By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: HTC Australia and Telstra today launched the new Wildfire handset at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. This model is clearly targeted at the price-conscious, first-time smartphone buyer, with exclusive launch partner Telstra announcing a very aggressive price strategy.

Whereas HTC’s last major release, the Desire, was positioned as an iPhone killer – playing at the top end of the smartphone market – the Wildfire is a pared down, “little brother” of its rhyming predecessor. It still has most of the features that made the Desire so, um, desirable, and a few of its own applications, but it is definitely not as highly specced as its big brother.

Available in white and black, the Wildfire, which has the Android 2.1 operating system, has a 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen, 5-megapixel camera with flash, 7.2 megabytes per second data speed and 512MB of in-built memory. HTC is also throwing in a 2-gigabyte microSD card, which is good for storing music, images and documents. To the end, the Wildfire includes HTC Sync, which is a PC-only software program intended to make data transfer to the handset simpler.

Exclusive to the Wildfire through Telstra is Swype text entry. Already available on a couple of handsets, most notably the Samsung Galaxy, Swype enables text entry by sliding the finger across the QWERTY keypad, using direction changes to signify which letter is to be selected. The predictive dictionary function can then detect which word is to be inserted.

For the first three months of release, the Wildfire will only be available through Telstra (this runs from release on 24 August through 15 November 2010). Pre-paid consumers can buy the Wildfire outright for RRP $349. There are a range of post-pay plans available as well, with Telstra singling out its $0 upfront at $49 per month for 24 months at the launch press conference.