The HTC Rhyme is a mid-range Android phone from Verizon, that is or isn't aimed at the female smartphone market, depending on whom you ask. It's purple, on the smaller side, and comes with a unique accessory that's perfect for life inside a purse or other handbag. That doesn't mean it's not a solid Android device, so we can't just write it off as a sub-par phone designed and built with fashion in mind instead of function. When Verizon sent it to us, I handed it off to my wife (a smartphone nerdette in her own right) for a week of her busy life, then I went at it with the mind of a real Android geek. See what we thought about it after the break.
It's a "fashion-forward" device that will appeal to those tired of the black slab. The single-core CPU handles things well and the HTC Sense user experience is smooth. The included accessories are a great touch. The build quality and materials are superb.
Battery life is a bit poor, especially when using the included HTC Sense features. The battery is not removable, and charging on the go is difficult because of the microUSB port design. The hardware is a bit dated, and not very future-proof.
The Rhyme is a great phone, had it been released in Q3 2010. Today's users, who are looking for features like 4G and dual-core innards are going to be left wanting. HTC has done a nice job keeping the Rhyme smooth with it's slightly dated hardware, but as things progress this one won't be very future proof. I do have to give respect to the build and design, which is as good or better than the Nexus One, and we haven't seen that since.
Inside this review
Have a look at some hands-on footage -- it's really a nice piece of gear and I think you could tell I was impressed with the build and design.
Youtube link for mobile viewing
It really is very well built, and has that trademark HTC look and feel using quality feeling plastic (if such a thing exists) and metal materials. It's also pretty speedy for anything you'd be doing throughout your day -- whether you're a busy modern woman or not. Read on for our impressions.
As mentioned above, the Rhyme is built like a pretty, purple tank. It's a mix of soft-touch plastic and metal, with a semi-unibody design that reminds me of the Nexus One. The 3.7-inch screen may be a touch small for many, but to me it hits the sweet spot, and the size, build materials and quality, and subtle touches like the beveling of the top and bottom make the Rhyme very pleasant to hold, carry, and use. The fit and finish of our unit was superb, and overall you get a sense of quality from the Rhyme that some other phones lack. All the standard controls we're used to were on board, the power switch and 3.5mm jack for the charm accessory and headphone connection sit atop the device, with a noise-canceling mic tagging along for the ride. Just underneath on the face of the phone you have the VGA front-facing camera, and the usual array of sensors hidden under the glass. Move your way to the right side of the phone, and the volume rocker is there, nestled in the metal frame -- and the button itself is metal. This doesn't make it work any better, but it's a nice touch that wasn't necessary. It's nice to see a hardware manufacturer go the extra mile with design touches.
The bottom of the phone is beveled, smooth and snag-free, and houses only the pinhole for the main microphone. You have the standard four capacitive buttons (home, menu, back, and search) silkscreened on the glass itself for easy visibility. Travel over to the left-hand side, and you've got a microUSB port, hidden under a rubber cover that's ridiculously hard to remove. If I had to pop that open every night (or more often, keep reading) to charge the phone I'd quickly tire of it, but thanks to the other accessory -- the charging dock -- you don't have to. The dock is simple, effective, and looks good. That's really the things we should want from a phone accessory, and HTC hit the mark. The only thing about it that's not perfect is the outer fabric covering, which makes it a magnet for anything that's fuzzy and white.
On the rear of the phone, you have the 5-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash, the external speaker, and three contacts used in conjunction with the charging dock. You simply plug in the dock (it has its own microUSB port and uses the included wall charger and cord), and lay the phone in the dock to charge it. Nothing to snap in, no buckles, no switches, no fuss. You do have to make sure to orient the phone the right direction, but that's pretty simple. The dock has it's own "desktop" mode that will display your calendar or photos, and as a bonus it's also a Bluetooth speaker that pairs automagically when you place the phone in the cradle. I wish all phones came with a dock like this.
The bottom portion of the rear comes off, but only so you have access to your microSD card. The HTC Rhyme does not have a removable battery. This might be an issue for many, especially if you take advantage of everything HTC Sense 3.5 has to offer. The cover itself is pretty tough to remove, but you won't be taking it off very often. There are also some contact points on the
battery cover itself. The phone does operate with it removed, but your signal drops sharply if the cover isn't in place. These contacts must be part of the antenna design.
Operation and usage impressions
Meet my wife, Terry. She's a blossoming phone geek, and recently a full-time Android user (Super AMOLED and T-Mobile "4G" speeds lured her away from the fruit). Here's what she thinks of the Rhyme:
My name's Terry, I'm Jerry's wife, and I love smartphones, too. I have used all kinds of them; BlackBerry, Palm, Android, and Apple. I love being married to a phone geek because I get to try out all the cool phones. I was asked to review the HTC Rhyme because, well because it is a girly phone and I am a girl.
Usually when I have a problem with a phone I just give Jerry a pouty look and say, "Honey, can you fix this for me?" and that works. But this time I was handed the Rhyme and told go at it. I have used Sense before and I remember loving many aspects of it. However, when I used Sense before I wasn't as connected with the cloud. The first thing I like to do with my phones is set them up and make them pretty. I keep my wallpapers on Picasa and my first problem was that Sense will not let me connect with Picasa. Hey Honey! Why can't I get my gallery pictures on here? He told me to look for an app that would allow me to do this. I looked and was lost so I said forget it. I used the wallpapers that came with the phone instead and that worked well until I took the time to transfer them to the SDcard.
