Droid phones on Verizon are pretty butch. Lots of cold black metal and sharp angles. While the HTC Rhyme isn't "girly", per se, it's definitely got a closer balance of masculine/feminine... buuut then those accessories tip it over the edge.
The Rhyme is a mid-range phone for Verizon. It's not going to blow anybody away with specs. It's got a 1GHz single-core processor, its screen is 3.7 inches, it has 4GB of built-in storage, it comes with a 8GB micro SD card, it runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), and lacks 4G hotness. Ho hum. At least this isn't some cheap piece of plastic. It's got that solid build quality that feels like it could probably survive a tumble down a flight of metal stairs. It looks a like like the Nexus One (minus a trackpad). Oh, and it's also burgundy. Or maybe it's plum. Rose? I'm not the best with colors. Either way, it's less pink than it looks at first blush; definitely more Uma Thurman than Barbie.
Oh, except then there's the Charm, which can only be described as a curious little accessory. It's a plum-colored, cubical LED light at the end of a plum-colored cord that plugs into the Rhyme's headset jack. When you're getting a call (or a text, I assume) the light will start glowing. This is so you can keep the phone in your bag (*coughpursecough*), where you wouldn't necessarily feel the vibration. I'm sorry, but how can this be anything but a play for the ladies? I'd say 99 percent of the guys I know keep their phones in their pockets (or otherwise closely attached) where they can feel the vibration. There's also a white, fashiony armband for the active lifestyle. I'm sorry. I'm an extremely open-minded guy, but there's no way that that's for dudes. It also comes with a velvety soft nightstand dock, which I was prepared to dismiss as totally stupid until I saw the speakers hiding in there. Hey, if it sounds good enough that stand can be covered in pink velour and rhinestones for all I care.
This phone is the first with Sense 3.5, the latest iteration of HTC's popular Android skin. I've gone on record as not being a fan, and 3.5 doesn't change my opinion any (these skins are RAM eaters). I will say, though, that of all the manufacturer skins out there, Sense is easily the prettiest. Sense 3.5 features a new home panel on your desktop. HTC's famous clock is down in the right corner, leaving the desktop as more of a display for the background image of your choice. On the left side there are some dynamic icons that can reveal messages/notifications/appointments with a quick click, which is actually pretty clever. But you can't add any icons/widgets/shortcuts to this main homescreen; you swipe over to another page of the desktop and you can add them there. I find this annoying. It may be Sense's nicest implementation yet, but I'm still not into it.
The phone is reasonably quick for having just a single-core processor and being saddled with Sense, but it's certainly not anywhere near as fast as the Droid Bionic, the Galaxy S II, or any of the dual-core competition. This is for people who want a certain look, don't need a ton of speed, and want a smaller, more demur phone compared to the 4.3-inch screens (and larger) we're seeing everywhere today. It's got a VGA front and 5MP back camera, and they spent a lot of time revamping the camera software (face detection, backlight compensation, burst mode, auto-upload to Facebook) but there's no dedicated camera button, which is a miss in my book. It's worth noting that the charm, the dock, and the burgundy headphones all come bundled with the phone. These aren't optional accessories, and that will likely drive the price of the phone up above where it probably should be.
The Rhyme is a Verizon exclusive will be $199, available September 29th. Look, there's no such thing as a "lady phone" or a "dude phone." And HTC would be crazy to out and out assign a gender norm to a piece of hardware. But my goodness, these flowy pink curtains and rhinestones do seem to be planting some sort of flag.
Update: Here's some video of Sense 3.5 and a little peak at the charm in action.
Video music credit: Kevin MacLeod/Incomptech