HTC ChaCha in-depth review -

Look and feel

The white body will divide opinion, but with its slightly angled display the HTC ChaCha feels good in both pocket and hand

Ease of use

For the fatter thumbed a degree of care will be required when texting and the smaller screen means there'll be none of those over-the-top feather like swipes we've grown accustomed to with HTC smartphones

Features

The dedicated Facebook key puts social networking at the heart of the phone, but there's also Wi-Fi, a five-megapixel camera, HSDPA, A-GPS and of course a physical QWERTY keyboard

Performance

In terms of connecting via your social networks, the HTC ChaCha has few rivals, we just felt the smallish 2.6-inch touch-display limited proceedings

Battery life

Despite HTC telling us that the ChaCha had a talktime of 420 minutes, we found we had to charge it every day, probably due to all the behind the scenes proceedings.

 HTC ChaCha Review -
3.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/9/2011 9:49:11 AM

6

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

6

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

4

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

With one-touch access to post webpages, videos, music, photos and updates via the Facebook button, ?book fans are more than well catered for

Cons:

With so much going on in the background we found the HTC ChaCha needed charging on a regular basis.

Facebook feels as though it's been around since the dawn of time. While the novelty of 'poking' friends and even strangers (was that just us?) might have wavered, over 500 million people are said to be active users on the social networking site. Accessing Facebook on you mobile is nothing new, but with the HTC ChaCha (and its sibling the Salsa), not only is it at the very heart of this Android Gingerbread phone, it's also present at its every beat.

Look and feel

The core difference between the HTC Salsa and the ChaCha is the inclusion of a keyboard. Whereas the Salsa was all about the touch-screen, the ChaCha has a compact QWERTY keyboard, which will immediately draw comparisons with the BlackBerry Bold and Curve ranges. That's not to say HTC has omitted a touch-screen all together. The 2.6-inch display is indeed touch-responsive, but we'll tackle that issue in a bit. We found the keyboard to be slightly cramped. However, we should clarify that we were cursed with oversized thumbs and when we gave it to a female friend (with normal sized digits) she was happily texting away at rapids speeds. That said we'd still have liked the keys to have been raised a little more.

 

HTC ChaCha homescreen

 

For the more commonly used punctuation marks, such as full stops and commas, though they share a function, (the former as a shortcut to the camera, the latter as the '#') they are the default setting. For others such as apostrophes and numbers you'll have to first press the 'FN' key found in the bottom left hand corner, which will slow down the typing process, but then if each character had its own key then the keyboard would not be so compact, so you'll find no grumbling here. There are also four individual cursor keys which get the thumbs up from us.

 

HTC has kitted the ChaCha out in a bright white skin that will divide opinion. What we will say however, is that the back of the phone often picked up marks far too easily. For example, after leaving it on a newspaper for around ten minutes we were alarmed to find the ink had smudged the back of the phone. Thankfully it was dispersed by a little bit of elbow grease, but still.

Touch-screen

The display is titled at a slight angle, we assume for a better view when using the keyboard or perhaps for checking out your reflection? No seriously there is a mirror app preloaded. As touched upon, the display is a touch-screen, of the capacitive variety, (i.e. the higher end). Four touch icons sit directly below it; the home key, settings menu, back key and search key. The touch-screen is impressively responsive, with HTC's new way of unlocking a phone also present. Awaken the phone by nudging the power button at the top of the phone and you'll be prompted to pull a virtual ring into the middle of the screen. However, pull the ring onto any four of the customizable shortcuts positioned at the bottom of the display and you'll unlock the phone directly into that app. However and here's our big issue with the HTC ChaCha, the screen feels too small. We've come accustomed to large displays with HTC smartphones, one's which we can conduct huge feather like swipes. Yet with the ChaCha you're limited to short movements, which ultimately feel frustrating.

 

HTC ChaCha touch-screen

 

At 2.6-inches the ChaCha is the smallest HTC phone to ever feature the HTC Sense UI. Despite our reservations about the size of the display, fair play to HTC for reconditioning its apps to fit accordingly. Again there's less text displayed for example when typing emails, and unless you have the patience of a saint, you may want to avoid downloading Angry Birds. Talking of email, it was a breeze setting up push email for all our accounts, Hotmail and Gmail, and you'll be alerted to a new message via a flashing green light at the top of the phone, again another tip of the hat to BlackBerry.

 

Another string to the Sense UI is the ability to customize the phone with any number of skins. Each scene setting is labeled, with corresponding apps preset on the home screens. For example, 'social' dedicates Friend Stream - HTC's integrated social networking feed - to one specific home screen, whereas 'play' kits one out with the music player. However, with up to seven home screens on any theme you can preload any number of widgets, shortcuts and apps.

Facebook

So onto the matter of Facebook. If you've read our HTC Salsa review you'll be pretty much up to speed. Again, found at the bottom of the phone is an actual Facebook key, kitted out in FB's iconic logo. This is the fastest way of posting an update to yours or any of your friends' walls. However, the really cool aspect of this function is if you're browsing a particular webpage and you want to share it via Facebook, simply press the Facebook button and you'll do just that. You'll also be able to add your own comment and even change the thumbnail image, though our review sample struggled with the latter. As well as webpage's you can do the same thing with any music you're listening to, videos you're watching or photos you've snapped. It's a case of not only being able to share, it's a case of being actively encouraged to. By holding down the FB button, you can also check in via Facebook places which will post your location accordingly to your profile.

 

HTC ChaCha Facebook

 

A fuller Facebook experience is available through the preloaded app, while Facebook Chat also gets its own recognition. This was yet another great way of getting connected, though despite frequently going 'offline' our ChaCha inadvertently logged us back on without our knowing. This often resulted in us logging onto our PC to find any number of conversation windows waiting for our response. Despite its Facebook credentials, Twitter also gets a nod with HTC's own Peep client enabling you to tweet, mention and message as you would on a PC or laptop. However, it's worth noting that with so much going on behind the scenes we found we had to recharge the phone every day.

 

The five-megapixel camera complete with LED flash is actually quite impressive, though issues again lie with the size of the screen. It's again mostly catered for sharing on your various social networks, so you're unlikely to print them out for a family album. In fact it's worth noting, that unless you instruct it not to, the HTC ChaCha will automatically publish any photos you take directly on Facebook, which could be embarrassing.

 

HTC ChaCha back

Conclusion

Glance at any bus shelter and you're likely to see an advert for the HTC ChaCha, while the Salsa is noticeably absent. We find this a tad baffling, as in our humble opinion the Salsa plays better. Both achieve their goals at being true social networking gurus, but we found the ChaCha's smaller screen just took a little fun out of proceedings, and for that reason alone we'd opt for the Salsa every time.

 

The HTC ChaCha is available from www.clove.co.uk for £252 (inc. VAT).

Danny Brogan