No, it's not a ladies phone, or so the folks at HTC repeatedly told us at the launch event for the Rhyme in Sydney. Sure, it's an adorable shade of Arctic Blue, and sure, it comes with an LED handbag charm, but what fashion-forward man doesn't want a blue phone and doesn't carry a man-bag (this reviewer is guilty on both counts)?
Optus in Australia will range the Rhyme in only the aforementioned blue, although there are other colours available overseas, and we find it to be quite a fetching hue. The battery cover is segmented into a trio of complementary shades, with the central colour wrapping around to the front of the phone and around its 3.7-inch Super-LCD display.
Weighing in at 130 grams, the Rhyme doesn't feel overly heavy (though it is a tad heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S II), and its 10.1mm thickness feels great in our hands — this is assisted by the materials used in the phone's construction.
The Rhyme supports micro-USB connections for charging and data transfers from a PC or a Mac, and comes with HTC Sync software for transferring music and videos from your computer — including iTunes playlists. HTC slips a microSD card slot in under the battery cover, and includes an 8GB memory card, giving you a total of 12GB of storage, including the phone's 4GB internal memory.
Dressed to impress
The Rhyme docked beside its handbag charm and protective pouch.
No outfit is complete without the perfect accessories, and, along the same train of thought, HTC has bundled the Rhyme with possibly the best array of accessories we've seen. As part of the standard sales kit, the Rhyme ships with a bedside speaker dock, a protective pouch and a very handy handbag charm. This charm connects to your phone using the 3.5mm headphone socket. Once connected, the charm will light up whenever you receive a call or a new SMS message, so that even if your phone is buried at the bottom of your bag, you'll still know as soon as calls come in. The long cable on the charm also acts as a smartphone fishing line, doing away with the need to hunt around for your handset in your dark bag — you can just tug on the cable until your phone pops up.
The speaker dock is the big win for HTC customers here, though, and this is a really great inclusion. On the back of the handset is a small three-pin connector (just below the camera lens), which makes a connection once the phone is inserted into the dock. This automatically activates Dock Mode on the phone, giving you quick access to your phone's alarms and music player. The sound from the dock is decent for the purpose, making a great alarm clock or a decent personal speaker to listen to while working or studying.
HTC is claiming that the camera in the Rhyme is the best camera in an HTC phone to date, and this is saying a lot, considering the excellent photo quality that we've seen this year in the HTC Incredible S and the HTC Evo 3D, to name a few.
Don't be fooled by the fact that the Rhyme only shoots at a maximum resolution of 5 megapixels; focus instead on the backside illuminated image sensor, which should help snap pics under less-than-perfect lighting conditions. This is something we definitely noticed during our review period; the Rhyme does take decent photos in darker rooms, though it was the photos taken under natural light that really caught our eye.
Under natural light, the Rhyme takes outstanding photos.
We did notice that the post-processing of the camera's software after a photo is taken can be a little heavy handed. Many of our pics showed fantastic, natural-looking colour, but others tended towards a sickly over-saturated appearance, especially shades of red and orange.
The post-processing software can be a little heavy handed when it comes to certain colours.
We also didn't think much the of the Rhyme's 720p HD video recording. Our test videos looked rather choppy, with a consistently pixellated image and a slower-than-average frame rate. If you're hoping to make short films with your smartphone, you'll probably still want to check out the iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy S II.
As with all of all HTC's latest releases, the Rhyme benefits from the ongoing work that HTC puts into its Sense User Experience, which is up to version 3.5 in this handset. Sense 3.5 includes some nice new usability tweaks and refined design in a few key areas, but it also worked flawlessly during our time with the Rhyme. Unlike the HTC Sensation, which we felt could be sluggish, the Rhyme zips through everyday tasks.
Call quality during our review was fine, though unremarkable, and text messaging and email composition is fine with the HTC-designed virtual keyboard, although we will admit to missing the Swype software that you usually find on Samsung and Motorola handsets. Battery life was also fine, with the Rhyme managing a full day of use on its 1500mAh battery, but this is only standard for the phones that we've seen this year — no better, no worse. We did notice that the battery tends to get hot after extended use (30 minutes or more), and while most phones will do so to some degree, the Rhyme did get a little warmer than is comfortable to hold.
All in all, the Rhyme does little to break away from the pack when it comes to power and performance, relying more on its good looks and bundled accessories to gain a foothold in the market.
In many ways, the HTC Rhyme is a repackaged Desire S, with a new coat of paint and an updated Sense experience, but, then, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Especially when you consider the extra value added with the included speaker dock and handbag charm accessories. No one part of the Rhyme's design or performance stands out as being particularly powerful or unique, but it will make an excellent everyday smartphone for anyone looking for a smartphone that doesn't look like just another glossy black box.