Oct 12 AT 12:09 PM Nick Gray 15 Comments

From the very first time we heard about the HTC Rhyme, it was clear it would be a phone unlike any other. HTC has a reputation of creating new phones with amazing features and specifications that are hard to rival. But the HTC Rhyme isn’t anything like the HTC EVO 3D, HTC Sensation or any other flagship device we’ve seen this year. Rather than creating a super phone with cutting edge specs, HTC went back to the drawing board to create a phone with a unique experience–a phone designed primarily for women.

HTC has never expressly said that the HTC Rhyme is a phone for women, but the purple handset, charm indicator and marketing campaign aren’t typically what you’d think of when you talk about a “man’s” phone.

1. Performance

When we talk about new phones, the first question most of you want answered is how the phone stacks up against the competition. The spec highlights for the HTC Rhyme include a 1 GHz MSM 8655 Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 3.7-inch WVGA super LCD display, 4 GB onboard memory, 768 MB of RAM, 8 GB microSD, 5 megapixel camera capable of recording 720p HD video and a front-facing VGA camera for self portraits or video calling. The HTC Rhyme runs on Android 2.3.4 and is the first handset from HTC to launch with HTC Sense 3.5.

The specs on the HTC Rhyme may not be comparable to those of the upcoming HTC Amaze 4G or even the EVO 3D that launched a few months back, but that doesn’t mean the Rhyme can’t hold its own. If you look closely, the HTC Rhyme is nearly a clone of the HTC DROID Incredible 2 in a smaller, flashier body.  The 1 GHz MSM 8655 processor and 768 MB of RAM allow the Rhyme to easily churn through benchmarks (Quadrant: high 1600s, NeoCore: 31.5 FPT, AnTuTu:  2439) while providing enough power to tackle graphic intensive games like Dungeon Defenders, Asphalt 5 HD and Stardunk.

2. Call quality and reception

At times we get so wrapped up in all the cool features these new handsets have to offer that we forget they’re actually phones. Anyone looking for a new phone with great audio will certainly be satisfied with the HTC Rhyme. Call quality on the Rhyme is clear and crisp over Verizon’s CDMA network. The people we called noted that the audio they were hearing on their end was loud and understandable, but that audio quality deteriorated when we were talking in loud places (walking down a busy street or on the bus).

Verizon’s CDMA network probably has a lot to do with the good call quality we experienced with the Rhyme. The phone typically had three to four reception bars while out in the open or in houses or office buildings. We did notice the signal bar drop down to one when we were in an elevator. But that’s more than acceptable, since the T-Mobile phones we use always lose reception in the same scenario.

3. 4G Speeds

Unlike most of the new phones on Verizon’s network, the HTC Rhyme does not feature 4G LTE support. For now, not having a phone that can take advantage of Verizon’s blazing fast LTE speeds may not sound like a huge issue. But most people who buy the Rhyme will likely choose to pay the $199 on-contract price, which means they’ll be locked into Verizon’s slower 3G network (the Rhyme averaged 1450kbps download and 872kbps upload) for two whole years.

Granted, most people still don’t know the difference between 3G, 4G, HSPA+, WiMax and LTE, but having a 4G data connection is certainly noticeable when you spend a lot of time surfing the web or catching up on episodes of your favorite TV shows with Netflix or Hulu Plus.

4. Rear and front-facing cameras

The 5 megapixel camera on the back of the Rhyme is a bit of an anomaly in a world where 8 megapixels has become the new standard. Yes, you can still find phones with 3 megapixel sensors, but those handsets are typically entry-level devices, free with a new contract. The reason HTC chose to equip the Rhyme with a 5 MP sensor was to allow the phone to use HTC’s new instant capture functionality, which typically snaps a shot as soon as you press the shutter button on the screen.

The camera application features a selection of presets, including portrait, landscape, action burst, panorama and backlight HDR in addition to the typical distortion, vintage, grayscale, solarize and other styling effects that we’ve seen on HTC’s cameras in the past.

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The flash on the Rhyme seems to produce better results than other HTC phones that come with a dual-LED flash. In general, image subjects more than two feet away do not get completely washed out, and the flash does a good job of proportionally lighting up a dark room for a shot.

The HTC Rhyme’s camera certainly has a lot of features, but we wish the images it produces were a bit sharper. Overall, image quality is good for 5 megapixels, and the 720p video holds up well as long as you have a steady hand. We’d still recommend carrying around a dedicated point-and-shoot camera when you head out for the evening if you know you’ll be snapping a few shots.

5. HTC Sense 3.5

The debate around custom UIs versus stock Android could go on for decades. The Android purists cry foul every time they hear another phone is shipping with a custom build of Android or a new and enhanced UI from the manufacturer. The truth is, there are probably just as many people who love HTC Sense as there are those who hate it.  But one thing most of us can agree on is that HTC’s Sense is a lot better than what most other manufacturers put on their phones.

HTC Sense 3.5 brings all the new animations, graphics, widgets and functionality we’ve seen on HTC’s most recent dual-core powered phones to a handset that’s a lot less powerful. You still get the new unlock screen, app drawer, notification bar with quick settings and HTC’s new task manager, in addition to a new Quick Launch widget for your main home screen panel. The Quick Launch widget features a clock with weather information and four customizable application launchers, which give you insights into your calendar, sms, email, pictures and more without actually opening the apps. Users can choose to use the presets or swap in any app of their choice.

