HTC Amaze 4G: Can it compete against other top Androids? [Video]
The Amaze 4G, HTC's latest flagship Android smartphone, picks up where the HTC Sensation left off and in the process takes a few steps forward and a couple steps back.
The Amaze, available on T-Mobile, carries over the 4.3-inch touchscreen seen on the Sensation and Sensation XE. But a number of specs have been bumped up in the Amaze, taking what the Sensation 4G did right and offering a snappier, more responsive experience overall.
The Sensation offered 768 megabytes of RAM; the Amaze has a healthy 1 gigabyte of RAM.
The Sensation had a VGA-quality camera on the front; the Amaze has an awesome 2-megapixel camera up front for video chats. Both offer fantastic 8-megapixel cameras on the back of the handsets, with dual LED flashes, each capable of shooting video in 1080p high definition.
The Sensation had a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor and the Amaze has a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor. Both the Sensation and the Amaze run on T-Mobile's 4G network.
In my testing and daily use of the phone, this combination of improved hardware and 4G speeds did result in faster-loading web pages, quicker-loading apps and emails being sent and received. The Amaze does feel faster than many phones. Not quite Galaxy S II or Droid Bionic fast, but faster than previous HTC phones I've tested.
The Amaze also gains the the fantastic camera features first found in the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide (built by HTC), such as a night shooting mode, action mode for photographing fast-moving objects, a ClearShot HDR mode for pictures taken in bright daytime environments without blowing out lighter colors, a macro mode for snapping detailed images at very close range, and a SweepShot which allows for easily snapping panorama shots.
The Amaze also uses premium-feeling materials on the Amaze, as it did on the Sensation. The rear cover of the phone features an aluminum chassis that houses a plastic coated in a material that reminded me of a matte ceramic in both look and touch. It wasn't quite something I had seen on any smartphone before and while it wasn't grippy per se, it wasn't slick either and made the phone quite pleasant to hold.
All of this fits in with HTC's formula of incremental spec upgrades with each new top-end handset release. And smartphone releases for HTC do come often. It feels sometimes as though HTC is releasing a new smartphone or two just about each month.
But there are a few detracting factors here as well. First off is the price. At $259.99 on a two-year contract, I believe the HTC Amaze is about $60 too expensive.
Many of the specs match or are competitive with those found by other high-end rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S II (also available on T-Mobile), the Motorola Droid Bionic and even the iPhone 4S. However, when many phones the Amaze is lining up against sell at starting prices of about $200, I question why the Amaze costs more.
Granted, $60 is not all that much, and the Bionic launched at a $300 price, the upcoming Droid Razr will do the same as well. Nonetheless, it feels as though phone makers across carriers are doing what they can to up the entry-level price on smartphones and I'm not seeing a lot of new blockbuster features on any of these handsets to justify the price increases we're seeing.
Battery life on the Amaze 4G isn't great. I got a range of about four to five hours with a mix of occasional web, email and app use before I was looking for an outlet. That being said, I haven't seen battery life on any 4G phones from any company on any carrier that I've been satisfied with at this point. For now, taking on a 4G phone means a battery-life trade off.
The Amaze also got a bit thicker and heavier than the Sensation, which might come with the addition of hardware to get it running on HTC's 4G network, but nonetheless the difference is noticeable here as many new phones are continuing to get thinner and lighter.
The Sensation was 0.44 of an inch thick and weighed 5.22 ounces. The Amaze is 0.46 of an inch thick and weighs 6.1 ounces.
There's also HTC Sense -- HTC's user interface skin overlaying Google's Android Gingerbread operating system. HTC Sense is still one of the nicer third-party skins out there. But with the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system on the way from Google, and the improved Gingerbread UI skin seen on the Samsung Galaxy S II, the HTC Sense on the Amaze left me wondering how HTC will improve on what they've already got.
Simply put, HTC Sense isn't as far ahead of competitors as it once was. Yes, the user experience is faster on the Amaze than it was on the Sensation, so many previous HTC phones (I'm looking at you HTC Hero circa 2009) and tablets. With the software experience feeling the same and looking the same, HTC Sense is starting to feel a bit old.
The rivals aren't getting any softer either, with Samsung's Galaxy Nexus running Ice Cream Sandwich and the Droid Razr launching sometime next month. In such a crowded field, the Amaze is a solid smartphone that I believe has a hard time standing out in the crowd.
[Updated Oct. 30 1:45 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the HTC Sensation ran on T-Mobile's 3G Network. The Sensation runs primarily on T-Mobile's 4G and uses the carrier's 3G network when 4G service is unavailable.]
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The HTC Amaze 4G smartphone. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times