It's obvious that HTC is going right after the ladies with the Rhyme, an Android phone that sports a smooth purple design and comes with a trio of accessories designed to make your life easier. In the box is not only a dock that doubles as an alarm clock, but tangle-free earphones (for working out) and a very unique charm that blinks during incoming calls. But does the Rhyme provide enough reasons to choose it over an iPhone 4S? Read on to find out.
Swathed in a rich purple shade called Plum, the HTC Rhyme adds a splash of much-needed color to an otherwise bland smartphone field. However, while it's not as polarizing as, say, pink, such a bold color choice will likely discourage male shoppers. The phone's rear has a soft-touch finish, which makes for a firm grip. A rear-facing camera rests between an LED flash and a tiny purple speaker slit.
A purple chrome band brandishing the HTC logo wraps across the middle, gently tapers around the front of the phone, and cradles the devices's glossy 3.7-inch screen. A chrome Verizon logo sits above the display, while four capacitive buttons rest below.
The Rhyme has a headphone jack and power button on the top, a volume button on the right, and a microUSB port on the lower-left side hidden beneath an unnecessary port cover that we found difficult to open.
Measuring 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.4 inches and weighing 4.7 ounces, the Rhyme is smaller and lighter than the 5.5-ounce, 5 x 2.6 x 0.4-inch Motorola Droid X2 and even lighter than the iPhone 4S (4.9 ounces), though Apple's device is more compact (4.5 x 2.31 x 0.4 inches). The petite phone was very purse and pocket-friendly.
Display and Audio
Watching video on the Rhyme's glossy 3.7-inch 800 x 480p resolution WVGA super LCD display was a blast. The YouTube trailer of the upcoming The Three Musketeers movie was a feast for the eyes. Milla Jovovich's wardrobe was particularly stunning, especially an eye-catching red and gold frock whose colors danced across the screen as she battled guards decked out in sapphire-blue uniforms.
Despite the phone having only a small slit for a speaker, the Rhyme's audio is clear and loud. We did notice some distortion at higher volumes. Otis Redding's normally husky, soulful voice sounded brassy on "O.T.I.S." as did Jay-Z and Kanye's rap. Synth-heavy songs such as Katy Perry's "E.T." fared no better. Perry's lilting voice congealed with the track into a tinny cacophony. We preferred using the accompanying phone dock, which has a speaker built in.
HTC's multitouch keyboard on the Rhyme offers subtle haptic feedback that felt good against our digits. The keyboard was a little cramped, however, especially in portrait mode. Still, after establishing a decent pace, we were able to compose mostly error-free messages.
Software and Interface
The Rhyme runs Android Gingerbread 2.3 with updated Sense 3.5 software. A large clock sits at the top of the lock screen sandwiched between the Verizon Wireless logo and the date. Icons for Camera, Mail, Message, and Phone sit at the bottom above a large white ring. Users can either drag the ring over one of the icons to launch it or drag it up to unlock the phone.
The rest of Sense is softer and gentler than what we're accustomed to--and we're not complaining. Instead of having a large clock/weather widget monopolizing the top of the display on the main home screen, HTC toned it down and relocated it to the bottom-right corner. Tabs for the Calendar, Camera, Mail, and Messages run down the left side, while the Application and Phone icons occupy the bottom-right and -left corners, respectively. Clicking on the end of each tab reveals the latest activity for each. The Camera tab displayed the last three stills or videos we shot in a small mini-widget, while Calendar showed our appointments and reminders.
One of the other seven home screens features a Google search browser along with an event app that displays all the day's meetings, birthdays, and to-dos. A data usage app is also on this page, so users can keep track of minutes and data usage.
Mini-notifications for mail, Twitter mentions, battery usage, and Wi-Fi are located in the header. Swiping down reveals a updated notification shade that features a Quick Setting tab that allowed us to adjust settings for the mobile network, hotspot, Bluetooth, volume, Task Manager, and My Verizon Mobile.
HTC bundles a few accessories with the Rhyme. The most original is the Charm, a small purple plastic cube attached to a lanyard that alerts you to incoming calls or messages should you have the phone on vibrate or stashed away in your bag. After we plugged the Charm into the headphone jack and tweaked its settings, the little cube would flash momentarily to alert us to every phone call, e-mail, text message, and social networking update.
The metal clip secured the accessory to the top of our bag where we were sure to see it. While a little gimmicky, it was cool to see the Charm light up when we had an update, and the durable lanyard ensured we could access our phone quickly even if it had sunk to the bottom of the bag.
The docking station pulls double duty as an alarm clock and a speaker. After placing the phone into the dock, it took several seconds for the Rhyme to switch to Dock Mode. The Dock Mode interface is comprised of the HTC clock and weather widget, a music library app, as well as apps for Calendar and Photo Frame (a slideshow app). Clicking on the time let us program alarms for various times of the day. Tapping on the weather component launched the weather app, where we checked out the day's weather as well as a four-day forecast.
The Agenda icon allowed us to view add important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries, while Invites allowed us to do the same for meetings. A large icon in the bottom right corner dimmed the screen to about 20 percent, ideal for taking a nap.
