HTC Explorer review: The start of a journey
Web browser does Flash easily
The HTC Explorer has the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread web browser with Sense UI 3.5 polish. The screen is fairly small and the small text isn’t very readable, so the Explorer isn’t meant for heavy mobile Internet users. For all others it will suffice though.
The browser goes into full-screen when the web page finishes loading and has very minimalistic UI, which leaves almost the entire screen to the page contents.
There's an URL bar at the top of the screen flanked by Back and Refresh keys. Once you zoom in and pan around the page, even that bar disappears. Still, there are plenty of options - you have to press the menu key to reveal them.
There are home and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out even more options – stuff like find on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).
The Explorer's browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which makes even longer texts extremely easy to read on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then the low pixel density makes it illegible) or scroll sideways to read each line.
Once you select some text, you can copy it, launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share via a message or social network.
The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history. You can tag bookmarks, which is a great way to keep things on order.
Tabs are displayed as 3D cards too – a really neat trick is that if you pinch zoom out beyond the minimum zoom level you go straight into the tab selector. This may be a cool way to manage tabs but too many of them open at once will seriously slow down the browser.
The HTC Explorer has full Flash support, you have to install the player manually though. At first we thought it didn’t work, but a restart was all that was needed. We were pleasantly surprised to see YouTube videos of up to 480p play smoothly. HD videos however prove too much - not surprising, since even the more powerful offerings from HTC have issues with that.
You could use the YouTube app if you find navigating YouTube in the browser hard.
We tried out a few Flash games and they worked surprisingly well. You can play the Flash content in full screen and landscape mode, which makes the most out of the display.
Mind you, the Android 2.3 browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag which is the way of the future, now that Adobe has given up on mobile Flash.
Good organizer sans Office document viewing
The usual set of organizer apps are aboard the HTC Explorer, but there's no Office document or PDF viewers preloaded. You'll have to turn to the Android Market for that. Still, the rest of the package is as good as we're used to from HTC.
The calendar has four different types of view: daily, monthly, agenda and invitation. The day view showing the weather forecast at the top of the screen is a nice touch.
The Agenda view shows a list of all the calendar entries from the recent past to the near future. Invitation only lists events with invitation info attached to them.
There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized with huge, easy to hit buttons. Flipping it horizontally enables some more advanced functions like logarithms.
The HTC Explorer features an alarm clock application, which can handle multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. It's part of the Clock app, which includes several other features. The Desk clock, for example, shows time and weather so you can use the Explorer as a desk clock.
The World clock lets you quickly check the time in different time zones, while the stopwatch and timer apps might come in handy if you plan to take the phone with you when doing sports.
Quick lookup is a handy app that lets you enter a query and view the Wikipedia article (formatted for easy reading), search Google, YouTube, use Google Translate or look it up in Google Dictionary.