The slinky little Brew-running HTC Smart will be out soon on O2 and could be the low-cost high-ish-spec handset that you've been dreaming of for all these years, succeeding where the myriad Android-toting mid-range handsets have been falling short.
What we like
If the HTC Smart was drinking in a bar, we'd be throwing it coy looks and trying to get it to buy us a drink - in short, it's cute. We like the design, especially in cheery cherry-red. The handset's curves are firm but gentle, the materials feel more expensive than they are and the handset feels altogether sturdy and reliable.
Considering the HTC Smart has such a small screen, the texting experience isn't bad if you stick to the landscape Qwerty mode. It's worth noting that the HTC Smart doesn't auto-rotate, which is probably only going to annoy people who've used phones which do autorotate in the past; you have to press a button to switch between portrait T9 and landscape Qwerty modes - quel old school!
Call quality on the HTC Smart got no complaints from us - while we wouldn't go as far as to use the phrase 'clear as a bell', there's barely any crackle or fizz on the line, leaving just a nice clear call.
There are oodles of home screens to play with, housing your favourite contacts, widgets like weather and FriendStream (HTC's social networking aggregator, bringing updates from Twitter and Facebook to one application), and your gallery all have their own screen, making the menu almost redundant.
The other Sense-esque features on the HTC Smart were definite positives - we like having the notification bar on the homescreen, which you simply swipe down to see any new messages or other alerts.
The music player is fairly basic - we wouldn't recommend ditching your standalone MP3 player to rely on the HTC Smart, but for occasional listening to a few select songs it'll see you right. And we're glad to see the inclusion of an FM radio on there too, although you do have to plug the headset in to act as tuner.
We also welcome the dedicated camera button, which doesn't tend to make it on to most of the HTC Android line-up, and with the volume control on the side of the handset it is easier to control music playback as well.
What we don’t like
The HTC Smart's touchscreen is resistive - so it requires some quite sturdy pressing to register your commands. It's also very small and very low-quality. You can see the dotmatrix when the screen is off, which gives it quite a scrappy look. Because the icons are massive and the screen is small, so you don’t get much on each screen.
It's just as well that the main menu is pretty much unnecessary on the HTC Smart, as it's a rather uninspiring affair. The huge icon/small screen combo means its spread over three pages, and contains mostly the apps you don't use very often.
The buttons on the front of the handset are a bit confusing - let's not dwell too much on the fact that they’re all over the shop and not symmetrical in the slightest. The Smart's back button doubles as the menu button, which is super annoying when you’re using the web browser as you can’t seem to get back to the home screen without going back through all the web pages you’ve browsed through in that session.
The handset doesn't have Wi-Fi - something we really feel should come as standard on any phone which offers internet connectivity as a key feature. Although the processor on the HTC Smart is pretty low spec, it didn't suffer much if any lag when we were using it, although browsing the internet was a little slower than we'd like.
If you've ever used an HTC Android handset for any amount of time, you're probably going to find something lacking in the HTC Smart. It's perfectly usable, but tends to feel like there's something missing, something which makes the whole handset hang together. We have a sneaky feeling that what's missing is Android.
However, for the basics-and-a-bit-more in a handset that looks the business, the HTC Smart could be for you - and with O2 offering it for free on contracts as low as £15 per month, it's definitely worth a look. Just remember that there's no Wi-Fi, so if you're interested in doing a lot of internet-based activity on the handset, you could end up paying a bit more.