HTC Salsa 4 Stars

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Well, it shows that Facebook has well and truly become a permanent part of our lives when they make a Facebook phone. Social networking is big – particularly in the youth market, so it really comes as no surprise that the mobile hone arena, which has a big market in the younger generation, should grasp the concept with both hands as it were. And here HTC has done so in the shape of the HTC Salsa – a neat handset that has Facebook at its heart, while managing to offer plenty of other features to make it a viable mobile phone in its own right.

First impressions

The Salsa is not HTC’s only foray into the world of Facebook phones – it also released the ChaCha at around the same time, but while that handset boasts a QWERTY keyboard, the Salsa is solely controlled by the touch-screen, although there is a trio of hard keys – one for Facebook, a volume rocker and, we’re happy to say, a camera button. If you were worried that any ‘Facebook handset’ would be too in-your-face, don’t be. It’s just a discreet button with a Facebook logo.

The Salsa is a neat little thing, despite having a good-sized 3.4in touchscreen. It is less than an inch thick and on the scales comes in at only 120g. It feels compact when you hold it and looks elegant, while still being a solid device. It does have the now-expected aluminium unibody – but on the reverse you’ll find some darker plastic panels in a kind of patchwork design – some people will love it, others will hate it.

All things Facebook

As we said at the beginning, at the heart of this handset is Facebook. The Facebook button is key to undertaking all kinds of actions quickly and easily – send a status update to yours or a friend’s wall, upload your pictures in an instant – even back up your photos on Facebook (be careful though, make sure you weed out any embarrassing ones).

You can even share your finds with friends. If you’re enjoying a great tune on the media player, press the Facebook button and share it with your friends. It is also possible to sync your Facebook friends with your contacts book – and for their birthdays to be entered into your calendar.

It is also possible to use the built-in Facebook Chat app, however both on the Salsa and its stablemate the ChaCha, we found that it had a tendency to shut down or go offline, and then fire up again without you knowing. This resulted in us being confronted with a load of open conversation windows when we later logged onto the net on our PC.

Anyone familiar with HTC phones will also be familiar with its Friend Stream widget. This will bring together all your Twitter, Facebook and Flickr activity, such as messages, posts and updates – really handy if you have online presences in all these sites. The stream can also be filtered by status update, photo, link or video.

So social network addicts have plenty to feed their habit. A notification bar in the top left of the screen shows all your SMS, email accounts and other events on social networks, so you have a great overview of what’s happening in your own personal online world.

The real selling point of the Salsa is that it really plays up to the immediacy of social networks – if you’re surfing the net and find a great link, you can instantly share it, or a funny video, simply by pressing the Facebook key and dragging the link to ‘post’. You can add a comment to it and even change the link’s thumbnail should you wish – great if you like to be first in your crowd with the latest tunes, news or funny posts.

 

Phone functions

As we said at the top, the Salsa is not just all about the Facebook functions, It’s a decent phone in its own right – it runs on the latest version of Android (Gingerbread 2.3.3) and boasts the up-to-date version of HTC’s excellent Sense UI. We love Sense – it’s easy to use, simple to customise and offers all kinds of useful apps, such as Google Maps, News, Weather feeds, YouTube browser and FM radio player. Plus there are all the apps on offer at Android Market – more than 300,000 at last count. There are seven home screens to choose from, all of which can be personalised with whatever widgets apps and shortcuts you wish.

With a handset at this price, you might expect to get a cut-price display, but the screen is actually pretty good – okay it’s no SUPER AMOLED or Retina Display – but this 320x480 pixel LCD screen still offers vibrant colours. But don’t be surprised if you need to pinch to zoom in a little if you’re looking at webpages. The onscreen keyboard, meanwhile, offers a responsive experience if you’re updating your status or putting up a post.

We were impressed by the Salsa’s battery life – it will take you through more than a full day. Of course, if you’re really after a dual-core device, the Salsa will hardly excited you – it isn’t as fast as a lot of other phones, but there’s really no need for it to be. The only problem with  its slower speed is that it makes watching Flash videos in-browser impossible.

The camera has a five megapixel sensor and is okay – not as good as those on more pricey phones – but adequate for snaps to be uploaded onto Facebook. You can take 480p video, and there is a front-facing VGA snapper should you wish to make the odd video call.

 

Our conclusion

HTC set out to create a phone that has Facebook at its heart, but that is in itself a viable handset – and it has done just that. All its features work well, and offer a smooth experience. It is an excellent social network phone – but it achieves much more than that, with its Gingerbread OS, vibrant display, top battery life and an excellent choice of features and apps. Any Facebook fan who wants a good all-round performer should definitely consider the HTC Salsa.

Pros:
The big three – Facebook, Twitter and Flickr – get fantastic integration; really simple to navigate.
Cons:
The screen is unable to live up to that on the iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S II; the user experience is just too slow and while Flash video is supported it doesn’t play well.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 4 Stars
  • Ease of use 4 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 3 Stars
  • Battery life 4 Stars

Final verdict: 4 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice