The HTC Amaze 4G can be quickly described as a shutterbug's phone, since it packs in an 8 megapixel camera (with advanced features) and 1080p video capture, plus a dual LED flash. It also has all of the features you'd expect to find in a modern Android smarphone, including a 1.5 GHz processor, Wi-Fi and 4G wireless, Bluetooth, and even NFC compatibility for wireless payment and social media check-in functionality when available.
It's currently available from T-Mobile for $260 with a new two-year service contract and a $50 mail-in rebate.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Amaze is a little more stylish than some of the other phones I've reviewed recently, being white with brushed silver accents. The front of the phone is dominated by the display of course, but there's a band of silver on the back, embossed with the HTC logo, that also wraps around the sides of the phone. If white's not your thing, it's also available in black.
It fits nicely in the hand, being a bit narrower than some of its recent competitors, but it is somewhat thicker and heavier. If you're concerned most about having the thinnest or lightest phone, the Amaze isn't the one for you, and you should look elsewhere. It's also a bit slippery too, since the back is so smooth there's really nothing for your fingers to catch on when holding the phone.
I happen to like the form factor, since I don't mind a little extra thickness and prefer a slightly smaller display to decrease the overall width of the device. It seems odd to say that a screen this size is "slightly smaller", but that's the truth in high-end models these days. And I would definitely want a case or a silicone skin to make it a little easier to hold on to.
The display is a 4.3-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 960 x 540. It's extremely clear and sharp, and bright enough to see clearly even if you're outside on a sunny day. The display is capable of blinding brightness, in fact, so you might want to turn down the brightness a bit to make it more comfortable to use when you're indoors.
There's no physical keyboard, so you'll be typing on screen. It works just fine, though you likely won't want to tap out that novel you've been working on for the last decade.
Other Buttons & Controls
The power button and headphone jack are on the top edge of the Amaze, while the volume up/down button is on the right side, along with two small buttons that start a video recording or capture a photo when pressed. That's a really nice feature, and much faster than starting the camera app as usual.
On the left side you'll find the charge/sync port, which is not the standard micro-USB connector that you may be used to. I found it frustrating to deal with a non-standard port; I had to carry along the proprietary charging cable instead of using any of my third party solutions.
The HTC Amaze 4G is a snappy little device, scoring a 2451 on the Quadrant benchmark test. It's not the fastest phone I've ever used, but I never had to wait too long for an app to start or experienced any major slowdowns. The camera app in particular starts up very quickly, which is a welcome change from what I usually see on some of the phones that I've reviewed.
On the other side of the coin, this device gets unusually hot when you're using it. This is not just when charging, but during use -- my ear got very warm when talking on the phone every time I used it.
For those of you who like to know specifications, this handset runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) on a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with a generous 1GB of RAM.
I've gotten good results on the speed tests I've performed on the Amaze, with download speeds ranging from 4.48 to 9.88 Mbps, uploads from 237 to 916 kbps, and pings from 46 to 143 ms. Coverage has been something of a concern, with great service around my home and little to no coverage at work.
Unlike most of the other phones I've reviewed, the Amaze is unable to make or receive calls when I'm in my office, which is quite a disappointment. No phone works perfectly inside my building, but most of them work at least some of the time.
The Amaze also caused some weird interference issues with my laptop; put it on the desk too close to my computer and I'll get some strange clicking noises from the speakers. That has happened with a few other phones, but only rarely; it happens every time with the Amaze and is rather annoying.
Call quality is good, but not spectacular; I could hear and be understood. And although I have no complaints about my side of the conversation, my test callers said that it was obvious that I was on a cell phone. There weren't any major background noise issues, but they said that I didn't truly sound like myself -- and I'm not coming down with a cold or suffering from any allergy issues at the moment.
The email and web experiences are exactly what you would expect them to be -- nothing special here, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Email and web pages load promptly, with no major issues. This is because the default Android browser and email app are also good, but not spectacular.
All of the standard Androind PIM apps are here, including Calendar, Contacts, Calculator, Clock, etc. Polaris Office seems to be the new standard for Microsoft Office-compatible apps, and it's here to provide compatibility with common office document types like Microsoft Word and Excel. There's also a handy voice recorder if you like to dictate quick reminders to yourself.
HTC Friend Stream is included, and it's a great way to keep up with all of your family and friends since it combines all of your social networking info into one consolidated stream of information. The official standalone Facebook app also comes pre-installed if you'd rather use it for your social networking needs.
Navigational duties are handled by Google Maps or TeleNav GPS Navigator. The one you use will be based entirely on your personal preference, of course; neither of them will get you lost.
The Amaze comes with a lot of pre-loaded apps, everything from carrier-specific services like T-Mobile TV HD and T-Mobile Name ID to an FM Radio app, Slacker music, 411 information app, and a marble tilt game called Teeter. There's a good selection of things here, and of course there's plenty more on the Android Market so that you can customize your experience.
The camera takes really nice photos, and there are plenty of advanced settings to explore, including ten different scene selections, macro mode, smile capture, blink detection, and the like. Among its more cutting-edge features is SmartShot, which will take 5 photos and compile the best parts to create a single image. Users will also be able to create panoramas, and this phone will even be able to judge the best images in a group and highlight them.
It constantly auto-focuses so that you can capture photos quickly, without shutter lag. The zoom is controlled by the volume buttons, a feature I'm always glad to encounter since I don't like tapping on the screen to zoom.
I wouldn't consider the Amaze the only camera you might need, but unless you're a rabid shutterbug who considers a dSLR a daily necessity, the Amaze comes very close to that ideal. It's great for everyday use and vacations, and is plenty good for everything except perhaps those once-in-a-lifetime moments like weddings.
I was slightly disappointed in this category; I was never able to get through two full days of using the Amaze, and there were a couple of times when it died on the way home from work. This is a phone you'll definitely want to charge every night, and you'll have to bring the charging cable along too since the charging port uses a proprietary connection, not micro-USB.
I like the HTC Amaze 4G because it's a little different from the sea of "me too" smartphones competing among each other to be the fastest, the thinnest, the one with the largest screen.
It's a capable device, but the only real feature that sets it apart is the superior camera. It's the perfect phone for shutterbugs, but perhaps not for those looking for the absolute latest bleeding-edge smartphone. Its marginal performance making voice calls is a bit of a disappointment.
If you're more interested in taking photos of your daily adventures and sharing them with your friends than in showing off your phone, the Amaze could be a good choice for you.