Review: HTC Explorer
A cute and affordable droid.
Intuitive interface; Cute looks; Reasonably affordable; Nice battery life.
Icons are a bit small; No Gorilla Glass; Screen attracts fingerprints; Weak loudspeaker; Could have done with a faster CPU; Inbuilt file manager missing.
MRP: Rs 11,600
Street Price (As On 11-Nov-2011): Rs 10,500 (Saholic.com); Rs 10,800 (Flipkart.com)
HTC has been a frontrunner in the smartphone market, especially when it comes to the Android OS. It's no surprise then that its newest offering in this burgeoning space is the affordable HTC Explorer. Targeted at the entry-level customers, here is a phone that offers a somewhat powerful interior with a glitzy exterior.
The Bling Factor
The first thing you're bound to notice when you see the HTC Explorer is how it seems to be a clone of every other entry-level smartphone in the market. The rounded edges seem to be universal in nature. That is not to say that it doesn't look good. In fact, it is cute looking and its rubberised back fits snugly in your palm.
The best and most distinctive feature of the Explorer's design is the strip of gold that runs down its back, enveloping the camera lens. This gives the phone a classy edge. Additionally, snap-on covers in white, orange, purple, and blue are available. Pretty blingy, I say! For those who dislike flashy phones, there's also a variant available without the gold strip.
The LCD screen is pretty good, although a bit small at just a little over 3" across, and with pixel dimensions of 320x480. It is reasonably bright, but visibility in direct sunlight is below average. On the down side, the screen is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Moreover, Gorilla Glass would have been a good addition at this price point.
If there's one quality that sets the Explorer apart from the multitude of Androids available in the market, it's the almost instinctive user experience that the phone offers. Whatever feature you have last used shows up in the notification bar, while frequently used apps show up as widgets on the home screen. The People app is a masterpiece. Your contacts, messages, e-mails, Facebook updates, and pictures all show up in the same place. Overall, it is extremely well-organised.
The People and Friend Stream widgets in action.
Equipped with the latest version of the Sense 3.5 UI, you can expect a pretty good response from this phone. The lightest touch will produce results, but with a slight amount of lag. However, it is acceptable for a budget Android. One minor annoyance is that if you try to pull out a drawer of the widget on the home screen, the whole app starts.
You can see the drawer on the left.
With a total of 512 MB RAM and a 600 MHz processor, the Explorer handles the latest Android version (Gingerbread 2.3.5) zippily. The Bluetooth is super-fast and the call quality and signal strength was both very good, even in enclosed spaces. Unfortunately, the GPS delivers a below-average performance. With A-GPS turned off, it did not detect my location for the longest time when I tested it. Slightly annoying when you might be lost and looking to fix your whereabouts!
Popcorn and Pics
Fitted with a modest 3.15 MP camera, you can't really expect exceptional photographs from the Explorer. There is no flash to go with it, either. Having said that, it is more than adequate for all those millions of pics with your pals. The video capture is in MP4 format with 480x720 pixels.
The video playback supports most video formats including XviD, AVI, and MP4, but 720p and higher videos are a no-go. The video player is bordering on average, which is a bit of a letdown since the Explorer performs well in most other aspects. The music playback over the loudspeaker is decent too, but not audible in noisy environments. Though it's present in the retail box, the test piece we received for review did not come with earphones.
Thankfully, the entertainment factor is taken up several notches due to inbuilt apps such as Saavn (live music streaming) and Bollywood Hungama (B-town news and reviews). Other notable pre-installed apps include Asphalt 6, NDTV, and Pro Cricket. However, the lack of a file explorer is just plain stupid.
Battery Life And Verdict
The battery lasts surprisingly long considering it has a 1230 mAh piece. It easily lasts overnight with moderate usage. Even with very heavy use, say watching a movie with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on, the battery will still last for more than six hours, which is good by Android standards.
HTC's newest entrant has a simple user interface and speedy response. The combination of the latest Sense 3.5 UI with the newest version of Gingerbread makes working with the Explorer fun. HTC has ensured that the user of the phone finds what he is looking for easily by providing quick accessibility to whatever has been most used. Its cute looks are a definite plus, and it has all the essential features of a true-blue smartphone.
While it's bound to heat up the affordable smartphone segment, the Explorer has some stiff competition in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Y, which offers a faster CPU at a price point that's Rs 2500 lower, but sacrifices a GPS and opts for an inferior camera. Having said that, if you prefer interface and some extra features over performance, then the HTC Explorer is a good introduction to the world of affordable Androids.
Design And Build Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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