The Smart feels good and its chic case gives the impression of a pricier phone than it is. True, the pressure-sensitive screen is no match for the capacitive type on the iPhone, but it's manageable.
It's straightforward and enjoyable to use, and though not entirely intuitive, once you're in the Smart mindset it makes sense easily enough.
The absence of wi-fi is the only major disappointment but given the price point the phone is pretty well-featured.
Although the phone's processor isn't super-speedy, the Brew OS is good at making it all kick along nicely. The touchscreen is responsive and quick.
Smartphones are notoriously short on battery life - the Smart, however, manages to last a little longer. Though you may want to charge each day to be on the safe side.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/7/2010 5:27:44 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Good looks, cool HTC programs and interface
No Wi-Fi and no GPS
It's a mark of how comprehensive HTC's Sense interface is that it's not instantly apparent whether this spiffy new model is powered by Windows Phone, Android or what. The familiar Sense shortcuts such as FriendStream, Weather and more are all here on display. In fact, it's a Brew phone, the operating system created by Qualcomm and which gets its name, and you really don't need to know this, from Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless. It's designed for feature phones, the more affordable phones which have capabilities beyond the basic but aren't quite smartphones.
Bang for your buck
Affordable is key here - £100 on pay-as-you-go - but HTC hasn't delivered a cheap handset. The paint on the back makes it look like it's made of anodised aluminium, that delicate matte pastel finish favoured by iPod nano casings, for instance. The same colour frames the screen and the four physical buttons at the bottom. They're the usual green and red buttons to start and end calls, plus a menu button and a silver off-centre oblong with a Back arrow on it. This takes you back a step or returns you to the central home screen.
There are seven of these screens, just like on HTC's Android phones, which slide in and out of view at the touch of a finger. This screen has a resistive touch-sensitive display, the kind with no multi-touch capability. Still, you can operate it with gloves on or using a stylus. But Sense is designed not to need a stylus - all menus are sized for fingers. Whereas with Android you can add and subtract program shortcuts by dragging them on and offscreen, here it's mostly done via a Settings screen. Choose the page-sized shortcuts you want and they'll appear, one per home screen. But this phone takes a leaf out of Android's book with a similar pull-down menu. Swipe your finger from top to bottom and you can set the scene: a work setting with email and messaging to the fore, a personal one that majors on FriendStream, HTC's social network feed aggregator (currently supporting Twitter, Facebook and Flickr) and music player screens or whatever you like. This is an efficient system which because you can back each with its own seven-screen wallpaper, is immediately identifiable.
Apps and shortcuts
As well as customising these scenes you can opt for the appealingly named Clean Slate where only the central page has programs waiting. That has the trademark clock and weather icon favoured by HTC plus three small shortcut buttons. Choose from Alarm, Calendar, Camera and lots more. You don't really need the camera shortcut as there's a hardware button on the side of the phone which launches the snapper, too. Although only three shortcuts sit on the screen, swipe your finger up and six more spots for icons are revealed.
The list of shortcuts also includes more obscure options, like Flashlight, which niftily turns the camera LED light on and has three brightness settings. Or Rings, a deftly executed game where you must flick metal hoops to land on a wizard's hat, your aim compensating for mischievously placed magnets. It's as simple and fiendishly addictive as the iPhone app Paper Toss.
Internet and email
Because this isn't a smartphone, it's not entirely surprising there's no Wi-Fi built in. But the screen's big enough for web browsing, so it would have been nice if it had been included. The 3G connection is 3.6Mbps HSDPA, so that may be fast enough providing you can find a good signal.
Even less surprising is the absence of GPS, though it's now becoming so intrinsic in smartphones, soon even feature phones are going to feel incomplete without it. Still, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack which is useful for music playback or listening to the stereo FM radio, and the microSD card slot means you can store up to 16GB of media on board.
The downside of having seen HTC Sense on smarter phones is that some elements disappoint. The photo library shortcut is just one image. On the HTC Legend, you could go through the photos in the photo album by flipping the one displayed on the widget. As though it was a physical pile, the top one would slide off to reveal the one underneath. Here tapping the icon takes you through to the album - arguably a waste of an entire screen.
Still, the email page here works in a similar way as on smarter handsets. There isn't the same graphical gorgeousness of swiping pieces of paper offscreen, but a finger stroke up or down loads the next message header. Even if it only fades from one to the next rather than sliding out of view, it's still an enjoyable interface.
The Smart performs several tricks like this - though most impressively it provides advanced capabilities in an affordable, accessible package.
The verdictThis phone is a good best-of-both-worlds option. It sits comfortably in the hand where some smartphones stretch your fingers because of their extensive screen real estate. It has the customisable capabilities and multi-screen options of an advanced handset while still being accessible and easy to use. If you don't want a smartphone, you can use this just as you would a basic phone, but can add sophisticated features when you want to.