This phone is very attractive (partly because it's purple), and I just love the color, size and the way it feels in my hands. It also has this extremely neat charm that plugs into the headphone jack. When it is in my purse, I just clip the charm on the outside of my purse and it blinks to let me know when I have missed a call or text. This is a great feature for me because I never seem to hear my phone while it's in my purse.
This phone is very smooth when navigating through the screens, and while doing things like sending texts or checking mail. I don't know anything about 3G's and 4G's, except we have 4G from T-Mobile and those phones are faster on the Internet, but the Rhyme worked well enough. I also don't know anything about processors or RAM and actually don't care. When Jerry starts to talk about these things I pretend to listen but I am secretly thinking about George Clooney. (Hey I am female.) What I do know is I love playing games on my phone and my favorite is Peggle. Many phones don't play it very well but the Rhyme plays it great. It gets an A+ for doing the things I like to do with my phone.
The battery doesn't seem to last very long, but the phone comes with a cool charging dock that I really liked which mostly makes up for it. It's only a problem if I'm out for a long day and don't have the charger dock to rest it in. If I sit and play games or watch videos for a long time the battery dies quickly, but most phones do that. The phone calls seem very good, I have had worse phones for calls and I have had better phones also. It works great with Bluetooth and also sounds really nice when using my headphones and listening to my music.
If this phone was on T-Mobile and Jerry would buy me one I would love to have a Rhyme. So to all you ladies out there shopping for a new phone, check this one out, it really is sweet as long as you have somewhere to keep the dock plugged in.
I had similar results during my time with the Rhyme. I can't get through a day without keeping in on the charger for part of it, and with no removable and exchangeable battery this might be a problem for some. Calls are fine, as was Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, and the rest of the phones features. It is quite the little powerhouse, and I had zero issues with the phones performance.
And the full details for folks who (unlike my beautiful wife) are interested:
- 3.7-inch touchscreen (480 x 800)
- Size: 119 x 60.8 x 10.85 mm; Weight: 130 grams
- 1GHz processor
- Total storage: 4GB
- Available storage: 1GB
- RAM: 768MB
- Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread)
- Sense 3.5
- 5MP camera w/ AF & LED flash and 720p HD video recording
- VGA front-facing camera
- A-GPS with internal antenna
- 1600mAh Li-Ion battery; Talk time: 480 mins, Standby time: 340 hrs
- MicroSD memory card slot (SD 2.0 compatible)
- 3.5mm stereo audio jack
- Bluetooth 3.0 w/ A2DP
- Wifi 802.11 b/g/n
There's not a lot to be said here. You plug the wired charm into the 3.5mm jack and it flashes when you have an incoming call, incoming SMS, or have a missed call or voicemail. A settings page lets you mix and match what notifications you want to see, and it works very well. So well, that I wish someone would manufacture a third party accessory that works on all Android phones. What was expected to be a gimmick turned out to be a well-thought addition. Quietly innovative indeed.
The HTC Rhyme runs Sense 3.5, and has all the bells and whistles that go with it. It's very focused on staying connected, and has deep integration with both Twitter and Facebook (sorry, MySpace) by the way of dedicated applications and widgets that collect your streams and feeds to present in an eye-pleasing way. Beautiful, scrollable widgets are a hallmark of HTC's Android offerings, and the Rhyme includes them all. HTC has done an excellent job turning Android into something that looks wonderful, offers up an insane amount of user customization options, and is basically complete right out of the box. As we've seen with Sense 3.5 before, it's also been highly optimized and is a very fluid experience to the end user. HTC also has the ability to encrypt all your data and applications built in, a trend we hope they continue with future devices.
While there is a bit of value-added applications (read "bloatware") bundled in, nothing is really obtrusive or deal-breaking. Besides all the standard HTC Sense fare, you've got a few applications from Verizon like V Cast, My Verizon, VZ Navigator, and just to throw everyone off, Endomondo. You can't
uninstall hide them like you can on other phones from different carriers, so we're glad to see Verizon didn't go overboard -- let City ID rest in piece.
The camera is one area where you'll wish the Rhyme did better. It's a 5MP sensor, which is more than enough for decent shots, and we know HTC can do a great job with camera hardware if they put their minds to it. Unfortunately, the camera set up on the Rhyme is a bit mediocre like we've seen from HTC in the past. It's capable, and will take fair pictures, but anything special you want to remember forever with a photo is best taken with something else. The software is feature rich, but the hardware and post processing leaves much to be desired.
Here's a few samples, they will blow up when clicked -- so careful if you're mobile.
The wrap up
The HTC Rhyme is a solid performer overall. Android aficionados will appreciate the excellent quality and construction of the device, and the bundled charging dock and wired charm are a real bonus. The dated hardware and smaller size probably won't appeal to the power user, but for the average consumer there is a lot here to like. Was it designed, and marketed for women? In my opinion, yes. the color, size, and style certainly will appeal to quite a few of the fairer sex, and the charm really is a great solution for anyone carrying a handbag. HTC and Verizon should just embrace it and stop pretending -- the women in my life would choose the Rhyme over a phone like the RAZR or Incredible 2 in a heartbeat.