I like items that have their own personality and that aren’t similar to every one else’s, but lately it seems like all of the HTC Android phones that I have been posting about have been basically the same phone — albeit with different features or screen sizes. Has it seemed that way to you?
Whether it’s been the Vivid, or the Rezound or all the EVO iterations, there are traits that most HTC Android phones seem to share: they are rectangular, they have four capacitive buttons on the bottom of the screen, there is a noticeable speaker grill at the top of the screen, they are predominantly black, they are trying to out-compete each other (and other brands) in screen size, they are trying to out-compete each other (and other brands) in processor speeds … it’s like a massive nuclear arms race, but all of the weapons look the same!
I understand building brand recognition, but for some time it has seemed that HTC has been specifically marketing to masculine sensibilities, i.e. — bigger, faster, stronger, harder, rawrrrr!
I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think that there is anything wrong with keeping a phone at a comfortable size for holding, recognizing that some people don’t want to have such a personal device that looks like every other one out there, or making a phone that is a bit more convenient to use right out of the box.
HTC actually has a history of offering phones that came in more feminine colors (remember the HTC Star Trek?), but I can’t think of a single time that they pulled out all the stops and made a phone with the direct intent of going after the female side of the market.
And then along came the Rhyme.
If you could have been a fly on the wall the evening after I had posted the HTC Rhyme announcement … oh my! I was looking forward to checking out the Rhyme because its specs looked pretty good, and I’ve been a bit bored with all of the HTC devices that look exactly the same. Carly was bothered by the fact that the Rhyme might be a sub-par Android device that had been prettied up and marketed specifically to women (ala the pink Palm Centro in early 2008), which would have totally offended me, too … if I had felt that was the case. But once we sorted out the specs (and basically discussed it to death), we came to the conclusion that the Rhyme might not be a sow’s ear disguised as a silk purse.
Of course, I still needed to use one in real life to make a final determination.
Obviously geared toward women and men who don’t mind a deep splash of color, the Rhyme flaunts its plumness and comes with accessories that I haven’t seen accompany ANY mobile phones since … well, ever. So for pure colorful cheekiness and complementary accessories out of the box, the Rhyme was already on my “not too shabby” list.
Size: 119 x 60.8 x 10.85 mm (4.68 x 2.39 x 0.43 inches)
Weight:130 grams (4.58 ounces) with battery
Display: 3.7-inch touch screen with 480 x 800 resolution
Screen: 94mm (3.7″)
CPU Processing Speed: 1 GHz (Qualcomm MSM 8655)
Storage: Total storage: 4 GB; Available storage:up to 1 GB; RAM:768 MB; Expansion slot: microSD™ memory card (SD 2.0 compatible) [comes with an 8GB microSD card]
Connectivity: 3.5 mm stereo audio jack; Bluetooth® 3.0 with FTP/OPP for file transfer, A2DP for wireless stereo headsets, and PBAP for phonebook access from the car kit; Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n; DLNA for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to your TV or computer; ANT+ to connect with sport and fitness sensors
Sensors:Ambient light sensor, G-Sensor, Digital compass, Proximity sensor
Power & Battery: Battery type:Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery; Capacity:1600 mAh; Talk time: Up to 480 minutes for WCDMA, Up to 620 minutes for GSM; Standby time1:Up to 340 hours for WCDMA, Up to 295 hours for GSM (The above are subject to network and phone usage.)
Platform: Android™ Gingerbread with HTC Sense™ 3.5 Interface
Network: HSPA/WCDMA:Europe/Asia: 850/900/2100 MHz; Upload speed of up to 5.76 Mbps and download speed of up to 14.4 Mbps; Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE:
850/900/1800/1900 MHz; (Band frequency, HSPA availability, and data speed are operator dependent.)
Camera: 5 megapixel color camera with auto focus and LED flash; 720p HD video recording; VGA front-facing camera
Location: Internal GPS antenna
Multimedia: Audio supported formats: Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9); Recording: .amr, .m4a, .aac; Video supported formats:; Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3); Recording: .3gp, .mp4
The Rhyme’s Hardware
So the first thing that you need to know about the HTC Rhyme is that it is, obviously, a delightful plum color. The entire phone is composed of plum-colored metal and plum-colored plastic. The plastic has been coated with that rubberized grippy paint that’s so common anymore, so it’s got a nice texture. The metal has a matte look to it, so although they’re both technically plum, the plastic and metal contrast nicely off of each other. The speaker bar, located directly at the top of the screen, blends in almost perfectly. It’s very hard to notice, unlike some of the silver or red speaker bars on other HTC phones. There is a large Verizon logo at the top of the 3.7″ screen’s bezel; directly to its right is the front facing camera. On the bottom of the screen’s bezel there are four capacitive buttons; these have haptic feedback, and they handle the home, menu, back, and search functions.
