Right from the time the Rhyme was just a rumour doing it’s rounds on the Internet (it was known as the Bliss, back then), it was categorized as a phone for the fairer sex, owing to its pastel trim and the fact that it would ship with a ‘charm’, an accessory popular with women. Once HTC launched the Rhyme though, they’ve steered clear from any categorization. You won’t find any words like ‘women’ or ‘feminine’ anywhere on their site as they’ve kept it as gender neutral as possible. Now, since we aren’t exactly fashionistas over here at Tech2, we’ll go about doing what we do best, reviewing products and telling it like it is.

Design and Build
HTC have done what they do best, making really good chassis for phones. Like its predecessors, the Rhyme also features a unibody design with plastic bits near the camera and the battery cover. The build is excellent and the plastics used seem durable enough to survive the bumps and bruises of everyday use. While there are different colour trims, India will only be getting the ‘Clearwater’ shade. We also won’t be getting any of the accessories like matching Bluetooth headset and the charging dock.

A well built handset

A well built handset

We quite liked the design of the phone – it’s fairly slim and light at 130g.  It’s not designed for shock and awe and that’s what we like about it. The buttons are ergonomically placed with a large volume rocker on the right and the power/sleep button on the top. There are a row of capacitive buttons at the bottom, just where they should be along with a bunch of sensors for ambient light and proximity placed on the top near the front-facing camera. It also packs in a G-Senor and Digital compass inside. The 3.7-inch S-LCD screen is bright and crisp with sharp sensitivity.

A solid 5MP shooter

A solid 5MP shooter

Round the back, we have the 5MP auto-focus shooter along with a single-LED flash. The speaker is also placed right next to it. This should have been on the side, since when lying flat on a table; the sound is much muted, so you could miss some calls. The three golden spots are the leads for when you connect it to the dock. The SIM and microSD card can be inserted directly, since the battery is not removable.

Features
Interface
HTC offers you nothing, but the best as the Rhyme comes pre-loaded with Gingerbread 2.3.5 and Sense v3.5. We first saw this in the Explorer and thought that it made the 600MHz processor seem faster and the same effect can be found on the Rhyme as well. The 1GHz Scorpion CPU from Qualcomm (MSM8255) is plenty for this phone and the entire interface just feels fluid and snappy. There is a noticeable performance jump between v3.0 and v3.5 of the Sense UI. It’s better organized and less cluttered.

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Just when you thought Sense couldn't get any better

The notification bar has the same number of toggle switches like before, just arranged a bit differently, this time around. You can now delete home screens, something that was missing from Sense 3.0. Apart from a bunch of new wallpapers and themes, there’s a new option added to the settings menu for the charm. You can basically use it for just three events, incoming messages, incoming calls and missed calls. You colour of the charm matches the phone and cannot be changed. The idea behind it is if you have the phone in your hand bag (we’re talking about women, here) , then you keep the charm dangling out so you know when you get a call. I, for one found this absolutely useless mostly because you can’t listen to music at the same time, since the charm plugs in to the 3.5mm audio jack.

The charm in action

The charm in action

To find out what sort of focus groups HTC used when coming up with this concept, we asked a bunch of women between the age group of 20 to 30 years and here’s the feed back we got. While most of them found the idea interesting, none of them found it practical, while one cringed at the idea of it. The ‘Clearwater’ colour didn’t go down too well, either with most of them as they all eyed the purple one. So, HTC, if you’re listening, get the purple one over to India, if you plan of selling any at all. The charm then comes off as nothing more than a gimmick, which doesn't seem to be working too well.

Media
The revamped music player is nothing short of brilliant. The Rhyme supports the following media formats – .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma, which is a good list. A lock screen widget is present; giving you basic controls along with album art and similar option are available for the home screen as well. The player is dead simple to navigate and we now have the option to update the album art or you can choose to stream it to another device through DLNA. Sound enhancements, include SRS and Equalizer presets. Unlike most bundled ear-phones, which never make it out of their packaging, these are very good and fit snugly in your ear, despite the odd shape. The hands-free also comes with line-in controls for media and a mic for phone calls. HTC have used flat-type cables, which is tangle free and more durable as well.

