HTC ChaCha 4 Stars

« Back to reviews HTC ChaCha

Before we start, we must mention the ChaCha’s bright white body – it’s a real Marmite situation – you’ll either love it or hate it. But whatever your thoughts, we did notice that it picked up all kinds of marks – and we had to rub pretty hard to remove the newspaper ink that appeared when we left it sat on a newspaper for about 10 minutes.

That aside, we know that accessing social media on a mobile phone is far from unusual these days – but HTC has put it right at the heart of its latest release, the HTC ChaCha (and its stablemate the Salsa).

Touch-display

The ChaCha has the smallest screen we have seen using the HTC Sense UI (it measures 2.6 inches). While we’re not fully happy with the size, we’re glad to see that HTC has made changes to its apps to make them fit in the screen.

It does mean you can’t see so much when typing in emails and we suggest you might not want to be playing Angry Birds on it, but on a more positive note, we found setting up push email was a breeze (including Hotmail and Gmail). New messages are highlighted (rather as they are on the BlackBerrys) by the flashing green light on the top of the phone.

The display is one of the better type of capacitive ones, and it has the added novelty of being set at an angle; we guess this makes it easier to see when using the keyboard, or indeed when using it as a mirror – we kid you not – there is an onboard mirror app!

The screen impresses with its responsiveness and we were also pleased to see that it features HTC’s new unlock facility. This means that you can unlock the device by pressing the power button and then pulling a virtual ring that sits in the middle of the screen. Pull the ring into any one of the four customisable shortcuts that run along the bottom of the display and it will unlock the phone and fire up your app. It’s just a shame that the small size of the screen makes swiping frustrating as you have to use rather small movements.

We also like the way that Sense allows you to customise your phone with a choice of different skins. You can choose Scene settings with relevant apps – for example, the social Scene puts Friend Stream (HTC’s integrated social networking feed) on the home screen, while if you choose ‘play’ a music player takes centre stage. Each theme has seven home screens and each is customisable with whatever shortcuts, widgets and apps you want.

 

Key differences

We mentioned at the top of this review that there is also a Salsa handset – so what is the difference between them you may ask? One thing and that’s the keyboard that the ChaCha sports. The Salsa is operated only by touchscreen, while the neat QWERTY keyboard on the ChaCha is reminiscent of the BlackBerry Bold and Curve phones. Sure, you still have a touch screen but as it measures 2.6 inches, a keyboard is a nice addition, Having said that, it is a tad cramped – possible an issue if you have larger hands – and we’d hoped to see raised keys, too.

Punctuation keys can often be an issue on the keyboards of mobiles, but here the common ones, such as full stop and comma, have their own key, which also shares a function (the full stop key is also a camera shortcut key). Other symbols –such as apostrophes – require you to push the FN key (in the bottom left hand corner). It’s not a deal breaker but will slow you down a tad. Another plus are the four individual cursor keys.

The camera also quite impressed us – it’s five megapixels with an LED flash, and is really designed for taking images to upload to Facebook, so if you’re an enthusiastic photographer, it may not be good enough for you. One thing to bear in mind, the ChaCha automatically uploads your photos unless you tell it not to – which could get you in all kinds of trouble!

Network niceties

As we said earlier, the heart of the ChaCha is social networking. Like the HTC Salsa, there is a hard Facebook key at the bottom of the phone, which allows you to post updates on to your own wall, or those of Facebook friends really quickly. But our favourite thing about the Facebook key is that you can instantly share webpages with your friends by hitting it. Plus you can add a comment – and you are supposed to be able to alter the thumbnail image, although we found that tricky.

This instant sharing is also available for any video you’re viewing, any photo you’re looking at, or music you’re listening to. Hold down the Facebook key and you’ll also be able to check in using Facebook Places. For a more detailed Facebook experience, fire up the preloaded app.

You can also use Facebook Chat – it is another way to contact friends, but we found it went offline quite often, and then would reconnect without us knowing. This meant that when we logged on to our PC, we found a load of conversation windows open and awaiting replies. HTC’s Peep client is for Twitter and lets you message, tweet and mention, just as you would on a laptop or PC. Great though it is, bear in mind that with all this stuff going on in the background, your battery is going to power down pretty quickly.

Our conclusion

From the amount of adverts we have seen recently, we’re sure that HTC is trying to push the ChaCha, rather than the Salsa – an odd decision, we think, as the Salsa seems to be the better handset. While both of them have social networking at their core, the small display puts the ChaCha at a disadvantage. The ChaCha is available free from Three on the One Plan. A payment of £29 a month will bring you 2,000 texts, 5,000 minutes and unlimited texts. 

Pros:
Regular Facebook users will love the one-touch access for adding photos, music, videos, webpages and updates.
Cons:
You’ll need to charge up the ChaCha pretty often.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 4 Stars
  • Ease of use 3 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 3 Stars
  • Battery life 2 Stars

Final verdict: 4 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice