A great phone, for sure -- but is it amazing?
A couple weeks into using the HTC Amaze 4G on T-Mobile, we've pretty much decided the most amazing thing about the device isn't the hardware, which of course is stellar. It's not the software, which is a further iteration of HTC Sense. These things are givens, right?
No, instead the most amazing thing about the HTC Amaze 4G is the fact that we're seeing it on T-Mobile at all, just a few months after its older brother, the HTC Sensation 4G, was released.
So what's different? What's new? is it truly amazing? Yes. And no.
Powerful hardware, and HTC Sense is as good as ever. The camera quality is much-improved, and the hardware shutter buttons and quick access to the camera app are must-haves.
Could be too large for some people. The larger plastic battery cover is pretty slick in the hand. Earpiece is a lint trap. The camera app, while better, still has room for improvement.
Easily the best HTC Android smartphone on T-Mobile, with its current hardware and software. The camera is as good as any HTC has done of late. Makes us wonder, however, why T-Mobile's carrying the Amaze 4G as well as the only slightly older HTC Sensation.
Inside this review
If you're familiar with the Sensation (read our full review), you pretty much know your way around the Amaze 4G.
To start, you've got a 4.3-inch Super LCD display at qHD (540x960) resolution, and it's as good as you're going to get on an HTC device. And that is to say, it's pretty darn good. Our only real gripe here is that the display seems to be just a tad deep -- that is, a little farther under the glass than we've come to enjoy on other phones. That's a minor niggle, though, and likely is just our tired eyes playing tricks on us.
Below the display you've got your usual capacitive buttons in the home-menu-back-search configuration.
Above the display is a lint trap that doubles as an earpiece. (Seriously, you'll be cleaning it out on a regular basis.) When not being hidden itself behind dust bunnies, the earpiece hides the notification light. Kudos to HTC for still including one. To the right of the earpiece is the front-facing camera.
Up top you've got the 3.5mm headphone jack and power button.
On the left-hand bezel is the microUSB plug. It uses a different class of microUSB connector to charge, which actually charges a bit faster than what you probably have laying around. But your older microUSB cables will work just fine, too.
We're going to really nit-pick the design here for a second. See where the black display meets the silver of the one-piece battery cover? The display is a straight edge, and it's pretty severe where it meets the case. We'd have preferred a little bit of a bevel to soften the edge.
The right-hand bezel is where things get a little interesting. You have the volume rocker, which is perfectly normal. But you've also got not one but two buttons that tie into the camera. The larger of the two is a shutter button used for snapping still pictures. The smaller button, accented with a red mark, is to stop and start video recording.
The really cool part here is that you can press and hold one at any time, and you'll go straight to either the still camera or video camera -- without waking the phone from standby first. We'd still love to see a little time shaved off of launching the camera app, but this is a great step in the right direction.
Do note that if you're using a security lock, you'll still have to jump through that hoop before getting to the camera app.
Down below is the button that lets you remove the battery cover. Just as with the Sensation 4G, the battery cover is a single piece, with a bevy of antennas tucked inside. It's not quite as stylish as the Sensation's battery cover, but that's hardly a knock against it. It's just different, in flat white with silver banding down the middle and around the camera, with cutouts for speakers and microphones. (The really tiny pinholes are for the antenna attachments.)
We'd have preferred the battery cover been done in a soft-touch coating, to give it a little texture. This is a large (5.12 x 2.58 x 0.46 inches) phone that weighs a hefty 6.1 ounces. We don't want it to go flying from our hands. A case or skin can help with that.
Under the battery cover you'll find the battery (natch), microSD card slot (you're on your own to provide one) and SIM card slot. You can remove the microSD card without removing the battery, which is nice.
What's under the hood
The Amaze 4G is running a Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 dual-core processor at 1.5 GHz. It's got a full 1GB of RAM, some 829MB of which is available for running apps. This is not a slow phone. In fact, the Sense UI is as fast and smooth as we've ever seen it. You should not have to worry about the quickness of the device.
Everything's powered by a 1730 mAh battery. We were able to get through most of a heavy day's use. Your mileage will vary, of course, depending on how hard you're running it, network conditions, etc. Battery life's not going to blow you away, probably, but neither was it a major concern for us.
The Amaze 4G is one of T-Mobile's new 42 Mbps phones. That is, if you're in one of T-Mobile's 42 Mbps coverage areas, you can see some blazing fast speeds. If you're not, well, it can still be pretty fast. Or not. Really all depends on where you're standing.
