A great phone, for sure -- but is it amazing?

T-Mobile HTC Amaze 4G

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.


The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

Conclusion

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

More info

Initial hands-on video


Youtube link for mobile viewing

 

The hardware

If you're familiar with the Sensation (read our full review), you pretty much know your way around the Amaze 4G.

HTC 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.

HTC Amaze 4G

Below the display you've got your usual capacitive buttons in the home-menu-back-search configuration.

HTC Amaze 4G

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.

HTC Amaze 4GHTC Amaze 4G

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.

HTC Amaze 4G

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.

HTC Amaze 4G

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.)

HTC Amaze 4G

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.

HTC Amaze 4GHTC Amaze 4G

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.

HTC Amaze 4G speeds

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.

T-Mobile HTC Amaze 4G

 

The software

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.

HTC Amaze 4G screens

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.

The cameras

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.

HTC Amaze Camera app

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.

HTC Amaze 4G camera scenes

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
  • BurstShot
  • Night
  • Action
  • Macro
  • Portrait
  • Manual

(Warning: All sample images below open in full resolution in a new window)

HTC Amaze 4G SweepShot sample

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.

HTC Amaze 4G Macro

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

HTC Amaze 4G sample picHTC Amaze 4G sample pic

HTC Amaze 4G sample picHTC Amaze 4G sample pic

HTC Amaze 4G sample picHTC Amaze 4G sample pic

HTC Amaze 4G sample picHTC Amaze 4G sample pic

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.


Youtube link for mobile viewing

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.

The wrap-up

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.

 

Reader comments

T-Mobile Amaze 4G review

16 Comments

I'll forget the few errors I saw just because you used the word "niggle." Brilliant, Phil. Cool-looking phone, too.

so heres a question. Im in the market for a new phone, its this, the gs2 or the galaxy nexus (am i the only one who hates that name?). Since the GN hasnt been annouce, or at least been clued to be coming out tmobile, should i get the amaze or the gs2?

NG might be a long time coming based on the announcement that VZW will have US Exclusivity....who knows for how long, but rest assured that it would probably be until next summer that any other carrier brings it in. OR you could buy it in Europe, and use it here....it works will all bands in GSM.

As for SG2 or HTC Amaze....for the SG2 is one crazy amazing phone! nearly jumped ship to sprint bcs of it. I have not been a huge fan of samsung devices in the past....but right now the SG2 is something very hard to pass up.

In terms of waiting it out...the Samsung Galaxy Note is what I'm looking for!!!

when in doubt wait for the review before deciding. While the Galaxy Nexus might not be the best spec'd device available, speedy and frequent updates from Google will put this phone far ahead of current and newer phones for a long time.

Wait for the reviews, and official word about a T-Mobile release. But at the very minimum wait for a review so you can make an informed decision. Whichever phone you choose will be your device for the next 2 years, so don't rush your decision.

Preferences between these two are highly subjective. Opinions, including those of the "experts" are all over the map. My advice is check the phones out for yourself and get the one that appeals to you the most. Both phones are just fine.

Get the Samsung GS2. I initially bought the Amaze. I loved the camera features, but the actual picture comes out much dimmer than what you see while taking the picture. It also has a problem with heating up and eating up the battery. 3 charges in one day with only minimal use was crazy to me. Also the bluetooth generator in it is absolutely horrible. Picks up lots of interference from microwave oven, is not clear, and is very weak, more than ten feet away from the phone and you get signal lost message. I have a great bluetooth earpiece. It has worked great for over a year (Plantronics). The music player on it skips for some unknown reason. Don't tell me about turning off GPS, Modem, etc. I did. Same battery drain with no apps open in the background! I thought it was defective and exchanged it for another Amaze 4G. SAME ISSUES!!! No improvement whatsoever. So, I lost the screen saver ($30) I put on it during the exchange.

So now I have opted for the Samsung Galaxy SII. MUCH better. Battery issues are gone! Music skipping issues are gone! Bluetooth issues - vanished! Also vanished is the $50 restocking fee charged because I changed to a different phone even though within the free exchange period. That is a total of $80 lost.

The only thing amazing about the HTC AMAZE 4G is how frustratingly painful it was. I tried my best to hold onto it and believe in it as an amazing piece of technology. But, NO. It wouldn't let me keep it. What? Wrestle with that thing for 2 years? I don't think so!

So, I have paid more than most ($80.00 more) for the Samsung Galaxy SII. But, it was worth it! I do wish that I could talk on the phone with regular headphones like on the Amaze 4G (really nice). But the SGSII needs the headphones that have the mic combo built in because it no longer picks up your voice through the phones condenser mic when the headphones are plugged. I am buying a ($30) special cord for my Bose headphones so that I can use them on phone calls. Bluetooth is nice too though even for just listening to the music player.

Don't forget, it's got the Sensation beat on memory. From what i've read, the Sensation doesn't have much internal storage compared to 16 gigs on the Amaze. Add in your own microSD and you've got lots of storage.

What happened to Super LCD? It seems to have gotten forgotten once AMOLED displays came out.

One of my coworkers has an original Incredible with the Super LCD display and it is an amazing display. There is another coworker with a Dinc as well, I'm not sure which display he has, but he bought the phone soon after it came out. His screen looks nowhere near as good as the Super LCD phone.

@Phil, thanks for the review. Could you speak to the following:

Still Camera Shutter Button - Is it a two stage (i.e. like Evo3D), or single stage shutter button? (i.e. - half press to pre-focus, then full press to take the pic, or single press?) I know this camera has some kind of constant focusing feature; but would just like clarification on the shutter button.

Battery Life - do you have any data on how many hours of use you got out of this phone? Other reviews had noted this phone struggles with battery life and that they had to recharge well before even five hours of use.

Thanks, and if I missed it in your review I do apologize.

Forums. There is probably more information than you want to know about how well all of these work on both phones in the forums.

Read my post to the first in this line of questions. It will tell you all you really need to know! But, yes the camera button is two stage. That instant-on camera deal is probably not so good if you use a third party hip holster for it. There is no special holster made at the moment. The accidental engagement of the shutter button turns everything on. Not so good. I am a belt holster guy. Read the other issues I posted. The camera is not consumer ready!!!

This definitely better than the Sensation on tmobile. On par with the EVO 3D gotta remember sprint has always set the bar on device brought to market from HTC. The entire Evo family brand bitch slaps all devices on any carrier...

WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?!?! Dude, HTC is BEHIND. I have been a huge fan of HTC but they're just behind in so many ways. Their phones are less durable, heavier, and the screens are poorer than comparable phones. The Evo 3D has such a disappointing display!! It's much, much too deep in the phone (too far behind the glass), the screen is narrower than the original Evo, leaving less usable space (the more square Evo screen is more usable in landscape mode and gives up very little in portrait). The camera takes very poor stills.

Your repeated banter is so, so annoying man. Read more, play with phones more, TALK LESS. Once you're better informed, feel free to come back and share your two cents.

"why T-Mobile's carrying the Amaze 4G as well as the only slightly older HTC Sensation."
----------------
Because of competition, Samsung Galaxy S2 and iPhone 4S. Sensation is inferior to them in terms of spec.

How so? The HTC sensation has the same processor as the Amaze, and same screen. The version of android is the same and the camera can be changed to have the exact same features. The only thing different is it has 16gb of internal space(a moot point considering android phones can use sdxc, which is already at 64gb with a 2tb max limit), 215mb more ram a NFC and a 2mp front camera.