On the top edge of the phone there is a power button, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and a noise-canceling microphone.
On the right side of the device the only thing you’ll find is a rocker volume button; it blends in very well with the side of the phone, but it is still easy enough to find by touch.
On the bottom of the Rhyme there is a microphone, and that’s it.
The left side of the phone has absolutely nothing going on except for a covered micro USB port near the bottom end.
I am generally not a fan of covered ports, especially when they are covered by rubber and held in place by a couple of thin rubber strips, but in this case I don’t mind it at all. The reason for that has everything to do with the included accessories; I’ll cover those in just a little bit.
The Rhyme feels good in hand, and I like the fact that it is not too big to comfortably hold. The rounded edges actually feel better in my hand than the sharper edges on my iPhone 4S, and for someone like me – a person who keeps her phone in her hand nearly all of the time – this is important.
The phone is built like a little tank, and I don’t mean that in a bad way! The Rhyme has a good, solid feel to it –– I think that if I were to drop it (eek!), it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But no, I am not willing to test that, especially not on a loaner device. =P
The Rhyme’s Included Accessories
The HTC Rhyme includes many of the standard accessories that we are used to seeing such as a USB power cord with wall socket adapter, but here’s a throw-back from the old days! HTC included a set of plum-colored headphones — which these days is pretty rare. But then the Rhyme took it a step further. The first thing worth noting is that the included headset is not the standard crappy earbud model that we used to make so much fun of that HTC quit including them. These earphones are styled a bit differently than what we are used to seeing; the cord is completely flat, like a piece of fettuccine. This design serves a practical use, because it makes the headphones virtually tangle-free. There is a controller built into the cord which allows you to stop and play music or adjust the volume. The earbuds are very similar to the design of higher end in-ear speakers, and they even come with six rubber flanges so that you can get a better fit; that’s a nice touch, but the best part is that they sound good!
Included in the box is a light black cradle that’s covered in some kind of black nylon and plugs directly into the included micro-USB cable, which can then be either plugged into a wall socket or into an available USB port. The Rhyme has three metallic disks on its back, and these perfectly match up with the 3 prongs inside the black cradle. If you work at a desk or if you like to keep your phone next to the bed and charge it while you sleep, and if you don’t keep your phone in a case, this cradle will be an accessory that you will be very glad to have.
The downside to regularly using the cradles is that the phone will not sync with your computer when it is inserted. If you tend to use your phone as an external hard drive this will be bothersome, but otherwise this will be a non-issue. Just bear in mind that when you need to hook your phone up to the computer, that’s the only time you’ll have to deal with the little covered microUSB port on the left side. The rest of the time you can simply charge your phone inside the cradle, and leave that port covered.
It’s not just because of the three prongs on the cradle that need to be able to touch those on the back of the phone to charge it that I say you won’t be able to use a case, it’s also because the cradle is made to perfectly fit the naked Rhyme.
The cradle and the upgraded headset are not the only included accessories; the Rhyme also comes with an interesting feature that I’ve never seen packaged with any other mobile phone — a plum-colored charm which plugs into the 3.5 mm microphone jack. The charm can be set to light up when messages are received, when phone calls or missed calls are received, or when voice mails are received.
I can understand why men (and some women) might not see the value of an option such as this, but the charm is actually a very handy feature. It can be clipped to the outside of a woman’s purse, or somewhere like a jacket’s lapel if the phone is inside a pocket. If the phone is set to silent, the charm serves as a visual reminder that there is a call or message waiting. If the user is hard of hearing and predominantly uses the phone as a texting device, this charm could be an invaluable feature. Perhaps best of all, the charm’s cord is wrapped in woven fabric — just like higher -end headphones are — which means that it will not knot up, and it is okay to tug on. So yes, the charm might seem frivolous or “too girly” at first, but I think that it is a really cool option.
When you consider that a whole cottage industry has sprung up over the past five or so years marketing bracelets, watches, and other accessories which connect to mobile phones via Bluetooth to give the user phone notifications when the device is not in hand, then you can see that there is a precedent for this. And with that said, I think that this charm is one of the best add-on notifiers I’ve ever seen. So if you have an “issue” with the inclusion of a “charm” or if you simply don’t like it, you can just leave it in the box!
But I bet you won’t.
