On the other hand, the Freestyle is so chock-full of third-party apps that it borders on bloatware. Sure, options like AT&T Navigator and Vlingo's Voice App (both require an extra fee) are useful, but apps for eBay, AllSport GPS, and Where seem a little ridiculous on a phone of this caliber. You also get FunScreenz (crazy wallpapers), WikiMobile, AT&T FamilyMap, Mobile Yellow Pages, demo versions of Ms. Pac-Man and Deer Hunter (the game, not the movie), and City ID (for showing the city and state of callers' phone numbers). On the upside, you can manage and organize your apps with the include App Manager.
The 3-megapixel camera takes photos in five resolutions, and you can choose form three quality settings. Other editing features include brightness and white balance, spot metering, HTC's flicker adjustment, three color effects, a digital an adjustable contrast tool, and a self-timer. The camera interface is user-friendly, and we like how the settings menu overlays the viewfinder rather than blocking it completely.
The camcorder shoots clips with sound in three resolutions, including MPEG4. You also can choose from a set of editing options similar to the still camera. Camera performance is relatively decent with natural colors little image noise.
For other media the Freestyle supports AT&T's Mobile Video service, which offers tons of streaming-video content, and AT&T Music, which brings wireless song downloads through a variety of partners. AT&T also added its own AT&T Radio app, a music videos channel, and a dedicated portal for MobiTV.
The Freestyle offers a full HTML browser. The display's resolution doesn't quite do it justice, but it is a nice option to have. There's enough room to maneuver and you can save a list of bookmarks. On the downside, the interface was a tad temperamental at times, and here again you have to switch the orientation manually. The 3G data speeds are fine, but nothing spectacular.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSDPA/UMTS 850/1900) HTC Freestyle world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was serviceable by most accounts. We had enough volume, but we encountered a couple of problems with audio clarity. There was some static at times, and the audio cut out briefly on a couple of occasions. In fact we needed to record the below voice sample twice. AT&T's network remains relatively strong in most of our testing area, though it did peter out inside large buildings and underground.
HTC Freestyle call quality sample Listen now:
On the opposite end of the line, callers were mostly pleased as well. They could tell that we were using a cell phone, and a few mentioned a lot of background noise, but complaints were minimal. The phone does appear to have a sensitive sweep spot, though. We had to speak directly into the microphone if we wanted to be heard. Speakerphone calls weren't great, unfortunately. The audio on our end was distorted--everybody sounded like robot--and there was a distinct background hum.
The Freestyle has a rated battery life of 6.4 hours talk time and 16.2 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 6 hours and 19 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Freestyle has a digital SAR of 1.15 watts per kilogram.
With its touch screen and Android-like interface, the Freestyle is an unusual phone. We get what HTC was trying to do here--offer elements of a smartphone without the high price--and for the right user, it's a good buy at just $99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. We'd prefer a couple more features at least, but it's still an easy-to-use and functional phone that makes good calls.