As a blogger and reviewer, I’ve had the pleasure of testing and reviewing my fair share of new smartphones. Like most people, I tend to get the most excited when a flagship phone lands on my desk, like the LG G3 I covered a while back. But of course, not everyone has the resources or the inclination to spring for a top of the line phone, so I’m also happy to get the opportunity to tell readers about an entry-level device, like the HTC Desire 510.

Admittedly, I’m an Android fan, and I love to get my hands on new devices, most of which I genuinely enjoy playing with and testing. So I set aside the current debates of which of the latest releases are loaded with the best specs, to spend some quality time with a budget phone, and put myself in shoes of a first-time, non-power-user. The Desire 510 is being marketed as an affordable prepaid phone ($9 / month) through Sprint, Virgin, and Boost.

As usual, I took this phone out for a field test in my travels for the last week or so, before writing this piece. Let’s take a look at how it did on the road.

HTC Desire 510: The Basics

The Desire 510 has a form factor which will look familiar to anyone who has used recent HTC releases, such as the HTC One M8 or its younger cousin, the One E8 (which has also recently arrived in my test lab, and which I’ll be reviewing soon).

The front of the phone reveals the same bottom bezel which some people have complained about in other recent HTC phones. I don’t personally feel that it ruins the design, though I know it’s somewhat controversial. The body of the phone itself is polycarbonate with a dull finish. It looks cheaper and less classy than the M8, but the rougher surface gives some added grip traction, which I like.

The phone fits comfortably in the palm of my hand, and the top power button and side volume button are easy to access. The front face houses microphone, earpiece, camera, and light and proximity sensors. There are no off-screen buttons. The standard Android buttons are a part of the 4.7 inch display.

On the rear face are a speaker and the camera lens. The only wired connections available are a 3.5 mm audio jack on the top edge, and a micro USB port on the bottom edge.

Desire-510_01.jpg

 

Visuals: What’s On The Screen

Though I loved this phone when I took it out of the box, my opinion started to slip downward as soon as I powered it on. The display could be called “basic” at best, with FWVGA (854 x 480 resolution). This display is quite outdated and noticeably weak in comparison to qHD displays on the market.

To put this in context, this is the same level of display we saw in the original Motorola Droid, which was released in 2009. It’s intended to be a cheap phone, so I could consider this to be a viable concession to cost-savings. It’s usable, though it’s certainly not going to win any awards.

The Desire 510 comes with HTC Sense as well as Blinkfeed, its portal for news and social media streaming. I’m not a huge fan of either, but these aren’t the focus of my review. Use these if you like them. If not, there are a host of other homescreen replacements and apps to manage your streaming feeds.

I found the interface in general to be rather cluttered. The icons seem big and clunky for the screen. Maybe that’s because the font seems large, perhaps to accommodate the low screen resolution. The homescreen is filled with icons for apps like Spotify and NextRadio, which aren’t actually installed, but are just links to the Play Store where they can be downloaded. The apps drawer has more of these. I’d rather have kept the screen cleaner and more minimalistic.

Desire 510_02

 

One immediate annoyance was that the first notification I received was an ad for a game (actually another link to the PlayStore), which was 3 to 4 times the size of a standard notification.

The camera, while nothing to boast about at 5 MP, actually produced some decent photos. I’ve included a couple that I snapped at the Javits Center in NYC at the Interop NYC conference yesterday that I’m actually rather pleased with. The front-facing “selfie” camera is a wimpy .3 MP, and like the video recorder, it leaves much to be desired.

Desire 510_03

 

Desire 510_04

Running The HTC Desire 510

Call quality was reasonably clear and decent. Wi-Fi calling is available, and the phone easily connected to my home network. So, as a phone, it functions well. But how did it do with more of the stuff we all want smartphones for?

The Desire 510 may be a low-priced phone, but in its belly lies a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. It may be only the Snapdragon 400 at 1.2 GHz, but it’s a quad-core, and the Desire 510 is touted as the cheapest phone with a quad-core processor. And it does its job well.

