Reading most online device review sites will make you dizzy. It seems reviewers (professional and amateur alike) are chasing the next big phone. They want you to buy the beefiest phone currently available with crazy specs and a crazy price. Truth is that not everyone needs the latest and greatest, especially when it typically costs $800-1000.
I know a bunch of readers purchased the Motorola MotoG 2015 last year when I recommended it and this phone competes in that space. It is a decent mid-range phone for someone that wants a basic smartphone to browse the web, watch videos, listen to music and read the occasional PDF or Amazon book.
And it can be purchased online from HTC unlocked with minimal bloatware.
- 5" 720p display in the front
- 1.1 GHZ quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor
- 1.5 GB of RAM
- 16 GB of internal storage
- Micro-SD card expansion (up to 2TB)
- 8MP camera in back
- 5MP camera on the front
- 2200 mAH battery
If you want a slight spec bump, you can always opt for its bigger brother the Desire 626 which comes with some small and welcome improvements.
Let's get physical
The Desire 530 is a mid-range budget smartphone with a polycarbonate body and has a design reminiscent of previous desire phones. HTC is using a unique "pain splash" on the back they call MicroSplash. Microsplash is said to be unique for each phone and is a way to make the phone look unique and hip.
You can add lanyards since the phone comes with a lanyard loop hole (a grey one is provided in the box).
The power button is orange and nicely textured which means you can identify it with feel only. The plastic volume rockers feel very plastic but are functional and tactile.
The SIM and SDCard slots are behind a plastic flap (on the left hand side) and the flap feels flimsy and I was worried about breaking it. Ultimately being careful, It came off and was put back on without a hitch but you have to be careful.
HTC is known for its impressive sound quality. Although the HTC Desire 530 has 2 speaker grills on the front, the top one is the earpiece (for phone calls) and the bottom is the speaker. This is where I had high expectations. For me, good sound is a signature feature of HTC devices and here I was a bit disappointed. Whether I was playing OGG, MP3, local videos or clips streamed from youtube, the internal built-in speaker sounded very tinny with little bass (even for a smartphone).
The screen has a black border which makes the screen feel bigger than it actually is. I handed the phone to a bunch of friends and colleagues and many of them liked the smaller size of the phone. Many preferred the easy to hold one handed usability of this device compared to the gargantuan monsters being peddled by Samsung and Apple. I'm a big guy with big hands so I prefer a slightly bigger screen on my everyday carry devices. There is an option in the settings that allows you to hide the navigation buttons so you recover some extra space that way.
The screen is 720p and ultimately this isn't necessarily a bad thing. A lower display resolution means you should get better battery life (which is more important to the average user) but don't expect to use this phone with Google Cardboard. Additionally even at full brightness, the colors left a lot to be desired but it isn't any worse than the Motorola MotoG.
The HTC Desire 530 allows you to use the SDCard as flexstorage (aka Adoptable storage) on Android Marshmallow. This means you can add the SDCard capacity to the built in 16 GBs... well... sort of.. kind of.. This is an Android issue. Apps aren't all automatically copied on the SDCard (even if you use a fast one) and there were times when I filled the internal memory and the adoptable storage had GB of free space yet the phone kept giving me out of storage space warnings.My recommendation for all Android devices is to use SDCards as external storage to host large collections of music, movies and pictures.
Having used the HTC Desire 530 as my primary device for a couple of days, I noticed that there was slight lag when browsing a web page, scrolling a home screen with a couple of widgets. Opening apps takes a bit longer than I would hope and the phone slows down a bit with multiple apps are open in the background.
I tried playing a few games and the experience was ok. Strategy and role playing games worked well once loaded but more complex games like car racing either weren't supported or didn't work well.
Using the phone like a typical mid range consumer (some emails, some web browsing, some music with the screen off and a handful of calls) meant the device lasted a full day (8am - 9pm). This is probably the result of the 7209 screen and lower end processor. As long as you don't play too many games, the device should get you through the day. A clear win.
The stock camera app is basic with selfie, normal, panorama, HDR modes and video modes. I could complain that it isn't very customization but most users want to click a button and take a picture. Pictures taken in low light indoors or outdoors come our noisy and grainy. Images taken outside in good light are flat and not very engaging. I'm sure HTC can improve this with some software tweaks.
The phone I am holding in my hands is running Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 with the June 2016 security updates. Security updates make me happy. HTC has layered their SenseUI on top of Android and it will be familiar to anyone that has used an HTC phone in recent years.
SenseUI has the vertical scrolling app drawer, blinkfeed and a relatively clean user interface.
I then loaded my Google tools such as the Google Now Launcher and Google Keyboard.. which is how I prefer to use Android devices. SenseUI isn't bad but nothing is quite as good as vanilla android.
The phone I received had no bloatware... None... Nada... Ziltch... Way to go HTC. This is something that can't be overstated. I love clean phones and love the fact chose this route. They could have made some extra cash by crapping up the phone with garbage apps but they didn't. Thank you HTC!
I asked HTC PR 2 questions:
- Will HTC delivery Android Nougat to the Desire 530? If so when?
"We have not made any announcement re Nougat to HTC Desire 530."
- What is HTC's commitment to delivering Android Security Updates?
"We are aligning resources around our most popular products where the most customers will benefit, and the roll-out may vary by regions and operators."
So what is my overall verdict? I think this is a decent phone for the price ($US179 or $CAD199). I know many people that have smartphones without any additional apps installed and that are looking for something affordable and usable. The HTC Desire 530 is a decent option for these people.
A second market could be travelers that want a second unlocked phone that can be used with a local SIM at the destination.
My other gripe is that we don't know if the Desire 530 will receive Android N (Nougat) or how regularly it will receive security updates. Security updates are more critical for me than an upgrade to Nougat.