The HTC Gratia sports a rather industrial look and is is slimmer and sleeker than its predecessor the HTC Wildfire. It's available in black, white and green and apparently aimed at the fairer sex
The 3.2-inch display is on the small side, which made the keyboard a tad cramped even for our small hands, but the Android 2.2 Froyo OS is as user-friendly as ever
The HTC Gratia is a middle-of-the-road smartphone executed with finesse, packing a 600MHz processor that keeps its high-end feature set ticking along nicely
The Gratia’s five-megapixel snapper is surprisingly decent, and comes with auto-focus and an LED flash. Other features include voice navigation in Google Maps, and the Voice Search vocal commands app
The Gratia has an average battery life for a mid-range smartphone that will just about get you through the day with all the power-sucking apps running
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/7/2011 5:12:28 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Android 2.2 Froyo OS, responsive touch-screen, great social networking features, cute design
Virtual keyboard is just a little slow, newer versions of Android have already been announced for HTC phones
Middle-of-the-road doesn’t have to be boring. HTC may shout a bit louder about its flagship handsets, but mid-rangers like the Gratia are solid examples of why the manufacturer has so quickly become a force to be reckoned with. It’s positioned as an ‘affordable’ smartphone at £300 odd – and for the £100 you save on a Desire HD or similar, you still get the same Android 2.2 Froyo OS, five-megapixel camera and the full lineup of internet and sat nav features.
If you’re an HTC fanboy (and the number of those is climbing these days), you may recognise the Gratia as a next-gen successor to the similarly priced Wildfire. At 103.8x 57.7x11.7 mm, the Gratia is slimmer and sleeker – in fact, we’re told it’s aimed at the fairer sex who apparently love small phones – with an innovative design that features a back cover wrapping around the phone like a protective jacket. Our review model was a snowy white – one of three colour choices including black and green – that looked quite industrial thanks to four exposed silver screws at each corner. The speaker vent contains the five-megapixel lens, and you simply push down on the speaker to release the back cover. There are touches of HTC’s quirky style even inside, with a coloured battery slot in the vein of the HTC Smart. Spec-wise, it’s toe to toe with the Wildfire, packing the same 600MHz processor (standard for a mid-range phone like this), five-megapixel snapper and an average 512MB of storage. It does ship with a 2GB memory card however, which is just as well as you won’t be able to use the camera without a card in the phone. But where the Wildfire’s price tag showed in its rather pixelated 240x320 display, the Gratia’s 320x480 screen is much smoother with truer colours.
As is becoming common for most price brackets of smartphone, the Gratia packs a higher-end capacitive touch-screen which is generally accurate and responsive. It’s not the slickest one around, but the very small lag is only noticeable when typing on the virtual keyboard. The 3.2-inch display is on the small side, which made the keyboard a tad cramped even for our small hands. It took a while to get used to it, and the backspace key in particular was easy to miss. You’ll most likely find that it’s best used in landscape orientation. Swiping through the seven home screens is great however, and the Gratia supports pinch-to-zoom in the gallery, browser and home screens, where you can pinch to view all seven screens in ‘helicopter mode’ – a quick way to skip between screens. The standard four Android buttons are present as touch-sensitive areas beneath the screen: Home, Menu, Back and the universal Search key, while a silver optical touch-pad acts as an OK button and teeny mousepad.
Like HTC’s flagship phones, the Gratia packs Android 2.2 Froyo, already an ‘old’ version of Android with 2.3 Gingerbread available on the Google Nexus S and incoming on HTC’s recently announced batch of handsets. Of course, it’s the perennial problem with phones running on this constantly upgraded OS, and unless you’re a tech-obsessed early adopter, this shouldn’t bother you about the Gratia. HTC’s friendly, easy to use Sense interface makes setting up the phone a breeze. Preloaded combinations of widgets and shortcuts called ‘Scenes’ help first-time smartphone users get to grips with the personalisation possible, while a setup screen on start up prompts you to link and sync your email, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts. The Friend Stream widget has always been HTC’s USP on its Android devices, and it’s just the same on the Gratia, aggregating a news feed from the social networks you load onto the phone. HTC’s added value is what puts its smartphones a cut above, and we loved its bespoke widgets for the home screen – including news, weather, and of course, the classic weather clock that presents different animations depending on the actual weather. New features unique from the Wildfire include the ability to tether the phone to a PC and use it as a modem, voice navigation in Google Maps, and the Voice Search vocal commands app. Though this is meant to include the ability to send texts and emails by speaking into the device, we couldn’t get this to work on the Gratia. Instead, though it was generally able to recognise the sentence we spoke, it sent the phrase into a Google search instead. We were able to call contacts from the phone book with little trouble, though we did have some trouble with non-standard English. You can also get quick directions by saying ‘Navigate to…’, which immediately opens up Google Maps.
Where most Android phones pack decidedly mediocre cameras, the Gratia’s five-megapixel snapper is surprisingly decent. It comes with auto-focus and an LED flash, and images we took in daylight were actually an improvement from HTC’s previous handsets. There was none of the blue tinge we saw in phones like the Desire, and while colours aren’t as bright as, say, on the excellent iPhone camera, they’re quite true to life. The resolution was good as well and we were able to zoom in all the way with very little noise. There’s no dedicated camera button – instead, you simply press the silver touch-pad. The shutter is fast though, so you don’t need to hold your hand super still after taking a photo, though there is a bit of a delay while the auto-focus gets to work.
HTC has been churning out the Android handsets recently, and the Gratia is of the typically high standard we’ve come to expect from the manufacturer. At £329 SIM-free, it’s not actually that cheap, but it is a good mid-range smartphone alternative with all the powerful features found in high-end handsets. If you’re after a new Android phone and don’t want to wait till mid-year for the next-gen crop of HTC devices, the Gratia is a solid choice.