Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Review: HTC Freestyle

I recently decided to upgrade my old Motorola Tundra from AT&T to something a bit more functional that offered more online features. Not wanting to add to much more to my monthly bill I decided to forgo the leap to a true smartphone and instead opted for one of AT&T mid-class (semi-smart) phones. After reading several reviews of my options I decided on the brand new HTC Freestyle.

The HTC Freestyle seemed to incorporate everything I wanted from a new phone. Touchscreen, fully functional browser, decent camera, a few apps (especially Facebook and Twitter streams) and an overall reasonable size. I found a good deal on the phone through Amazon Wireless so I went ahead and ordered it.

HTC Freestyle Tech Specs:
  • 3.2-inch 320x480 HVGA resolution with capacitive touch screen
  • 3.2-megapixel fixed-focus camera
  • Onboard GPS w/optional AT&T Navigator service
  • Memory expansion via microSD card - up to 32 GB
  • Onscreen QWERTY keyboard
  • Full email and messaging capabilities
  • Friend Stream for updates from Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr
  • Full PC-like HTML Web browser

The HTC Freestyle is a nice compact phone it only weighs 3.35 ounces and measures 4.29 x 2.13 x 0.47 inches. The battery is a 1300 mAh lithium-ion battery rated at up to 7 hours of talk time, and up to 384 hours (16 days) of standby time.

Pros - the things I like:
  • Optional Data plan so it won't cost you an arm and leg
  • Best none smartphone I've seen with lots of features
  • Very nice user interface, almost Android like with easy to use menus
  • Good customization with several customizable home screens
  • Light weight and nice design

Cons - what I hated about the phone:
  • Sim card and MicroSD card are located under the battery which makes them hard to remove
  • Screen size is fairly small for the touch keyboard making it hard to use
  • Wireless Data is on by default I'd prefer it to be off
  • Can't customize Friend Stream at all
  • Data connection seems slow and usage seems remarkably high
  • No Wi-Fi!

The HTC Freestyle has to be one of the most feature packed phones I've used in awhile. To me its more smartphone than not with several apps and the full connectivity features. Setup and customization are really easy as is navigating the various menus. You can add up to 6 additional "home" screens with options for people or frequently used numbers, shortcuts for your favorite apps, a Friend Stream screen, calendar, weather and a few more. The phone features something called Leap view. By pinching the screen it will reveal all seven home screens as thumbnails allowing you to 'leap' to whichever you one with just a tap.

The phone does have several buttons so its not all touchscreen, which is nice. You get send/end and back buttons on the front, a volume up/down rocker on one side a camera button on the other with a sleep/power button on the top. They are all nicely placed making the easy to use and not obtrusive so you don't accidentally hit them.

As features and design go the phone is great, however this is where we come to the bad part the functionality.

The reception seem to be very spotty. I've never had connection issues with any of my other AT&T phones in or around my house but with the Freestyle I seem to. While I didn't notice any dropped calls the number of bars stays fairly low and the data connection seems weak. I often found myself having to make several attempt to connect to  pages and could never get the Facebook linking for friends to connect or update.

Friend Stream is nice to have as I need to stay in contact with not just my own Facebook and Twitter friends but my business accounts as well. The downside is there is no way to limit the updates it shows or who from. This means I ended up wading through updates to pages I don't even have listed on my regular Facebook wall. I'd also like to have seen the option for more than one account.

Communication was good, the sound quality and speaker volume was nice and the speakerphone worked ok. The full html browser is very nice and navigation was great. The on-screen qwerty keyboard was bothersome even for my nimble fingers. So I can say without hesitation that anyone with larger fingers will want to stay away!

Since this isn't a true smartphone like an Android or iOS based phone you are limited to the applications installed or those found in the AT&T AppCenter. You don't have the option of piking up some of the free apps from Google or the Apple App store. Most of the apps included on the phone, especially the maps and GPS, are subscription based which prevented me from testing them. Monthly charges ranged from $5-9 which I think was overdoing it considering the fact I already had unlimited data from AT&T. Not having a free GPS or map tool is a big drawback and pretty much eliminates one of the better features of the phone.

Conclusion - what I really think

When its all said and done I think going to a full blown smartphone would be the better option. I found myself using more data than I thought so immediately need to upgrade to the 'none smartphone unlimted' plan. In the end it cost me an extra $10/mo which might still be under the cost of the smartphone plans, I'm not sure. Before buying the Freestyle I'd  suggest that you weight your monthly costs and actual data usage against actual features.

In just a couple of days of testing I found myself using Facebook and the web a ton more than I original thought I would. I thought I would be able to get by with using the pay-as-you go data features but clearly that was not going to work. So the trade off in actual features, Wi-Fi an App store, more apps ect may well have been worth the upgrade to a better phone.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:58 PM

    This phone is great other than the fact you may not use wifi!


All comments will be moderate for content, please be patient as your comment will appear as soon as it has been reviewed.

Thank you