The HTC Explorer is an affordable, small-format Android smartphone that's clearly designed to appeal to people on a budget. At £150 (inc. VAT) the price is certainly attractive, and yet it's enough to expect a modicum of quality. HTC's name helps here too — the company is, after all, known for some of the best smartphones on the market, and it would hardly sully that by producing poor-quality budget fare?
Initial impressions are good, with a pretty solid build and a rubberised finish to the backplate that helps with grip and looks distinctive. Four touch-sensitive buttons on the front cater for Android's Home, Back, Menu and Search functions.
The handset has neat, rounded edges, and the only slightly negative point is that, at 12.9mm it's a little thick. Overall though, measuring 102.8mm by 57.2mm by 12.9mm and weighing 108g it's a good fit for small hands and pockets.
The screen is, of course, very small in this chassis. At 3.2in. it's not really large enough for comfortable web browsing, and if you like watching video on a handset then you might need a bigger screen.
Users of mobile email, Twitter or other text-based services will need small fingers to successfully type on the on-screen keyboard, even in landscape mode. Still, the 320-by-240-pixel resolution means everything looks sharp and clear, and the screen is very bright. It does have a tendency to blur a little as you sweep through screens or menus.
Android 2.3 is accompanied by HTC Sense 3.5. There is only a 600MHz processor on board, and that means no support for Flash, so you won't be able to view video embedded in some web sites.
HTC's web site says there's up to 90MB of available storage, but checking our review sample we found there was 116MB fee. Still, you'll soon need a microSD card to add more storage. The slot is under the backplate, which has a wraparound design so that it forms a sort of nest that includes the edges of the chassis, into which the screen section slots. It's a bit tricky to get the backplate off, and even harder to get it back on. We had to apply a fair amount of brute force to replace it once removed, and its symmetry means you have to take care to force it on the right way up or risk damaging the button connectors.
Connectivity is perfectly acceptable with 7.2Mbps-down mobile broadband, GPRS, EDGE and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The camera is an area where corners have been cut, with just 3-megapixel resolution and no flash. Battery life might be an issue, too: the Explorer has a relatively low capacity 1,230mAh battery providing, says, HTC, up to 460 minutes of talk and 485 minutes on standby.