HTC Explorer review: The start of a journey
Scant retail package
The HTC Explorer comes with a very modest package - just a compact charger and a microUSB cable that pairs with it. We know it's an entry level model, but we were hoping for a headset - you can plug any old pair of headphones, but still, a headset would have been much appreciated.
We caught a few unboxing videos on the Internet and found that it wasn’t just our unit that came without the earphones. We also received word from some of our readers, confirming the lack of a headset.
You'll also need to procure a microSD card of some sort as the Explorer comes with very limited storage out of the box. Really, any would do, even an old 512MB. Without one, you can only snap several photos before running out of space. You'll need more if you want to put some music in there, of course.
HTC Explorer 360-degree spin
The HTC Explorer measures 101.3 x 59.4 x 12.4 mm and is smaller in real life than it appears in pictures. It’s entirely made of plastic, tipping the scales at the acceptable 105 grams.
Design and build quality
We already mentioned the phone's faux rugged cover - the rubbery, patterned texture makes the phone look like it can take some rough treatment. The brushed metal plate is an eye-catching accent that you wouldn't expect in the Explorer's price bracket.
If you look closely at the rubbery plastic battery cover, you'll see some mold seams that ruin the impression somewhat.
Anyway, the overall design is a faux unibody - the screen and the phone's internals can be pulled out of the battery cover, just like, say, the Sensation. The Explorer tries to emulate the rest of the Sensation's looks too.
The phone will be available in a variety of colors and the selection will appeal to the younger crowd.
The Explorer has a 3.2" LCD display with HVGA resolution (320x480 pixels). It's not the sharpest display around (you easily notice the jagged small type), but viewing angles are quite good for the class - contrast deteriorates when the screen is viewed at an angle, but it's not too bad.
Colors are a bit dull for our taste, but the contrast beats even some mid-range droids and the display is fairly bright. Overall, it's a really good display considering the price tag. As you have every right to expect, the capacitive screen's response is top-notch.
Here are our measurements of the Explorer's screen and how it stacks up against the competition.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|HTC Cha Cha||0.36||283||758||0.61||559||923|
|LG Optimus 2X||0.23||228||982||0.35||347||1001|
|Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc||0.03||34||1078||0.33||394||1207|
|Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II||0||231||∞||0||362||∞|
|HTC Incredible S||0.18||162||908||0.31||275||880|
|Apple iPhone 4||0.14||189||1341||0.39||483||1242|
Above the screen you'll find the earpiece, along with the proximity and ambient light sensors.
At the bottom of the device are the usual four capacitive keys: Home, Menu, Back and Search. The capacitive keys are small but well-spaced, with precise vibration feedback for comfortable use.
On the left side of the Explorer, you’ll find thee microUSB port for charging/data connections. It's left uncovered, to dash all hopes that the Explorer might be waterproofed in any way.
On the right, there's the volume rocker. It's thin, rubbery and has a very low profile - that is to say, not very comfortable to use.
At the top of the device there is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack (also left uncovered) and the power/lock button. It’s not very easy to locate by touch, but the thin control is long enough to hit even if you just aim for the general direction of the upper right corner.
The mouthpiece and a tiny lanyard eyelet are the only things to note at the bottom.
The back of the device is quite attractive - the patterned plastic is nice enough, but it's the brushed metal plate that really classes up the place. That plate is home to an engraved HTC logo and the 3MP camera lens. Just to the side of the plate is the loudspeaker grill.
Removing the back panel reveals the 1230 MAh Li-Ion battery. It’s quoted at 485/445 hours of stand-by in 2G/3G and 7:40/7:30 hours of talk time (between 2G and 3G).
Under the battery you'll find the SIM card slot. Off to the side is the microSD card slot - it's not under the battery, but you need to remove the cover to access it.
The HTC Explorer is a solid little mini whose most compelling feature is the diminutive size. It feels like a pebble in the hand and we have no major complaints about the build quality. The phone can probably take a few knocks, just don't take it too far as there's nothing special protecting it, not even a scratch-resistant glass for the display.
The variety of lively colors is a point in the Explorer's favor. There's little stopping you from popping on another color after you get bored with the original case.
The little Explorer is progressing very well through the course for now, time to see if it has the smarts to round off this review on a positive note.