Review: HTC ChaCha

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Relentless rumors about Facebook coming out with its own mobile device had the internet a flutter earlier this year. With a userbase of about 700 million, it only seemed natural that the current king of Social networking would want to expand their horizons. The rumor proved false, but it highlighted a need for a device that had Facebook at its core, something not completely lost on HTC. Thus, the HTC ChaCha was born, a device that puts the Facebook experience front and center and gives users the ability to share absolutely everything from the palm of their hands.

If you’ve been following HTC’s recent smartphone releases, the ChaCha is a departure of sorts. It doesn’t have a gigantic capacitive screen dominating the face of the device as its own touchscreen is a diminutive, 2.6-inch deal that has a screen resolution of 480 x 320 pixels. It’s also one of the few HTC devices that has a full QWERTY keyboard.

The ChaCha’s 114.4×64.6×10.7mm frame is comfortable to hold, and its 124g weight feels just right. The overall construction of the phone is solid and topnotch, with nary a creak to be had anywhere. Aside from the QWERTY keyboard, there’s a call and end button on the face of the ChaCha, as well as a volume rocker, 3.5mm jack and power button in the usual places. There’s a 5-megapixel camera on the back, as well as a secondary camera on the front for video calls.

The ChaCha is powered by an 800MHz CPU and the latest build of Android, 2.3 Gingerbread.

The Sense UI that’s on the ChaCha was especially modified for the device. The same pull ring to unlock mechanism that was in place in the HTC Sensation is present in the ChaCha.

The home screen of the device is well laid out, if a little cramped – with the most recent Facebook update clearly visible in the middle. You get four home screens initially, though you can have a total of seven. Each one is totally customizable.

The Facebook experience begins with the dedicated Facebook button on the lower right of the device. The Facebook button as the HTC execs called it is contextual button which does a couple of different things depending on where you are in the device.

Pressing it directly from the home screen allows you to post a status message to your wall. Pressing it while listening to music posts track information to your wall, while doing the same while in Web page shares that particular page directly to your wall.

It’s a fantastic shortcut key that simplifies sharing content immensely. The button also starts to throb when there’s something that’s potentially worth sharing, like the photo you’re about to take.

Typing on the QWERTY keyboard is pretty nice and the buttons, although small, have good separation. It’s been so long since I’ve used a QWERTY keyboard on a smartphone, but once I got into the unique idiosyncrasies of the keyboard, I was happily typing away long text messages that I shied away from when I was using a touch-only smartphone.

Call quality was great, and battery life was fantastic – the ChaCha managed to last for almost 2 ½ days on a single charge, with moderate use. With most smartphones dying if not plugged in at the end of the day, the ChaCha’s resiliency is a breath of fresh air.

The obvious Achilles heel of the ChaCha is the small screen. At 2.6-inches, it’s probably one of the smallest screens that’s on an Android device. While it’s perfectly usable when checking your Facebook account, typing SMS and using Twitter, it’s not the best size for reading web pages and viewing video. Also if it wasn’t painfully obvious by now, let me spell it out for you: the ChaCha is useless without a good data connection. If you’re seriously looking at it, you’ll need a good data plan to go with it. Thankfully, Smart is offering two data plans for it – Php 1000 per month (with a monthly 100MB data cap) and Php 1500 per month with unlimited data.

It’s obvious that the HTC ChaCha is aimed at a younger demographic that likes to keep connected with their friends. But make no mistake – it’s not a one trick pony, and once you strip the deep Facebook integration from it, it’s a pretty solid smartphone by itself.

 

What’s Hot:

Deep Facebook integration

Easy to use QWERTY keyboard

Long battery life

 

What’s Not:

Screen is a little small

Useless without a good data plan

 

Bottomline:

The HTC ChaCha is the perfect phone for people who are constantly on Facebook.

 

Buymeter: 8.4

 

Tech Specs:

  • Operating System
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread With Sense
  • CPU
  • 800MHz
  • LCD size
  • 2.6-inch capacitive touchscreen
  • Physical Dimensions
  • 114.4 x 64.6 x 10.7 mm
  • Weight
  • 120g
  • Band
  • 2G – GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, 3G – HSDPA 900 / 2100