HTC Desire C review

When buying a smartphone on a budget, compromises often need to be made, usually with screen size, and quality, overall horsepower. But sadly, too often the user experience also suffers. However much you're spending on an Android phone, no-one wants to come away with a device running year-old software or a clunky manufacturer skin.

Enter HTC -- we've all seen the One series, the mammoth One X, the superb middle ground in the One S, and the entry offering in the One V. But there's now a younger sibling, the HTC Desire C. While it may be small, not to mention less spec-filled than many AC readers would be looking for, it offers up something that too many devices launched throughout the first half of 2012 have lacked -- Android 4.0. Not just that, the Desire C also brings HTC Sense 4.0 with it too -- and all for just £150. Sounds great, right? Find out how the Desire C measures up after the break.


  • Android 4.0 and the same Sense 4.0 you get from its bigger brothers. The annoying 3-dots menu bar from the One series has gone too making for a much more pleasurable experience all round. Surprisingly capable for a low end device. Same Beats Audio treatment as its bigger brothers too.


  • A phone this small really isn't for everyone. No-auto focus on the camera, pictures and video really aren't that good.

The Bottom Line

Probably the best entry-level Android phone you can buy today. The Desire C is cheap on price, but not on features. OK, the screen isn't a patch on the One series phones, and the camera is pretty awful, but ignoring that, the Desire C is incredible value for money. HTC has proved that entry-level doesn't mean Gingerbread, a lesson the other Android OEMs need to learn quickly.

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HTC Desire C Video Walkthrough

HTC Desire C Hardware

Android Central

The Desire C is a good looking phone. Really, it is. Sat side by side with the grand-daddy of HTC's current offerings, the One X, the two strike a very similar pose. It literally does look like someone took a rolling pin to the Desire C and ended up with the One X. And, to make the Desire C desirable -- no pun intended -- keeping the same good looks of the high end stuff is a nice touch. It is a little on the chunky side, but that's no big downer on a phone that's so tiny in general. It feels nice in the hand, almost like holding a pebble. It looks great too in the two-tone silver and white combination that we were sent. There's no front facing camera, and the screen is a teeny tiny 3.5-inches at 480x320. That's the same size as the current iPhone 4S, yet in the Android world, it's incredibly small. It's bright though, and has really good viewing angles, so despite lacking in resolution, it isn't horrible to look at.

But what makes the Desire C tick? If you're a processor junkie, then you can probably skip to the next part, because the Desire C houses a modest 600MHz Snapdragon processor, and just 512MB of RAM. While not a lot, it runs ICS and Sense 4.0 just fine and dandy. The whole experience is surprisingly smooth and snappy considering the apparent lack of power. Loading some apps takes a bit longer than other ICS phones, and it does struggle with Chrome. But it does run Chrome, and that's more than can be said for a whole heck of a lot of Android phones. 

Up top we've got the power switch, accompanied by a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Holding the phone at this angle really does show off its chunky side. Down bottom, nothing but the microphone. 

The sides of the phone highlight the two-tone paint job, but also house the microUSB charging port on the left, and the volume rocker on the right-hand side. The exterior of the Desire C is very minimalist in terms of ports, sockets and buttons, and it adds to the high quality feel of the design. And the reason the exterior is minimal? Unlike its bigger brothers, the Desire C has a removable rear battery door. 

Peel away said battery door, and the first thing to notice is the rather striking shade of red that greets you. This is a nice little design touch we've seen on a few HTC phones previously, including the One S and Droid Incredible. It's a fantastic little design feature. Going beyond the color, the Desire C is home to a removable 1230 mAh battery. Small, but ample for such a dinky little phone. There's a standard sized SIM card slot -- hence the adaptor in our photo -- and also expandable memory courtesy of a microSD card slot. Strange though it may seem, these features were considered deal-breakers for being omitted on the One X, yet all are present here on the Desire C. 

Also on the rear of the phone, is the 5MP camera, without the benefit of an LED flash. The camera is nothing to write home about, but we'll come on to that later on. Sitting beside the camera lens, is a rear speaker. Pretty small, but loud enough for those times when you actually need it. We're also reminded too that the Desire C is a Beats Audio enabled phone. While Beats isn't for everyone, it's a nice touch that it obviously isn't exclusive to the higher end offerings that HTC will be putting to market. 

Android Central

Oh, and to coin a phrase, there's one more thing. Hiding away under the rear battery door is an NFC chip. While in the UK, NFC really isn't that useful at the present time, this is a £150 phone. With NFC. With the Desire C it really does feel much more like a premium device, only much, much smaller. It doesn't feel lacking in anyway over the more expensive offerings. Now, if only we could put it to good use...

​HTC Desire C Software

As we've already mentioned, being the budget offering, doesn't mean that HTC has scrimped on the user experience. What we have here is Android 4.0.3, with HTC Sense 4.0 overlayed. It isn't a watered down version of Sense either, it's the same experience that can be found on the One series. 

