It’s fair to say that Facebook has managed to wing its way into the lives of pretty much everyone and whilst most smartphones these days come with dedicated clients to let users check their profiles on the go, manufacturers have twigged that an app isn’t good enough for some social networking addicts.
Following in the footsteps of the INQ Cloud Touch is the HTC ChaCha; the first full candybar QWERTY keyboard handset we’ve seen from the Taiwanese mobile maker. It’s certainly an eye catching piece of kit and its prominent Facebook key clearly marks out its intentions as a device with social networking at its core. But is it a worthy companion for the legions of Facebookers out there? Let’s delve in…
The HTC ChaCha looks completely different to anything we’ve seen from HTC before, although it doesn’t lose its identity with a combined plastic and metal case that instantly screams classic HTC. Speaking of classics, the ChaCha features a slightly angled body in a similar style to the HTC Hero but the quirky form factor is also practical and makes the handset really comfortable to hold.
It’s also fairly light in hand at 124 grams but the predominantly metal body still feels solid and sturdy. It’s 10.7mm thick making it thinner than most BlackBerrys and the full QWERTY offers an experience to rival RIM’s keyboard laden creations. The keys are well spaced out and emit a satisfying click when pressed making it quick and easy to type out messages in a hurry as you know when you’ve made a keystroke. Unlike BlackBerry keyboards, the ChaCha’s QWERTY comes with a few added extras such as individual punctuation keys, a full-stop button that doubles as a camera key and four directional buttons like those found on standard PC keyboards..
While HTC has done a great job of the ChaCha’s keyboard, the space it takes up doesn’t leave an awful lot of room for the 2.6-inch touchscreen, especially when you consider that the usual four Android nav keys are also crammed in. The screen which nestles above the wealth of keys is a capacitive display and so is responsive to the touch, however, as with all small touchscreens, is it a little fiddly. On the plus side, the ChaCha’s 480 x 320 resolution display doesn’t guzzle an awful lot of power compared to its full touchscreen counterparts.
Power and Operating System
The HTC ChaCha is powered by an 800MHz processor but despite this, it still handles Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the latest version of HTC Sense well. The smaller screen size does make the whole UI appear more cramped and even though you can still customise the seven homescreens however you like, it does take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re upgrading from a full touchscreen handset.
We can’t argue with HTC offering the latest software on this mid-range device but we will warn you that the ChaCha doesn’t come with all the new Sense features such as the carousel-like homescreens (probably because the processor wouldn’t be able to handle it) and HTC Watch. That said, a 2.6-inch display perhaps isn’t an ideal viewing platform for those who use their handsets as media centres.
As we’ve already established, the ChaCha has Facebook at its very core and as such comes with some added Facebook extras like Chat and live status updates directly from your homescreen, as well as the usual HTC and Google goodies like Friendstream, Gmail and YouTube,
As for the Facebook button itself, it’s a clever little thing that lights up every time you do something on your handset that you can share on your news feed. So if you’re listening to a song for instance, the button will glow and pressing it will instantly share the track you’re listening to on your Facebook page. You can do this with photos and web pages too and the button also allows you to update your status and check-in to places. If we could think of one downside to this feature, it’s that you might become too reliant on it!
Internet: The HTC ChaCha comes with both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity which is essential for checking social networks on the go! As for the browsing side of things, you’re not going to get an overly impressive experience mainly down to the size of the touchscreen. Zooming is a necessity to view text but at the same time, the display is too small to show web pages in one go, so expect to be doing an awful lot of scrolling and panning. The ChaCha doesn’t offer full Flash support but to be fair it wouldn’t make a huge amount of difference anyway.
Camera: The ChaCha comes with a 5 megapixel rear camera which produces images of sufficient quality for sharing on Facebook. It offers autofocus, an LED flash and a couple of image enhancement options but again, your snaps won’t look particularly great on the small screen. You can also record video and there’s a front-facing camera to make video calls and take portrait snaps.
Other tech specs:
- Music player – Supports MP3, AAC+, WAV and WMA files
- Video player – Supports MP4 and H.264 files
- 512MB ROM
- 512MB RAM
- Access to the Android Market
- MicroSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB
- MicroUSB port
- 3.5mm headphone jack
The HTC ChaCha’s biggest letdown is its small screen; it makes life a little difficult when it comes to everyday tasks like browsing, playing games and viewing pictures and although HTC Sense brings some personality to the operating system, it looks cramped.
As mid-range handsets go, the HTC ChaCha gives a good account of itself, despite its not-so-powerful processor. Its Facebook features hit the right social networking notes and the QWERTY keyboard provides a great alternative for those who don’t want BlackBerry handset. If social networking is your thing and you need to be connected to what’s happening in the heady world of Facebook with a minimum of fuss, the ChaCha will prove a worthy investment.