HTC S740 review
A sleek and sexy smartphone stuffed with hardware, but the ergonomics are wrong, wrong, wrong.
Every now and then a product is launched that completely takes everyone by surprise, sweeping all before it from seemingly nowhere. Like a non-league minnow beating Premier League opposition in the FA Cup, this is exactly what HTC's Touch HD achieved recently. Its fantastic screen, and gorgeous minimal design won us over and it overtook all the favourites to score a place on our A List.
But if the Touch HD was a prime example of a good old giant killing, its latest - the HTC S740 - is a sizeable reality check, a return to muddy pitches and defeat at the hands of village plodders. It's the follow up to the popular Orange SPV E650 (aka the HTC S710) and HTC S730 smartphones, both of which we liked - they combined elements of both standard voice-centric mobiles and email-focussed smartphones and did so successfully.
As with its predecessors, the S740 boasts a numeric keypad on its front and a Qwerty keyboard that slides out to the side. This time around it's had a major makeover, though, adopting similar styling to the HTC Touch Diamond and HTC Touch Pro. The front has a lovely shiny, gleaming smoked-mirror finish to it and the rear is lightly rubberised. It's taller than its predecessor at 116mm, but considerably narrower and slimmer at 43mm and 17mm - an odd but practical shape.
We have no issue with the aesthetics of the S740 - it's a very good looking phone - and despite the extra height the S740 will slip comfortably into a pocket next to your wallet. It's the ergonomics that have us moaning at the referee. Quite what HTC was thinking when it designed the front, phone keypad on this handset we're not certain, but it can't have tried to use it before rubber stamping the design.
The buttons look great but they have hardly any travel to them and there's barely any differentiation between each key. The whole point of having a physical keypad is that it's supposed to be quick and intuitive, but we found it easier to tap out numbers on the Touch Diamond's cramped effort on-screen.
Above the numeric keypad, the cluster of navigation keys continues this fiddly theme. The five-way navigation button is horrid to use - its rim, which is used to move up, down, left and right through Windows Mobile's menu system, is just too narrow. We found our thumbs slipping off it all the time. It wouldn't be such an issue if the S740 had a touchscreen but it doesn't - it runs on Windows Mobile Standard 6.1, just like HP's Voice Messenger, and all navigation takes place using this essential control.
If this wasn't bad enough, the buttons used to pick up and hang up phone calls are a spectacular own goal. They stand proud of the rest of the keypad, but they're absolutely tiny - so small, in fact that we missed several calls through not being able to locate and press pick up quick enough. When receiving a phone, the last thing you want is to be fumbling around with your phone after fumbling around getting it out of your pocket.
The four-row slide-out keyboard doesn't hit the heights of the Touch Pro's either. It's sunk slightly below the edge of the base of the phone and the keys have an indistinct click to them, both factors that makes it difficult to get up any kind of typing speed. We preferred the simpler but easier to use keyboard on its predecessor, the S730.