The Rhyme’s Software and User Experience
The Rhyme uses the latest HTC Sense 3.5, which is HTC’s upgraded user interface (or overlay) for the Android operating system. One of the coolest new features is how the screen is unlocked by flicking a finger across that half-ring at the bottom of the screen. The 4 icons that are showing are things that can be accessed easily even when the screen is locked; all you have to do is drag the icon directly to the ring, and that particular application will immediately open. The beauty of having your phone, mail, and message icons showing is that they will display numbers indicating how many messages you have waiting for you. Keeping the camera so easily accessible means that you (hopefully) won’t miss too many photo opportunities when otherwise in the process of fumbling with your phone.
Perhaps my favorite built-in feature is the mobile hotspot; this service came in extremely handy when Kevin, Thomas, Francis and I were in Austin recently for the Big Android BBQ event. We were in a house that did not have a Wi-Fi connection (even though the rental had advertised it having one!), so I was able to use my phone to create an impromptu broadband connection. Granted, it wasn’t a 4G connection, but the 3G seemed plenty fast — especially considering the alternative.
The HTC Rhyme, being a Verizon phone, does come with some Verizon branded applications including V Cast music, V Cast videos, and VZ navigator, but at least it’s not totally overloaded with a bunch of CRapps that you won’t ever want to use. If these don’t appeal to you, you can just bury them under Angry Birds, Amazon Kindle, and all the other things that seem to magically appear on our phones when we sync up.
The other day when I was writing up the new HTC Rezound, I mentioned that it has a 4.3″ screen, a 1.5GHz processor, and an 8 megapixel camera. Well, I have to admit that I am glad that this phone does not have a larger screen, because that would mean a larger device over-all. The Rhyme’s 3.7″ screen is the perfect size for someone who actually wants to use this device as a phone. Of course if you want a larger device that serves double-duty as your tablet, then this might seem too constricted. As for the processor, I realize that the Rhyme is “only” sporting a 1GHz , but it never bogged down during my usage, and it seemed plenty snappy. And then there’s …
The Rhyme As a Camera
I was disappointed that the Rhyme only had a 5 megapixel snapper. After all, other Android phones are getting 8 megapixels, and the new iPhone has 8 as well. But then I started using the camera, explored the built-in effects and settings, and something strange happened …
I discovered that the camera was good.
No, let’s call it really good!
In fact, the macro capabilities of the camera were pretty amazing!
By the way, all of the pictures taken with the Rhyme’s camera were left uncropped and unretouched, but I did shrink them down a bit so WordPress wouldn’t gripe about them being too large. They are also all thumbnails, so if you click them, they will grow.
The Rhyme’s Battery Life
The included battery is 1600mAh, which is just slightly smaller than the 1620 mAh battery being included with the larger-screened and faster-processored Rezound, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the battery life on the Rhyme has been pretty good; in fact it has been way better than what I am getting on the iPhone 4S. I can easily make it through a full day of light phone calls, heavy texting, and occasional surfing; the battery drain isn’t even that ghastly when the phone is being used as a hotspot. This balances out the fact that even though you can see the battery when the battery cover is removed, you can’t actually remove the battery. At the least the microSD slot (with the included and user-removable 8GB card) is easy to access.
The Rhyme As a Phone
Calls made on the Rhyme were as good or better than those made on other current smartphones; I didn’t experience any dropped calls, and the call quality for the person I was speaking with as well as on my end was quite good. I have no complaints. Of course, I predominantly used the phone in Eldorado and San Angelo, Texas, neither of which are places known for their network congestion, so your mileage may vary.
So How Do I Now Feel About the Rhyme?
The HTC Rhyme is a seriously good-looking, well-performing and solidly built phone; when you consider that there are probably going to be people who are disappointed that it only comes in plum, I think the whole argument that it was a dumbed-down girly phone gets shot out the window.
This is a phone that I would seriously consider if I was in the market for an Android phone … assuming it was available on AT&T, and assuming I had an available upgrade.
I have been complaining for years that mobile phones were boring, ugly, or too masculine; I wanted something a little more feminine without compromising in the areas that mattered. In that respect, I feel that the Rhyme has more than delivered. So yes, it’s plum, but no — it’s not some lame girly phone, not at all.
The HTC Rhyme is available from Verizon and their representatives.
MSRP: $199 with a two-year contract, $439.99 contract-free
What I LIke: Perfect size for smaller hands; Gorgeous plum color; zippy performance; great camera with surprisingly good macro; includes some of the best headphones I’ve ever seen come with any mobile phone; the cradle is a handy accessory for desk or bedside use; the notification charm is perfect for those who are hard of hearing
What Needs Improvement: Battery is not user-replaceable; the phone is going to tak a lot of flack because it is plum … get over it, people!