The best part of using the docking station was the audio boost. The dock easily filled a small room with its rich, clear audio. However, we didn't like how the Dock mode prevented us from accessing the majority of our apps, and we noticed that the phone became rather warm after extended time in the dock.
The last bundled Rhyme accessory is a set of purple in-ear headphones that have long, tangle-free cords. Large buttons located halfway down the cord allowed us to easily pause and play tracks as well as control the volume. The earbuds also created a nice stable seal, which minimized ambient noise. Audio was loud with a passable amount of bass.
Verizon's trio of proprietary apps is included in the Rhyme's app bundle: the Bing-powered VZ Navigator, VCAST Music, and VCAST videos. It should be noted that it took upwards of 5 seconds for the apps to load, especially VZ Navigator.
A widget for the deeply engaging workout app Endomondo occupies one of the home screens. Using Endomondo, we were able to track how many kilometers we ran as well as calories burned while listening to music. It even has an audio coach, which gave us some additional motivation.
Scrolling to the left of the main home screen displays the FriendStream widget, which aggregates social media updates for Facebook and Twitter. Another screen displays a shortcut to HTC Watch. This app lets you rent movies such as Salt, The Social Network, and True Grit for $3.99 or purchase them for $14.99.
Third-party software includes Amazon Kindle and Scan, which came in handy for scanning QR codes. We also liked how it would list the best offer for products we scanned with barcodes, complete with web offers, stores, and user comments. Polaris Office allowed us to view and edit Word documents and spreadsheets we uploaded to the SD card.
Inside the Rhyme is a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655 CPU with 768MB of RAM and a 2GB SD card. The phone's performance proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. While navigation between home screens was quick and seamless, certain apps took multiple seconds to launch.
The Rhyme scored 2,220 on the CPU portion on the Benchmark app, handily beating the 931 Android average. The Revolution's 1-GHz Snapdragon MSM8255 CPU scored a slightly lower 2,211, while the 1-GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor-powered Droid X2 blew the competition away with 2,663.
The Rhyme didn't fare as well during the graphics test, scoring a measly 3,900 on An3DBench, nearly half the 6,266 average. The Droid X2 scored 7,416, while the LG Revolution notched an impressive 7,650.
Web Browsing and 3G
Despite the lack of 4G LTE, the Rhyme was able to load mobile websites fairly quickly. It took the handset only 5.4 seconds to load the mobile version of The New York Times. ESPN's mobile site took a slightly longer 6.4 seconds to load, but the desktop version of Laptopmag.com took 34.3 seconds.
The Rhyme only averaged 2 Mbps downloads and 0.9 Mbps uploads, compared to the Revolution's 9.1 Mbps/3.5 Mbps and the Droid X2's 16.6 Mbps/5.3 Mbps throughput. Nevertheless, those are pretty good numbers for a 3G device.
For an additional $20, users can enable the device's mobile hotspot feature to connect up to five devices. During our testing we were able to connect two laptops, a PlayStation 3, and an MP3 player. However, the connection often faded in and out, and web surfing was painfully slow.
Camera and Camcorder
Photos we took with the Rhyme's 5-megapixel camera were bright with luminous color and sharp detail. The Union Square Farmer's Market was a bevy of deep crimsons, ochres, oranges, and violets. We were able to distinguish nearly every petal on a set of potted plants, as well as lettering on nearby signs. However, the autofocus takes a few seconds to kick in, which resulted in some blurry photos. We were soon able to remedy the problem by using the Action Burst scene in the camera settings.
Speaking of which, we really enjoyed playing with the various camera scenes. The Rhyme includes the aforementioned Action Burst, plus Portrait, Landscape, and Panorama. The Backlight HDR came in handy for dealing low lighting.
The Rhyme's camera can capture 720p video; footage of New York City looked smooth with crisp details, including the ads on top of the yellow cabs whizzing by. The camera had a brief problem adjusting to the light when we directed it skyward: The image briefly turned white before the Rhyme refocused on the skyscrapers.
Using the VGA front-facing camera on Google Talk wasn't as smooth, however. Over both 3G and Wi-Fi, we experienced blocky images and jagged movements, as did our caller. Audio faded in and out, and it froze on a few occasions.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The Rhyme held its own on the busy streets of New York. A few callers made mention of background noise, but said they could still hear us loud and clear. We heard loud and clear audio on our end for the most part, but the device was no match for a windy NYC street. We were forced to ask our caller to hold on until we could get to a less windswept location to continue the conversation.
The HTC Rhyme lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes over 3G during our battery test (web surfing at 40-percent brightness), which is slightly below the 5:30 average. However, it's roughly comparable the Droid X2's estimated 5:20 endurance.
Despite the transparent marketing ploy to target women, the HTC Rhyme is a enjoyable device. It's an attractive phone with an intuitive user interface and a sharp camera. The inclusion of the speaker dock, headphones, and Charm give the phone additional functionality, but $199 is a lot to pay for an Android phone that doesn't offer a dual-core processor or 4G data. It's not nearly as attractive or compact, but the $199 LG Revolution offers 4G LTE speeds and a larger 4.3-inch display. And the $199 iPhone 4S has a faster dual-core processor along with a more advanced camera. Nevertheless, fashion-conscious consumers will find more than one reason to pick up the Rhyme.