty good. In the loop test, the handset managed to complete the first one with ease, which included two hours each of audio, video and streaming and one and a half hour of calling. It died in the second loop test clocking in 30 min of video playback. That’s pretty neat in terms of battery life. Under normal usage, we managed to get more than a day’s usage with automatic brightness switched on, and it’s fair to say that the battery life of the Explorer is fairly impressive.

Get ready to Explore!

Get ready to Explore!

Verdict

The HTC Explorer is priced at Rs.10,498, and at this price it competes with the likes of the Motorola Fire XT and the LG Optimus One. The XT was an absolute dud but the Optimus One is still going strong more than a year after its launch. However, with the new Explorer, HTC quietly sweeps away all competition in the same price bracket. This phone won’t impress you, if you’re looking at plain specs. it’s rather small as well, but does perfectly well in terms of user experience. It’s elegant and powerful, and at this price, it’s definitely worth a purchase.  

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