Despite the extremely low amount of RAM, a mere 512 MB, the Desire 510 has the speed to handle most standard daily tasks. The interface is smooth and never seems to lag. I took the phone on the road with me, and was able to run Google Maps, which tends to be a resource hog, as well as Spotify, which I listened to through a bluetooth headset, and it never faltered except when I drove through low coverage areas.

The 2100 mAH battery seemed to last forever on standby. It made it through a day of use on the road with power to spare.

Storage: Failure

Despite its speedy CPU, which made some tasks a pleasure, it didn’t take too long in my field test before I found the biggest challenge with the Desire 510: its limited storage. Some of the literature I had seen about this phone mentioned 8 GB of internal storage. But the device I got to test has only 4 GB, which appears to be standard for the American release.

In my testing, I did a few basic steps which I always do when I try a new device: connect it to my Google account, and install a few apps to try out. Well, with the Desire 510, it didn’t take too long before I was faced with an error message telling me I had insufficient storage space to download a relatively small app.

A quick trip to the Settings / Storage screen showed that I had indeed used up all of the available 4 GB of internal storage. Fortunately, the device has a micro SD card slot, with a capacity of 128 GB, so I thought that once I put the card in, I’d be OK. Unfortunately, here wasn’t much that I could move to the SD card. Note the mysterious 2.91 GB of “other” in the screen shot below.

Desire 510_05

 

Eventually, I did a factory reset to wipe everything clean, and changed all the settings to save everything to SD. Still, I was already at 3.1 GB out of 4.0 GB total. 900 MB of free internal space to play with isn’t much in this day and age, but again, I figured the SD card would be the saving grace.

Again I installed a very few apps, though the phone itself auto-updated quite a few. So by the time I tried to update something, I was faced with this:

Desire 510_06

And indeed, storage was filled up again.

And when I clicked on the link to “Make more space”, well, you can see how many files there were to remove to clear space.

 Desire 510_07

Conclusion

The HTC Desire 510 is really a strange hybrid beast. HTC obviously put some thought into this device, and putting a quad-core processor in an inexpensive phone was a great move. But, while I know that memory, both RAM and storage is an area in which money can be saved, it really ruined the device in this case.

No matter how well the CPU runs, despite the surprisingly decent camera for its cost and specs, I can’t recommend this phone because the lack of storage is a major failure. I was surprised at how well 512 MB of RAM functioned, even in these days of phones with up to 3 GB of RAM, but I don’t know what they were thinking when they set up the storage this way.

4 GB is a paltry enough amount to start with, but there’s obviously a fair amount of bloat there. Just what is that 2.9+ GB of “other”? The phone isn’t rooted, so I couldn’t get any meaningful information from a file manager.

But here’s my main concern. I know my way around Android phones pretty well, having handled quite a few of them over the past five years, and I’m a rather technical user. If the phone is giving me this level of challenge, what about the first-time smartphone buyer, at whom this phone is obviously targeted, trying this as an entry-level phone?

To an inexperienced user, the phone will seem perfectly usable right out of the box. But after a week or two of use, and installation of a few apps, they’ll be out of storage, and frustrated with their inability to use the device for much more than making calls. Neither the OEM nor the carriers are providing an SD card with the phone, so users will have to figure that out for themselves. And even if they do, they’ll still be in the same predicament I found myself in.

In closing, while I applaud the effort to load a quad-core chip in the Desire 510, it’s not a viable option because of the absurdly small amount of storage. While it’s easy to have a good first-impression of this phone, it did not stand up to field testing, which is the main reason I do the latter type of review.

There’s clearly a need for an affordable entry-level Android phone in today’s market, but I don’t think the Desire 510 fills that niche. Frankly, I think it’s a device like this that would lead an entry-level user, who doesn’t have the resources or the inclination to buy a flagship phone, to give up on Android, and instead spend even more of their hard-earned money on an iPhone, because they’ve heard that it works right out of the box. For slightly more money, there are numerous more viable Android phones available.

