The Rezound comes with Android 2.3.4 installed, but you probably won't notice it since it's buried underneath the thick skin of HTC Sense 3.5
, the latest version of the OEM's proprietary UI. This is only the second device in the US to offer it, with the HTC Rhyme
as its predecessor. 'Course, despite the fact that these two phones are running on the same version of Sense, they don't really look that much alike. The Rezound exhibits more of the traditional interface elements, electing to revert back to the same bar at the bottom which gives you the non-customizable choices of app menu, phone app and personalization options (which, by the way, is a perfectly good waste of space when considering you can access this panel by long-pressing the screen or simply tapping on the menu button), rather than the Rhyme's two small icons hiding in its bottom corners. The signature clock is also back by default -- after all, who wouldn't miss the HTC clock if it was banished?
There aren't a whole lot of drool-inducing enhancements in Sense 3.5 that would make you want to go out and root your old phone just to get it. For one, you can get rid of home screen panels now, which is nice if you're anti-clutter; the slow-motion video capture mode mentioned above is also exclusive to 3.5. And lest we forget, HTC and Dropbox have struck a deal
which offers 5GB of free cloud storage on the service (by the way, that's 5GB total
, not additional to the 2GB that's already included) to any device using the latest version of Sense. Aside from this, any real changes are so minor they aren't worth covering in any extreme detail here.
Of course, it wouldn't be a complete review of the device's software without making mention of the pre-installed apps on the Rezound. Being a Verizon-branded handset, it probably won't take too much guessing for you to figure out how much is on here -- it's saturated
with it. Unlike the Rhyme, Big Red left its proprietary tab at the bottom of the app tray to highlight its vast collection of bloatware. Don't worry, you can still find every last one in the main tab just in case.
So what's on the list this go-round? Among others, we'll start off with Blockbuster, Mobile IM, VCAST music and video, My Verizon Mobile, Polaris Office, Slacker and VZ Navigator (someday carriers will acknowledge the presence of Google Maps and Navigation). Throw in a bunch of games and other programs meant to showcase the phone's high-end dual-core CPU with the HD display, like NFS: Hot Pursuit
and Let's Golf 2
, and the recipe of crapware perfection's complete. And we know you're curious about how many of these glorious space-suckers are uninstallable: none of them. Not a single one. Zilch. Oh, and it gets better -- unlike TouchWiz 4.0, the Sense UI doesn't have any ability to store these eyesores into folders, nor can it even filter them into categories for easier organization. You're stuck with 'em through thick and thin. The only alternative is to use the frequent tab in the app tray to filter down to only those apps you use often. When it comes to bloatware, Verizon's the worst offender, and it appears that it's not getting any better.
Also, here's a breath of fresh air that we didn't see with the AT&T LTE-enabled phones
: a homegrown option to turn the 4G service off if you'd rather have better battery life than faster downloads. It's still buried in the settings menu (under Wireless & Networks < Mobile Networks < Network mode), so you'll want to hunt down a handy widget in the Android Market if you'd prefer to have a faster access point.
It's also important to note that while the Rezound currently sports Android 2.3.4, HTC decreed that it's destined and ready to receive an upgrade to Android 4.0
-- also known as Ice Cream Sandwich -- as soon as possible. Chances are that we won't see it happen until sometime early next year, but we understand very well how nerve-wracking it can be to purchase a phone with an uncertain future, not knowing if or when the latest and greatest firmware updates will roll out.
Performance and battery life
The Rezound has a beast rumbling inside it -- namely, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8660
(Snapdragon S3) CPU with an accompanying Adreno 220 GPU
. This is a splendorous slab of silicon hiding somewhere within that 14mm of thickness, and it shows in the phone's performance. We found the high-end processor to be more than capable of handling our multitude of various simultaneous tasks, and made Sense rather smooth. We never experienced any lags or crashes due to the phone not being able to handle our usual smattering of multitask demands. Here's how the benchmarks turned out:
The Rezound didn't fare so well against the Droid RAZR, but it soundly defeated the HTC Vivid, its AT&T rival. That said, it's difficult to get an accurate comparison in these benchmarks due to its HD display -- and phones that run the heavy Sense skin certainly don't bode well when going to battle with TouchWiz and Moto's not-Blur interface. Regardless, it still managed to pull down respectable scores in virtually every benchmark.
A variety of factors like LTE, HD display, Sense UI and a smaller 1,620mAh power pack all contributed to the phone's subpar battery life. When performing our standard video rundown test, the Rezound ran through looped movies for around four hours and fifteen minutes before shutting off completely, and that was while 4G, WiFi or GPS was turned off. We managed to eke out twelve hours of life when using the device at a moderate pace -- in other words, our usual litany of push email, social networking, taking cameras and videos, and other smallish tasks -- it gave us a battery performance worse than the Droid RAZR, which means you'll definitely need to charge it each night before going to bed. We didn't experience any concerns with call or audio quality, thanks to a strong Verizon network in our local area and the secondary noise-cancelling mic to help filter out unwanted background sounds. We were also able to lock down a solid GPS location in less than five seconds.
We mentioned earlier that the Rezound's the first HTC device in the US to offer integration with Beats Audio
. This fusion is two-fold: first, the music player itself is Beats-enabled, taking advantage of a special sound profile (EQ setting). Second, the Rezound comes included with a set of iBeats
in-ear headphones (a $100 value). We've already covered the Beats Audio integration in exhausting and incredibly scientific detail as part of our review of the HTC Sensation XE
; since the setup on both sides of the pond is the same, our scientifically justified opinion of the Beats Audio integration hasn't changed.
The tailor-made iBeats headphones that come in the box is, hands-down, the fanciest set we've ever seen included with a US handset. Heck, there are plenty of times that carriers won't even throw in a complimentary pair at all. If you're not a gung-ho music enthusiast and just want a good quality pair of earphones to go with your new LTE treasure, this will be more than you ever bargained for. And quite frankly, they end up offering a good overall listening experience -- as long as you're listening to tracks that are thick on the bass and the Beats Audio is enabled, that is. Even then, it's not that much better than our enjoyment of the HTC Vivid music player using a $100 pair of earphones from a competitor. Also, disable the Beats Audio enhancement and listen as your music dramatically becomes much more quiet, the EQ flattening in traumatic fashion. And there's no way to customize the sound profile to fit your own wishes, regardless of whether Beats is enabled or not.
Sure, it's great to see a phone come with a pair of headphones that doesn't look like it was picked up in a bargain bin, but what's the additional cost to the handset here? While the hardware certainly adds value to the overall phone, the software itself isn't expansive enough for our tastes and we want to be able to customize our tunes to fit our own personal preferences rather than be forced to listen to music the way Dr. Dre intended it to be heard.
The Rezound is one of the most well-stocked phones we've ever seen. It's certainly got swagger, since it tops the spec comparison charts in nearly every category and even beats out the iPhone's Retina Display. Speaking of Beats, it has those too -- though hardcore music enthusiasts will likely be disgusted by the lack of customizable options. We enjoyed the Rezound because of the display and the phone's overall performance, but you have to be a fan of Sense -- and tolerate the lackluster battery -- in order to place it above the Galaxy Nexus on the wish list.
There's also one other factor at play. Verizon's debuting its newest LTE phone at a premium cost: $300. Until AT&T started releasing reasonably priced LTE handsets like the Vivid ($200) and the Skyrocket ($250 in stores; $150 online), Big Red did a terrific job at making its high prices sound like the norm. We have to admit -- while the Rezound is packed with all of the specs we could want, three Benjamins is still a tough pill to swallow, no matter how wonderful the device is.