A mixed bag of tricks, the HTC Explorer is as capable of seeming a great buy as it is of making you wish you had plumped for the next model up. Saved many times by its seamless Google OS innards, the HTC handset is little more than the standard Android smartphone fair, but in truth this is not always a bad thing.

We liked

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A strong, sturdy construction acts as a solid base for this entry-level handset. The rubberised rear, although sure to split opinion, proves a wise move on HTC's part that not only offers reassurance in the hand and protection against knocks and bumps, but helps distinguish the phone from the raft of stoic smooth plastic-backed rivals.

Add to this an Android 2.3 and Sense 3.5 UI partnership that creates a hugely intuitive and pleasant to use interface and you have a winning combination that supplies everything a first time smartphone owner needs, and nothing more.

We disliked

Far from the perfect all round package, the handset's 3.2-inch display leaves a lot to be desired, with the cramped confines further diminishing the digital keyboard that will quickly become any HTC Explorer user's ultimate bugbear, with accidental presses an unavoidable annoyance.

Add to this a camera that fails to impress on any front and does everything possible not to inspire continued use and you have an overall package that can be as infuriating as it is impressive, and which will continue to niggle away at your patience through continued use.

Final verdict

In true budget handset fashion, the compact HTC Explorer sees a selection of strong price-point pushing features depleted by an equally numerous selection of bugs and niggles that detract from the good points.

Appeasing the wallet at less than £100/$140 on a PAYG basis, there is only so much that can be forgiven with a low price, and the HTC Explorer repeatedly plays fast and loose with this boundary, only just managing to come out with an overall positive appeal.