Android Central

Android Central

Android Central

To that end, we're not going to spend the next thousand words going into every little detail of Sense 4.0. For the full -- and we mean, full -- walkthrough, check out Phil's extensive guide. It pretty much all applies. On the Desire C, you'll get the same widgets, the same look and feel, launcher, theme options, the works. There are a couple of alterations though, that you won't see on the One series. One of which is the quick app switching window, and the other is how the menu button is handled in legacy apps. 

Android Central

Android Central

So, one of the biggest annoyances with HTC, is the way in which the legacy menu is handled. A big, intrusive, un-attractive black bar, with three dots in the center. It serves a purpose, but it doesn't do it very elegantly. For those willing to tinker, there are ways to remove it, and to re-map the menu button to the fast app switching button. This involves unlocking, rooting and flashing things. But, guess how the same problem is dealt with on the Desire C? That's right, apps that don't conform to the new Android 4.x design guidelines will not show up an ugly bar. To enter the menu, you hold down on the fast app switching button. So, it's been done right here, we can only hope that a future update will see the high-end offerings get the same treatment. 

Speaking of fast app switching, HTC's custom UI is gone. What we're left with, is the familiar, stock Android 4.x task switcher. The right choice, we'd even say the only choice on a device this small. In terms of software, it's a score. At no point does the Desire C feel like a budget phone while you're immersed within Sense.

​HTC Desire C Camera

Android Central

There's no polite way to say it, so we're going to just have to come out with it. The camera on the Desire C is terrible. The actual application itself is fine, very much the same app as the other new HTC phones. Face detection, the grid overlay, some basic tweaks, are all are present and all do their job as intended. The thing that kills this camera is the lack of auto-focus. With a fixed focus, photos are really, really hit and miss. And that's a shame. HTC has won many new fans in recent months, through their cameras and ImageSense technology. That newfound quality is lacking in the Desire C's camera.

We know, it's a cheap phone. But that doesn't mean it needs to cut back in as important an area as the camera. In fact, had the camera been better, it would have warranted a higher asking price for the phone. There are so many, huge, positives about the Desire C, but it's badly let down by its camera performance. Take a look for yourself below -- we've not hand-picked any of these shots. 

Things don't get any better when you flip into video camera mode either. There's no HD video recording here, the Desire C takes its footage at 640x480. And even for that resolution, the results are pretty awful. Any form of movement results in pretty tremendous pixelation. Again, it's a real shame considering the number of positives from a device of this nature.

HTC Desire C Battery Life

HTC Desire C

Hearing that an Android smartphone carries only a 1230mAh battery would in many cases set the alarm bells ringing. But, the back of the Desire C is certainly no Tardis, so one should expect a suitably small battery to accompany the miniature frame. To coin a phrase, size isn't everything. 

During testing, we took the Desire C pretty much everywhere, and tried to use it as a daily driver. That means twittering, G+, texts, phone calls, a bit of web browsing, the odd photo, nothing too exhausting but pretty average use. And it stood up pretty well, bever once struggling to get through the day. And, subjected to purposefully light use -- the sort where you would leave the phone turned on in your locker at work and only use at break times -- as you can see here, we got pretty much two full days out of it. 

(A bit of an insider trick too -- using the Crackberry Kevin recommended, BlackBerry Premium Charger, this thing is pretty much fully charged in an hour.)

​HTC Desire C Hackability

With specs such as these, the Desire C is never going to be top of the prospective tweakers shopping list. However, once it  is in your hands, is there much you can do with it? Well, it seems the bootloader should be unlockable via HTC Dev, and from there, who knows. 

Android hacking maestro, Paul O'Brien over at MoDaCo has already developed a root method of sorts for the Desire C. But while we're never going to tell anyone to leave their phone alone, the Desire C is plenty good without having to tweak. ICS and Sense 4.0 should be more than adequate for this phone's target audience. 

The Wrap Up

While low on horsepower and short on size, the HTC Desire C is a sterling example of how Android OEMs should be approaching their business. By simply putting ICS and Sense 4.0 on it, HTC brings its best user experience to the Desire C, potentially creating repeat customers out of those who drop their cash on the device. To hold a Desire C and a One X side-by-side and see the same user experience is fantastic. In this instance, a buyer on a budget doesn't necessarily feel left out of the latest and greatest Android software.

The HTC Desire C is probably the best entry-level Android phone you can buy today. It's low on price, but not on features. The screen isn't a patch on the One series phones, and the camera is pretty awful, but that aside, the Desire C is incredible value for money. HTC has proved that entry-level doesn't have to mean Gingerbread, a lesson certain other manufacturers still need to learn.

If you're quick, Carphone Warehouse in the UK is currently selling the Desire C for £99.

