HTC ChaCha: could be just your type


The Taiwanese manufacturer’s nimble handset covers all bases with a QWERTY keyboard and Facebook set-up

Back in February, during the 2011 Mobile World Congress, HTC launched two Latin American-named devices: the Salsa and the ChaCha. Both went on sale during June.

During the event, it was the ChaCha that appeared to generate the most attention due to its uncharacteristic look when compared with other HTC devices.

Despite being dubbed the ‘Facebook’ phone because of its Facebook ‘F’ short-cut button situated at the bottom-right of the device – which ultimately gives it a consumer feel – HTC suggests the Android device has a place in the B2B space also.

The obvious reason for this is its form-factor. Between its full QWERTY keyboard and screen, the ChaCha has the immediate look and feel of a BlackBerry. It’s a classy looking handset, with a brushed-metal stripe across the back, around the screen and behind the keyboard. It also sticks closely to HTC’s clear design language: even if there weren’t a chin on it, you could put it alongside HTC’s Flyer tablet and see they are related.

Its touchscreen makes it a bit like the recently launched BlackBerry Bold 9900. The screen isn’t huge (2.6 inches) and much smaller than on most Android handsets. At times it can look cramped. If you pinch your fingers together it shows thumbnails of each home screen – you can have up to seven of these and they’re a tight fit on screen together.

Still, that’s the cost of putting a QWERTY keypad on a phone. The keys, by the way, are comfortable and well-spaced, so typing texts is easy and relatively quick. Not as spectacularly good as BlackBerry’s keyboards but highly usable.

As with BlackBerry, there’s no @ symbol in a lower-case position, which seems an oversight as typing email addresses is hard to avoid. Worse, it doesn’t have the handy shortcut that BlackBerrys have, where you can touch the spacebar and an @ is inserted. Beyond that, though, it’s a great keyboard and simple to navigate and master.

Making sense
The ChaCha uses the latest Android software, version 2.3.3 (Gingerbread). But this is an HTC handset, so the most important part of the Android experience is HTC Sense, which transforms the chaotic, scrappy Android into a slick and stylish platform – masking the shortcomings of the original beautifully.

Sadly, it doesn’t have the latest 3.0 version of this comprehensive Android overlay, but it still looks great, with cuter icons, menus and software styling than vanilla Android or the overlaid systems from other Android handset makers.

One highlight is the lock screen. On most smartphones, you wake the phone from standby by tapping a button followed by an unlock tap or swipe. Here the lock screen shows four icons: Phone, Mail, Camera and Messages. Drag one of the icons into a ring at the base of the screen and it launches the application.

You can customise the phone by replacing any of those four icons as you please. It’s a neat, effective way of making your phone more personal and is just one of many delights HTC Sense offers.

There’s the facility to decline a phone call with a text message – handy if you’re in a meeting, say. The default reply text says “I am busy right now. I will call you later.” You can personalise this, too

Full article in Mobile News issue 497 (September 12, 2011).

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  1. Isn't this phone locked into landscape orientation meaning apps without landscape support will appear sideways? That feels like a disadvantage to me!