It was only four months ago that T-Mobile and HTC released the MyTouch 4G Slide, touting the Android handset as having the most advanced camera of any smartphone, but it appears the Slide's reign was shortlived. Now, the new HTC Amaze 4G holds that claim to fame, bringing some new tricks to help create and highlight the best images. On top of that, the Gingerbread-based phone boasts a dual-core processor, a gorgeous Super LCD touch screen, and impressive data speeds. All of this makes the Amaze 4G one of T-Mobile's best Android smartphones, but it comes at a cost. The HTC Amaze 4G is priced at $259.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. Is it worth it?
Weighing in at 6.1 ounces and measuring 5.12 inches tall by 2.58 inches wide by 0.46 inch thick, the HTC Amaze 4G is a good chunk of hardware. In fact, the first thing we noticed when we picked up the device was its weight. It's one of the heftier handsets we've seen in a while, but as with most things, we got used to it with time. Plus, with its metal construction and soft-touch finishes, the Amaze is definitely one sturdy handset.
The second thing we noticed is the Amaze 4G's display. The 4.3-inch qHD (960x540-pixel resolution) Super LCD touch screen is quite eye-catching. Text and images looked crisp and sharp on the bright screen. The screen's large size also makes it great for viewing Web pages and video. The Samsung Galaxy S II's Super AMOLED Plus display shows off more saturated colors and has slightly better contrast, but we were still very happy with the Amaze's display. The touch screen was responsive and features a built-in accelerometer, pinch-to-zoom support, and a proximity sensor. Note that it only comes preloaded with HTC's virtual keyboard, but it does offer Swype-like functionality (HTC calls it Trace) so you can drag your finger from key to key for quicker input.
Below the screen, you get your usual Android controls: home, menu, back, and search. On top, you'll find a power/lock button, while the Micro-USB port is located on the left spine. The right side features a volume rocker, a camera button, and a dedicated video button. Holding down the video button activates the camera in video mode. You can also launch the camera right from the lock screen by either doing a long press on the camera button or dragging the camera shortcut to the center ring (see the user interface section below for more). In addition to the 8-megapixel camera and dual-LED flash on back, there is a front-facing 2-megapixel camera just above the display in the upper right-hand corner.
The HTC Amaze 4G comes packaged with just the basics: an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.
The HTC Amaze ships with the Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread operating system and the HTC Sense 3.0 user interface. First appearing on the HTC Sensation 4G, the latest version of Sense offers a number of enhancements, many of which can be found on the lock screen. Aside from a display of the date, time, and other vital statistics, you now get shortcuts to four of your favorite applications. By default, the shortcuts are set to phone, mail, camera, and messages, but you can change them in the phone's Personalize menu. To open a specific app, you can simply drag the icon to the ring at the bottom of the screen, instead of having to unlock the phone first.
In addition to the shortcuts, HTC wanted the lock screen to showcase more user content, so now you can personalize the screen with your photo gallery, friend stream, favorite stocks, or weather. The content then floats by or flies by (depending on which option you choose) onscreen.
Once you unlock the phone, you'll find even more improvements. For example, the home screen features a 3D carousel so you can more quickly flip through the seven home screens, rather than swiping through each panel. (Of course, you can also use the Leap screen function.) The pull-down notification tray has a second tab called Quick Settings where you can manage your wireless connections and access other settings. The mail app and widget now give you a preview of each message, and the photo gallery widget features a flip-board effect.
It would be nice if there were the capability to remove some of the home screen panels as on the HTC Rhyme, but it's not a big deal.
The HTC Amaze 4G's 8-megapixel camera offers many of the same features as the MyTouch 4G Slide's camera, and adds several new tricks. This includes a new shooting mode called SmartShot, which takes a series of pictures and combines elements of each in an effort to create that perfect picture of everyone smiling. So for example, if one person's eyes are closed in one shot but open in another and another person is smiling in the first shot and only half-smiling in the next, the final image should show one of everyone showing their pearly whites with open eyes.
Also new is the Perfect Pics gallery feature that takes the top 10 percent most technically correct photos from your camera roll and automatically combines them in a separate album. A photo that meets a number of predefined parameters (such as for lighting levels, colors, and contrast) is considered to be Perfect Pics material, though you can manually add photos to and remove them from the Perfect Pics gallery as well. You can share these photos or view them in a slide show, as you would with any other image in your photo gallery.
In addition to these new capabilities, the camera continues to offer a backside-illuminated sensor (BSI) for better low-light performance, and ClearShot HDR, SweepShot (panoramic), and Burst shooting modes--all of which were introduced on the MyTouch 4G Slide.