Hey, look. It's another Gingerbread (Android 2.3.4, to be exact) phone running HTC Sense. It's got Sense Version 3.0 and not the slightly newer Sense 3.5. But unless you're running them side by side, you're not really missing much. Sense 3.5 is more refinement than anything. Will we see an update? Wouldn't surprise us, but we're not going to stay up nights worrying about it either.
Otherwise, there's not a whole lot to say that hasn't been said before. It's got that excellent lockscreen with customizable shortcuts (you can take the camera out since you've got the hardware buttons). You've got seven home screens on which to put apps and widgets, and HTC and T-Mobile have done a nice job of pre-selecting them for you.
This being a Sense phone, you also have access to "Scenes" -- pre-customized sets of home screens, so you can easily flip from one mode to another.
The app drawer is the app drawer. And this being Sense, it scrolls just one page at a time, instead of the kinetic scrolling you get on most other phones. It is sortable (alphabetically or by date), and you can view apps either as a list, or in a grid.
This is the meat of the Amaze 4G, actually. We've already talked about the physical shutter buttons. As in two. One for still pictures, the other for videos. We briefly mentioned that if you're using a lockscreen for security it'll turn that shortcut into, well, not a shortcut. Remember that. It's a tradeoff.
Here's the basic camera app on the Amaze 4G. You can use a third-party camera app if you want, but HTC's really stepped things up here. You've got a few quick settings here on the left-hand side. Starting from the bottom, you can switch from the still to video camera, the rear to the front camera, turn the flash off and on, or change modes. That's where you see the big A button there. And it could do a little better job of explaining what it does.
Push that A button, and you're taken to the Scenes menu. You've got 10 from which to choose:
- Auto: Automatically detects and adjusts settings
- SmartShot: Quickly takes a slew of pictures and tries to find one in which everyone is smiling.
- SweepShot -- aka panorama
- ClearShot HDR
(Warning: All sample images below open in full resolution in a new window)
We're a little disappointed in the panorama (erm, SweepShot) mode. Samsung's got HTC beat in the actual taking of the picture, doing a better job guiding you through the motion. And the end result is just OK.
Macro mode is decent enough.
The auto setting actually is just fine for most jobs. Here are some samples:
Images below open in full resolution in a new window
As for video, you don't have quite the same wealth of options. You can adjust basic exposure, contrast, saturation and white balance, or apply grayscale, sepia, negative, solarize, posterize and aqua effects.
Basic videos can be shot as high as 1920x1080p (which is what we used in the sample below). By default, it's set to qHD resolution -- 960x540 -- so that videos will play back in full screen on the phone.
Video quality is what it is, we suppose.
Other odds and ends
- On-screen keyboard: There's only one keyboard on the Amaze 4G, and that's HTC's keyboard. We've actually considered HTC's keyboard to be one of our favorites. But we're finding ourselves mis-typing more than normal, almost as if the digitizer is off just a tad, and letters aren't quite where we'd expect them.
- Speakerphone: Decent enough. Not the loudest, and we had some poping.
- GPS: Worked just fine for us with Google Maps.
- Web browser: As fast as ever.
- Wifi hotspot: It's got it, and it works just fine.
- NFC: The Amaze 4G does have NFC. Now we just need something to do with it.
- SIP calling: It's there, and it's buried in the settings.
It wasn't that long ago that we declared the HTC Sensation 4G one of the best phones of the year. So why's T-Mobile coming out with a slightly better version -- and make no mistake, that's what the Amaze 4G is -- just a few months later? No matter. The fact is, it's better. For as good as the Sensation's camera was, the Amaze's camera is a bit better. The software's been improved. But should you rush out and sell your Sensation for an Amaze? Probably not.
Another wrinkle is that the Amaze was released just before the announcement of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Looking back on our update predictions post, we're expecting the Amaze to be updated to ICS. But no guarantees, and who knows how long it'll take.
So what do we have here with the Amaze? You've got a large, powerful phone with an above-average camera. We'd still like to see a little shaved off the time it takes to launch the camera app, but it makes up for it in shutter response.
Here's the bottom line on the T-Mobile HTC Amaze 4G: It's a damn good phone. For now, it's the best you can get on T-Mobile. It's a little big, and a little slippery, and it's not the thinnest or lightest available. But it's got a better-than-average camera, especially for an HTC phone.
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