HTC Rhyme Review (Verizon) – Is it the Go-To Phone for Women?

Ordinarily when it comes to smartphone reviews, we break the phone’s hardware and software down into sections like display, performance, etc. But the new HTC Rhyme is not your typical smartphone. While it’s not the first phone to ever be designed for women, it’s the first phone designed for women that takes its job seriously. In the past, many companies have tried luring women in by painting phones pink, adding Swarovski crystals, or even throwing on Hello Kitty. And hey, we aren’t hating on Miss Kitty, or pink phones – after all, there are plenty of girls that appreciate those qualities in a phone. But designing a phone for women is about so much more and the HTC Rhyme recognizes that. Actually, HTC isn’t coming right out and saying that the Rhyme is designed for women, but with its plum color and emphasis on accessories, it’s obvious that the phone was designed with a female’s sensibilities in mind.

Personally, I’m quite smitten with the HTC Rhyme’s form-factor. The device is solid and well made. Measuring 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.4 inches and weighing 4.7 ounces, it’s also the right size in terms of dimensions and weight. Plus, its rounded edges and soft-touch back make it very comfortable to hold. Interestingly, many people who I have shown the device to have pointed out that it resembles the original Nexus One in design.

As for its display, like baby bear would say – it’s “just right”. We hate to make general statements, but we have observed that many women don’t like displays bigger than 3.7″ because the device becomes unwieldy and often too big for their hands, yet smaller than 3.7″ is too small and creates a cramped display. So 3.7″ with a 480 x 800 resolution really hits the sweet spot. Our biggest disappointment with the HTC Rhyme’s design however is its plum color. Sure, this purple is a classy alternative to pink, and not nearly as loud or as bold as red, but we just wish that they had offered a couple of color choices, since its “duo-tone plum color” isn’t going to work with everyone’s taste. That said, we appreciate that HTC didn’t patronize us by making it pink. Also, in Europe the Rhyme is also available in a second color choice.

The HTC Rhyme is running the 3.5 version of HTC Sense. Love it or hate, we’ve always been fans of HTC Sense and its widgets since it really beautifies the Android experience. HTC has gone ahead and updated their slick HTC Sense U.I. on the Rhyme with a special user interface that features a redesigned flip clock. They have also created new preview tiles for your home screen that quickly flip out so that you can view your most recent messages, calendar appointments and photos etc… This widget screams of the modern day female’s mindset. We’re busy, constantly on the go, and most of the time we don’t have patience for tinkering, so we appreciate the convenience of being able to quickly glance at what’s important to us while we’re out and about.

HTC has also preloaded the device with 12 beautiful wallpapers that they commissioned a female photographer to do. These photos wont exactly blow you away, but they compliment the design and color of the phone well and are a nice change of pace from the cold wallpapers you usually find preloaded on smartphones.

Women are all about accessorizing, which is why we think that the iPhone is so popular with women – because of the plethora of accessories available for it. With all of the unique accessories that HTC has developed for the Rhyme, it’s clear that HTC understands how much women appreciate these sorts of things. To that effect, unlike most smartphones which usually come with just a drab pair of headphones, and maybe an ugly case – if you’re lucky, the HTC Rhyme comes with special and very unique accessories. The first is the Light-Up Charm. This device is basically a lanyard with a small cube attached to the end of it. The cube emits a soft glow to alert you of incoming messages, calls, or social networking updates. The concept is not all that dissimilar to the message notification light found on the BlackBerry, and is something that is sorely missed on many Android phones. But the Charm accessory takes the concept and reinvents it into something more fun. The Charm’s lanyard is long enough that you could have your Rhyme connected to it and resting at the bottom of your bag, while the Cube is perched outside the bag, ready to alert you of notifications. This is hardly a must-have accessory, but it’s certainly a neat one. Our only gripe with it is that once you have plugged in the Charm, you can’t plug in headphones because the 3.5mm jack is occupied.

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HTC has also included a matching plum colored pair of in-ear headphones that sport a tangle-free design, along with control buttons on the chord. These headphones are much nicer looking than the standard pair of earbuds you get with most phones. We also can’t help but wonder if the Beats by Dr. Dre partnership with HTC is what inspired the design for these headphones since Beats by Dr. Dre are the ones that originally introduced the flat tangle-free cable design.

Ordinarily an accessory like this would cost you extra, but a special docking station is also included with the Rhyme. This compact docking station helps transform the Rhyme into a serious alarm clock. It also doubles as a charger for the Rhyme, and comes packed with a built-in speaker. Once you have docked the Rhyme into the Dock, the device will switch into Dock Mode which consists of a clock and weather widget. The speaker itself is pretty powerful. It’s not replacement for a serious audio dock, but it’s very nice to have around and is compact enough to travel with. HTC will also be offering cases, a bluetooth headset, sports armband, and a clip-on wireless speakerphone designed to use in the car.

The camera on the Rhyme is pretty good, but not great. Its quick to load up, and its face detection works well. It also comes preloaded with some neat special effects. The device sports a 5MP camera with autofocus and an LED flash and it’s able to record 720P video.  The 5MP camera produces pretty sharp photos with good color reproduction. However, photos taken indoors tend to come out grainy, and often blurry with colors coming out inaccurate. We’ve also had some issues taking photos outdoors, where the camera made the photos come out darker than they should have been. Unfortunately, Rhyme lacks a dedicated camera button which seems like a bit of an oversight for a phone designed with a woman’s sensibilities in mind. The Rhyme also has a front-facing camera for video calls.

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Under the hood, the Rhyme is running on a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655 CPU and 768MB of RAM. Overall, performance is generally good and the device is enjoyable to use. The phone earned a a respectable score of 1440 on Quadrant which indicates good, but hardly blazing fast performance.

Unfortunately, the HTC Rhyme is not a 4G device. But browsing with 3G speeds on Verizon’s network is acceptable and sites tend to load pretty quickly. That said, we’re more disappointed by the call quality experience we experienced on the Rhyme, but we suspect that this is Verizon’s fault and not the RHYME’s fault. We tested the device in both San Diego and New York City. Callers sounded broken up, full of static, and far away, and they said the same of us. Is the phone acceptable for making calls? Yes, but it should be better.

Some of the non-standard apps that come preloaded on the Rhyme include a mobile hotspot, Polaris Office, Quadrant Standard, a QR code scanning app, V CAST Music and Videos and VZ Navigator, Endo-Mondo – a motivational workout app which can track how many calories you have burned, and Amazon Kindle. Unfortunately, with the acceptation of Google Talk, there is are no preloaded instant messaging apps.

We are a bit disappointed by the Rhyme’s call quality, that it’s not a 4G device, and that the battery life could be better.  But after spending some time with the HTC Rhyme, it’s clear that HTC really spent time considering how women interact with their smartphones.  Although it’s not the fastest, nor the most cutting edge smartphone out there, the Rhyme is currently my favorite Android smartphone on the market. Its great form-factor, plus neat widgets, solid social media integration, along with its fun accessories, all resonate well with me – more so than so many of the other Android phones out there that are starting to all look and act the same. HTC is describing the Rhyme as stylish, essential and intuitive, and it hits the mark on all three. The HTC Rhyme is available from Verizon Wireless for $199 with a 2 year contract.

The Good: Excellent form-factor, fun and unique accessories included in the box – plus more available, HTC Sense widgets enhances the Android experience

The Bad: Call quality issues, device tends to heat up in use, not a 4G device, a bit pricey for it specs, battery life could be better

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