The HTC Rhyme’s version of Sense 3.5 does feature those mysterious “calming wallpapers” rumored back in May, but the selection is probably a lot better than what most guys would have imagined. The wallpaper collection has more of a retro feel to it; most images are of nature or cityscapes in light vintage tones.

6. Android 2.3.4

When you buy a new phone, you expect it to come with the latest version of Android. While Android 2.3.4 is a little behind the curve, it’s certainly a lot better than the many phones shipping with Android 2.3.3 or lower. The Rhyme is one of the first phones to ship with support for gTalk video chat. And since HTC is by far the best at updating their phones, we’re sure the Rhyme will receive a handful of updates over the next year or two.

7. Build quality and design

HTC is known for making some of the highest quality phones on the market, and the HTC Rhyme is certainly no exception. The handset features a uni-body aluminum frame that wraps around the screen and across the upper section along the back. The rest of the phone is covered in HTC’s signature soft-touch rubber, which gives the user a solid grip of the phone.

The body of the Rhyme measures 119 x 60.8 x 10.85 mm while weighing 130 grams. It may not be the lightest or smallest phone on the market, but it’s a lot more manageable than HTC’s flagship phones with their 4.3-inch displays.

For most men, the purple finish of the device may be a little intimidating. It’s not a color that many guys are comfortable with, but the reaction from women is typically positive. Most women that saw the phone gave positive comments about the phone’s color and design. Most were pleased that it has a screen bigger than the iPhone but wasn’t so obnoxiously large that they had to use two hands to operate it.

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8. Accessories

Since the introduction of the original T-Mobile G1, finding device-specific accessories for Android phones has always been tough. You can typically find a handful of cases and an occasional dock, but most of them are cheap, generic options that don’t match the aesthetics of your phone. This is really where the HTC Rhyme shines. HTC realized that consumers want great accessories with their phones and decided to include a charging/music dock, tangle-free headphones and a unique charm indicator.

Charm Indicator

Charm Indicator

The dock for the HTC Rhyme is very subtle. The exterior is coated is a textured cloth and features a single microUSB port on the back. The Rhyme connects to the dock via three charging pins on the back side. All you have to do is set it in and you’re ready to go. The dock itself is equipped with Bluetooth technology, which pairs with the phone as soon as the two devices connect. The dock’s speaker is located on the back and produces a half decent sound when listening to your favorite music.

The headphones that come with the HTC Rhyme are really nothing special. They match the purple color of the Rhyme and feature a linguini-style cable that reduces tangling. Unfortunately, the audio output from the headphones doesn’t live up to its unique styling.

We’ve all seen a dock and headphones before, but what makes the HTC Rhyme truly unique is the inclusion of the charm indicator. The charm connects to the phone via the 3.5mm audio jack and glows pink when your phone receives a new text message or call. The idea behind the charm is to have it connected to your phone when you carry it around in your purse or gym bag. The woven fiber cord on the charm feels extra strong and should hold up over time, even if you use it as a retrieval mechanism to pull the Rhyme out of your bag.

9. Marketing campaign

When you create a phone with a unique user experience, you need to tell the world about it in a simple and competitive way. Unfortunately, HTC and Verizon have failed at that task. Verizon’s TV commercial for the HTC Rhyme is over the top and may be pushing potential consumers to avoid the phone.

A few of the women who have been impressed with the Rhyme indicated that the commercial has given them a negative connotation of the phone and that they wouldn’t be interested in buying it because of the ad. We’re not sure if the six-armed goddess commercial was HTC’s idea or something that came out of Verizon’s creative department, but we feel a “quietly brilliant” commercial may have been a lot more effective in this case.

10. Battery life

Having a smartphone for all your communication and entertainment needs is great, but your enjoyment of the device can only last as long as the battery. The Rhyme’s 1600 mAh battery isn’t the largest we’ve seen, but it holds enough juice to keep the phone powered up longer than most of us are used to. Power users who typically charge their Android phones once a day will find that the Rhyme will still have about 35-40% battery life at the day’s end. On a few occasions, we were able to squeeze through two entire days on a single charge. Not having an LTE connection or a dual-core processor certainly pays off in the battery department.

Final Thoughts

Verizon HTC Rhyme8 / 10

It’s pretty obvious that most of you will not be running out to your local Verizon store to buy the HTC Rhyme. It’s not a flagship device with cutting edge technology, but we believe HTC has created a unique handset that should do well within its niche. The HTC Rhyme will not appeal to all women, but its sleek design, user friendly UI and bundled accessories help the phone stand out from the crowd, which is mostly filled with non-descript black slabs.

The $199 price tag may appear outrageous for a mid-range Android phone with no 4G support, but the included accessories help blunt the sticker shock quite nicely. I’m not sure how you or the woman in your life will feel about the HTC Rhyme, but my wife is willing to throw her Nexus One in the trash and switch to Verizon just so she can have a purple phone.

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. He started HTCsource.com (the first HTC blog) back in 2007 and later joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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