Website: HTC Desire 510
Website: HTC

About the author

Fred Scholl

I'm an unabashed enthusiast of all things Android, open-source, and technology in general. I'm also an avid music lover and musician, playing guitar, bass, keyboards, and a host of other stringed instruments.

1,076 Comments

  • I have had this phone for about a month now and wish I had read this review before “upgrading” to it from my old Iphone4S. The storage issue is a huge problem and even when you move apps over to the SD card it still leaves you with barely enough space to download anything new. Also mine does not seem to have the option to choose storing everything on the SD card as some of the guides for this phone show. I also had to download a stand alone dynamic notifications application just to see when I had a missed call and voicemail as the phone wasn’t showing me any notifications on the home screen when I’d open it. Overall though this review is spot on about the HTC.

  • I have the same issue with the storage. Honestly this seems like something they could fix with some kind of update. Without this major design fail, this could have been an excellent cheap phone. So good that despite only being able to have a few apps, I still kind of like the phone. I did try to trade it in for their other sprint prepaid phone, but they actually couldn’t find any. They did give me a free 4 GB memory card which, of course, does nothing to fix the problem, but hopefully increases the resale value a bit. I’m going to keep using it for a few months and then buy something else.

  • I agree with the storage problem. I will be trading this phone in. The con is that it shows a longer battery life than the M8 or other one…AND is allows the SD card…I have found that the insufficient space seems to occur when I try updating several apps at once, so maybe it’s something with a temp file storage place for downloading before installing?? Plus there are some apps that say they aren’t designed for the phone. I just use my phone for email, calls, texts, and misc maps, etc,,,, not music, video, many pics, or gaming,,,, so I like it except for the storage AND THE MOST IMPORTANT PART is you cannot uninstall the facebook hog (50 MB) or their stupid BlinkFeed (another memory hog),, all you can do is disable.. Same with alot of the preloading crap apps. conclusion is DON’T BUY THIS PHONE

  • I put 3 app’s and 30 songs on this phone…. and that was it for storage. Done. I’ll be going back to the store tomorrow looking for blood. Absolutely shameful.

  • I’v had the phone for 35 days, I’m new to Smart phones and I’m having the same problem with storage. I’ve been back to the vendor 3 times and they clear out some apps for me. I wish they would have just sold me a better phone. I came here to see about increasing the 4GB micro sd card, but I see after reading this that it will not solve the problem. Fortunately I have a return policy for the phone.

  • I don’t understand I have around 8 apps and 75 songs in the HTC 510 desire and to this day I don’t struggle with the storage space and most of all I like. the way it takes the pictures they are clear to my opinion I like this phone

  • I have this phone and I hate it. Storage is terrible I had more space on my old phone Kyocera Rise. Called support and they told me to delete all my pictures (there were 2) and move apps to sd card (they were already there). So bottom line…No space. Can’t even do updates and only 3 apps on my phone, no music and no pictures. I was so excited to upgrade from my old phone but this has really disappointed.

  • This phone jus sucks no way about it the storage is horrible and when you try to add music it says add thru usb which jus started happening I can’t even get music now on my sd card I will never get another HTC phone again. I got this one thru boost mobile and if you an believe it I payed 99$ for it and it was on sale I feel totally robbed.If you are looking for a phone stay away

  • I’m one of those inexperienced new to smart-phone buyers, I manged to figure out that my HTC 510 does indeed have a serious flaw with the memory issue. Thanks for your article. Wish I’d read it before I bought my phone but as a newbie I many not have fully understood the implications then. Now I am rather proud of myself for figuring out the problem on my own and getting your confirmation. Well, I’m not scared off of Android’s from the experience so what I need to know is what are those other viable entry-level Android’s you speak of?? I’m ready to start again with a new smart-phone…do you have a summary of the entry-level phones out there now that I could look at?