HTC ChaCha review

£230
Price when reviewed

Sit down on any London bus, and odds are you’ll see someone, head down, thumbing frantically away at the keyboard of a BlackBerry. Handsets such as the BlackBerry Bold 9780, the hybrid Torch and the Curve 8520 have almost universal appeal, it seems, finding a place in the pockets of everyone from the uncouth youths to sharply dressed denizens of Canary Wharf. It’s odd, then, that manufacturers other than RIM have shunned the format in recent years.

HTC is aiming to claw back some of that ground with the boldly named ChaCha – one of two recently launched “Facebook” handsets from the Taiwanese manufacturer. It couples a BlackBerry-style keyboard with a 480 x 320 capacitive touchscreen and Android 2.3 running a number of Facebook-specific software customisations.

The key, though, to the ChaCha is its Facebook button. This sits apart from the main keyboard in the bottom-right corner, and clicking it launches a number of actions; precisely what it does, though, depends on where you are within Android.

HTC ChaCha - Facebook button

Click the button while you’re in the home screen, and you’re whisked away to a status update page. Click it in the browser and it does the same thing, but also adds a neatly formatted link and a text extract from the page you were on.

Click the button while you’re in the camera app and the Cha Cha snaps a photo, instantly creating a post ready for you to add a comment to and upload. Push it in the music app, and you can to let friends know what you’re listening to.

It’s an elegant system, and could save you time if you’re a heavy Facebook user, but there’s little here you can’t do with the existing Android share facilities. And what about integration with other services? We can’t help but feel the ChaCha would be better served, not by a single-service Facebook button, but a context-sensitive, general-purpose social networking key instead.

Integrated support for a wide range of services from Twitter through Evernote to Picasa is a real strength of Android smartphones, and it’s disappointing that HTC’s new-found fondness for social networking isn’t more all-embracing.

And while there’s also Facebook Chat support, it would be nice to have deeper integration. Inbound messages pop up in the notification area, and conversations take place in threaded message view as with SMS exchanges. However, there’s no unified inbox to tie your instant messaging conversations together, and hitting the Facebook button in the Messaging screen does not, as you might think, launch the chat application.

Screen flaws

HTC ChaCha - homescreen

The benefit of the Facebook button may be debatable, but you can’t argue over the importance of the screen to the successful functioning of a smartphone. And alas, the screen on the ChaCha is its biggest failing.

The 480 x 320 resolution is fine, but the tiny 2.6in diagonal, coupled with HTC’s ham-fisted attempts at optimising its Sense UI, means it always feels cramped. Many of the widgets – People and FriendStream, for example – look oversized and awkward on this screen, while the large buttons and oversized toolbar steal vast amounts of real-estate.

Details

Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £15.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.mobiles.co.uk

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 7hrs 30mins
Standby, quoted 27 days, 12hrs

Physical

Dimensions 65.5 x 12.4 x 114.5mm (WDH)
Weight 120g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard Physical

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 512MB
ROM size 512MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 2.6in
Resolution 480 x 320
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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