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Excellent music and video player

The video player is also a real treat. While it’s no match for Samsung’s TouchWiz video player (MKV support out-of-the box) on their phones, this one’s pretty close. Video format support goes beyond MP4 to include AVI and Xvid as well, which is a good thing since you’d be missing out on the audio enhancements. Along with SRS, we also have HTC 5.1 Surround effect, which didn’t sound as good as the SRS. You also have the option to trim the video. Unfortunately, the stock player doesn’t handle 720p MP4 too well. While the video plays smoothly, the audio wouldn’t play and if you try to skip ahead, it crashes. Besides YouTube and FM Radio, that’s all the media apps present.

Connectivity
Like all new Android handsets, the Rhyme is quad-band GSM phone with full HSDPA and HSUPA support. It also packs in Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth 3.0, but no video out support. The Rhyme does come with 4GB of built-in memory, but only 1GB is actually usable and that too, only for apps. The stock browser does a decent job of rendering web pages as well.

Good for browsing webpages

Good for browsing webpages

Other Internet related apps, include Facebook, Dropbox, News and Weather. HTC also bundles their own suite of apps like HTC Hub, HTC Likes and HTC Watch. The latter doesn't work in India as it keeps showing you old trailers.

Misc. Features
The Rhyme comes with a fitness apps called Endomondo, which let’s you keep track of your workout. Polaris Office is a productivity app for working on Word or Excel files.

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Some handy apps built-in

Reader app comes with a bunch of classic titles. Finally, we also have the very addictive game, Teeter.

Camera
The 5MP shooter works brilliantly in almost any lighting conditions. The new camera interface is amazingly slick, with plenty of option for customizations. There’s a new Panorama mode, but unfortunately, it only stitches three pictures and not five or six like the Samsung phones. The stitching is done well though with only very slight anomalies creeping in.

The new camera options are fun to use

The new camera options are fun to use

The time taken in opening the camera app snapping a picture is extremely less, which means you won’t miss those precious moments. With ‘Effects’, you can get creative with different colour tones and fun filters. The flash complements the camera well in low-light conditions. It can even illuminate a small area in pitch dark conditions quite well. Optionally, you can choose to upload the captured pictures directly to Facebook or Flickr.

Macros look really good

Macros look really good

Video recording does not disappoint either. 720p mode works well with very slight stutter present intermittently, which makes us believe it’s not 30fps.

Can capture good amount of detail

Can capture good amount of detail

Nevertheless, it works well and there’s even a slow motion mode, which is nice addition. You can also add some ‘Effects’ to the video before recording and touch-to-focus is also present during recording.

Battery Life
Shoving a big 1600mAh battery into a 3.7-inch sized phone can only lead to good things. In our loop tests, we managed to get a total of 9hrs of battery life, which included 1.5hrs worth of calls, 2hrs video, 4hrs of music and 1.5hrs or audio streaming over Wi-Fi (using Digitally Imported app). Our video drain test gave us a battery life of 7hrs and 30min. What this proves is that the Rhyme should easily last you two days without needing to charge it.

Verdict
HTC has tagged the Rhyme with an MRP of Rs.29,999, but you can find it in shops for Rs.27,500 or maybe even a bit less online. The problem is that, it’s arrived to the party a bit late, since there are more powerful phones priced above and below it, forcing one to think twice before buying it. Your other choices are the Xperia Arc S, which sits at 29K, the Xperia Pro which is 26K and HTC’s own Incredible S, which is cheaper at 25K. All these phones are superior in terms of screen size (except for the Xperia Pro) and bigger 8MP cameras and they are available in colours that would appeal to everybody, so why would you buy the Rhyme?

There’s no denying that it’s a great phone, as far as Android phones go and the new Sense 3.5 interface simply makes the experience better. But I don’t think I could live with it knowing very well that that if I had spent just a little bit more (or less), I could have got a much better phone. At about 18K-20K, we’d say it makes a good buy, but not at the current pricing. Now, come on HTC, release Sense 3.5 for the other handsets as well.

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