Richard Devine
  • So how does this compare to the G300 in actual everyday use? Specs wise the G300 beats it every way, although from past experience, specs don't mean everything!
  • I really hope they bring the menu button to the ego 4g lte and I much prefer the fast app switching in stock android. The HTC 4 app switching is all eye candy and you dont see as many running apps at once. Kind of crazy how a budget phone has better features than the flagships.
  • i sent and e-mail to htc asking why a low end phone has that when we dont. im not one to root and im getting tired of the on screen menu button. if i wanted on screen buttons i would of bought a galaxy nexus
  • Looks like something you would give the kids so they didn't trash something real expensive
  • On the One X, how did you get the Pure ICS folders instead of HTC's
  • Apex Launcher :)
  • Sounds to me like a beautiful update to the Nexus One, aside from the autofocus. I loved mine, right up until I got my Gnex (yummy Jellybean!). I have a friend who only wants a phone, not a pocketable tablet. If they also don't want a camera, I might recommend this gizmo. They're on Sprint, are they getting this phone?
  • This is actually a really nice phone for entry users. This is a great phone for a lot of girls I know who wants something small and lastest and greatest in most areas. Plus it keeps it's true One X design. This is like the One X's son. XD
  • Booting up my Droid Eris right now... I believe that it carries the Desire C name in it. Basically, it's a reworked Hero, sans hardware buttons and including software upgrades.
  • So tell me again why the DZ, Nexus One, Evo, and phones like that can't get ICS again? They completely contradicted themselves with this phone.
  • Because all of those phones would be out of contract now & HTC wants you to go buy a new one. HTC wants to make a lot of money. It's business. Let me ask you though, what could any of those phones do with ICS that they can't do with Gingerbread? People get too worked up on what version of Android they are running when it really doesn't mean much other than the UI. Look in the forums if you don't believe me. I'm sure there are people in the SGS3 forums asking when they are going to get Jelly Bean meanwhile, they are already holding (arguably) the best smartphone available right now & until just a few weeks ago, had the most up to date software they could have. Everyone knows that the manufacturers & carriers are full of B.S. when they say that their older devices can't run the newest software. ROM developers always prove them wrong. If you have the DZ, Nexus One, or EVO & you *WANT* ICS, you should install it from whichever developer you want to.
  • I really want to get a tiny GSM Android phone to have as a data enabled "camera" when I go out at night (so I don't have to carry the big Galaxy Nexus around), so a high-end processor isn't a big requirement for me but it does need to have a decent camera and a flash. Sounds like the Desire C doesn't meet my requirements, does anyone have any other suggestions?
  • Honey I shrunk the One X
  • Pretty much.
  • The review makes it sound like the normal price is 100 when the reality is around 150. How anybody can consider that "cheap" or entry-level is beyond my mind. UPDATE: just saw that the subtitle includes the correct price. Sorry. Still, it drives the point home. (...the ZTE Kis sells for one third of that price) Also, I don't understand how the reviewer can recommend this phone while completely ignoring any possible alternative. The Xperia U absolutely slaughters it and is almost the same price. The G300 is way ahead while at the same being substantially cheaper. It really makes you wonder what do some manufacturers have to do in order to appear on Android Central's radar. Tl, dr: a review without price and comparisons to other possible options is not a real review. Don't get this phone.
  • I'm on a business trip in Canada and just picked up one brand new for $150. Its definitely a little sluggish but still decent for ICS. I wonder why this phone hasnt been picked up by the prepaid US carriers yet...
  • It is really cheap at "" they are cheap prepaid phones. And the price for the HTC desire c right now on that website is for 59.99. And to me, that's really cheap.
  • Looks like a pretty great entry device. Most likely people who are buying this phone, won't care about things like getting 4.1 jellybean or having a dual/quad core processor. Its a nice looking and solid little phone, that is if the past is true, will feel much more expensive than what it actually is.
  • For that little amount of money I did not expect a miracle, However, I was really impressed by that phone, I have it now for about 1 month .. Its actually pretty awesome, Though sometimes when You override the processor/ram limits it gets a little slow but it recovers fast to its normal condition, and it doesn't have a second camera or an LED flash, However the 5 mega-pixels camera preform good enough .. But i'v got my digital camera so i don't actually care about that .. I totally recommend this phone specially in case You don't care about the camera
  • Honestly, I do not recommend this phone. It is my first smartphone and probably last smartphone until I can pay for a new one. I hate it so much, I've had it for a month. And it is so laggy and annoying! I've litterally deleted almost all my apps to try to make it less laggy. But it didn't work! And I hate how it loads so slowly and I try logging in to stuff and it literally doesn't stop loading. So I keep having to uninstall and install again to log in to stuff like instagram. It's so annoying and the camera is horrible! When ever I take pictures, it always ends up having this gritty look to it. It looks like someone painting the picture on sandpaper! Gosh. I wish I had picked a different phone... Oh and also, it's a really small phone and ugh....
    So In conclusion, it's a dumb phone.