The HTC Rhyme Android phone may have originally intended to target females, but this sleek and stylish Android phone should appeal to a broader market, too. On its own the Rhyme doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary. However, its killer feature is the amount of included accessories that come in the box, including a docking station with built-in speakers that turns the phone into a handy, bedside alarm clock.
HTC Rhyme: Design and display
On first glance, there isn't anything remarkable or new about the HTC Rhyme. It's emblazoned in a light colour called "clearwater", which is best described as a mix between light blue and light grey. The front of the Rhyme is taken up largely by the 3.7in touchscreen display flanked by a gloss black bezel, while the rear of the handset is broken into three parts: the removable, plastic battery cover at the bottom is a creamy blue colour, the aluminium piece in the centre with an etched HTC logo is a metallic bluish grey, and the top piece that houses the camera, LED flash, speaker and dock connectors is a creamy while plastic.
The three colours give the Rhyme a distinctive look over most of its competitors, but the colour combination is hardly feminine in our opinion. That's reserved for overseas models of the Rhyme, which come in a deep purple colour called "plum". The Rhyme is a well built phone: its body is constructed from a single piece of aluminium that HTC calls a unibody design. It's also just 10.1mm thick which makes it both comfortable to hold and easy to pocket. Unfortunately, the HTC Rhyme's battery is not removable and we didn't like the plastic flap concealing the micro-USB port on the left side of the phone.
The HTC Rhyme has a 3.7in SLCD screen with a resolution of 480x800 pixels. The screen is bright and clear and displays text with minimal aberrations, but it's not as large or as vivid as bigger-screened alternatives. Despite this, the Rhyme's screen is responsive and its size is large enough to comfortably type on the touch-screen keyboard with little complaint.
HTC Rhyme: Software and performance
The HTC Rhyme runs the Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' operating system, but its HTC's Sense UI overlay that's of more interest. The latest version is Sense 3.5 and once again HTC has added some minor features. These include an updated clock widget on the home screen, a preview widget that lets you view your most recent e-mails, photos, messages and apps, and 12 new wallpapers.
HTC mentioned the word "de-clutter" multiple times when it launched the Rhyme and that's what it has attempted to achieve by making some minor changes to the user interface. You can now remove home screens on the Rhyme if you don't use them (there are seven by default), and the new 'shortcuts and clock' widget negates the use of multiple widgets to access commonly used functions. It includes shortcuts for mail, messages, music, camera and the Android Market — you can tap on the right side of widget to see a slide out drawer of the latest activity (a new message or e-mail, for example) or tap in the middle of the widget to launch that particular app. The result is both easy to use and practical and is definitely an improvement over previous iterations of the Sense UI. We think its perfect for first time smartphone buyers.
HTC has added some enhancements to the camera app: you can now snap images with face recognition and burst mode, as well as upload photos to Facebook automatically — this was a feature first introduced in HTC's ChaCha and Salsa Facebook phones. The Rhyme camera includes live effects, so you can see the effect on the screen before the photo is taken, and also includes a panorama feature that stiches three photos together to take wide shots. Photos taken in low-light conditions don't stack up too well in terms of quality and images do have a lot of noise, but for most part the Rhyme is a decent camera phone. It also doubles as a handy 720p HD video recorder.
As it's a Sense 3.5 Android phone, the HTC Rhyme is also the first smartphone that will work with the company's new HTC Sync software. It's now compatible with Mac PCs for the first time and will sync music playlists from iTunes, along with your contacts, calendar, photos, documents, videos and Web browser bookmarks.
Critically, the HTC Rhyme does not seem overwhelmed by the graphically intense Sense UI despite its reasonably modest specifications. The 1GHz processor and 768MB of RAM make this a relatively fast smartphone during day-to-day use, though there was the occasional time where we wish the Rhyme had a bit more speed. The camera app often took a little longer than expected to start-up, and the home screen occasionally stuttered before unlocking. The HTC Rhyme has 4GB of internal memory, along with a microSD card slot for extra storage.
HTC Rhyme: Accessories
Australian models of the HTC Rhyme appealingly include four accessories in the box. The best of these is undoubtedly the docking station with built-in speakers. In addition to charging the phone when it is plugged into power, the HTC Rhyme automatically goes into dock mode as soon as it is placed into the dock. The dock mode displays the time and weather on a large widget and displays shortcuts to play your music and access your phone and calendar — these two shortcuts to be edited if you wish. The built-in speakers won't blow you away in terms of quality, but they are loud enough to fill a small room with sound and the dock also makes for a perfect bedside alarm clock. There is a slight delay when using the on-screen music controls when the phone is docked, and the dock won't synchronising the Rhyme with a PC when it is plugged into the USB port on a computer: it will only charge the phone.
The HTC Rhyme also includes a "Rhyme charm" that attaches to the phone and is designed to dangle out of a handbag, emitting a soft glow when you receive a call or text message. It works well enough, though it only glows on calls and text messages and not e-mails. As it plugs into the Rhyme's headphone jack, you can't use the charm and headphones simultaneously. Other accessories in the box are a pair of "virtually tangle-free" headphones with a flat cord and a leather-style pouch to store the phone in. The headphones are a clear upgrade over regular ones often bundled with smartphones and include in line volume and playback controls.
HTC Rhyme: Battery life
The HTC Rhyme has a 1600mAh battery and that should be enough to ensure it lasts a full day. During our tests, the Rhyme generally lasted a full day provided we didn't excessively use YouTube. Like most Android phones, how long the battery lasts will depend entirely on your usage pattern.