The ChaCha is one of a pair of FaceBook-centric phones released by HTC, and differentiates itself from the HTC Salsa- and, in fact the majority of HTC’s handset range- with a hard-key keyboard that takes up half of the phone’s front.
It’s surprising to see the hard-key keyboard below that HTC logo and Android keys, but how does it stand up against BlackBerry offerings? And is that touchscreen too small to be of any use?
What we like
The HTC ChaCha manages to strike a great balance between the touchscreen and keyboard, despite our luggish fingertips, typing on the keyboard was never a stretch.
Despite the key’s tiny footprint, typing is smooth and easy. The smaller screen is also bright and sharp; it’ surprising, given how it’s dwarfed by other smartphone entrants.
Stylistically, we also liked how the HTC ChaCha has managed to balance the touchscreen and keyboard inputs, borrowing a bit of HTC Flyer design magic along the way.
The curved chin means the slightly stubby shape is able to reach both your mouth and ears, and call-quality was good.
It has a rejuvenated version of HTC’s Sense software too. Known as HTC Sense 2.1 for Messenger, it gets the lockscreen shortcuts that we raved about when we reviewd the Sensation and Flyer.
We’re glad that HTC chose to give the ChaCha a 800Mhz processor upgrade. Although that isn’t anything special, with most mid-range touchscreen phones running 1Ghz processors, we found the ChaCha wasn’t left wanting, and kept up with our demands.
The ChaCha’s homescreen has had a reshuffle compared to other HTC Android phones, with corner shortcuts within the screen taking you to a list of all apps, and the other to a customisation screen. The rest of the homescreen can be customised like any other Android handset.
The phone is aimed at serial typists, who will find the freedom of an Android touchscreen and physcial keyboard a winning combination- especially when joined with extra speedy optional keyboards that can be downloaded from Android market. The Android Market also goes from strength to strength, with more high quality games and services arriving each month.
What we don’t like
Many may find the smaller screen a strain to read from- especially longer emails and articles online. The smaller screen means there also isn’t as much space for widgets and your apps- you will find yourself browsing through the app menus as these seem more convenient.
Although YouTube works well, the ChaCha seems unable to run Adobe Flash- and that means no streaming video, unless it has its own app. (We couldn’t install the BBC iPlayer app, either.)
Given that the phone is running Android 2.3, we can’t figure out why the ChaCha can’t handle it. In these days of multimedia smartphones, it’s a glaring oversight.
The FaceBook button doesn’t really come into play much either. Although it does provide a useful shortcut to updating your status, or reading your Facebook news stream, we found more complicated uses, like photo sharing, a little more trial and error. Sometimes it was easier to use the on-screen menus and Android buttons below the screen.
Despite its app (and Flash) shortcomings, the ChaCha is refreshing new addition to HTC phone portfolio, bringing their reliable Android know-how to a messenging, keyboard-toting smartphone.
This is most certainly a great phone for Facebook addicts (and, dare we say, Twitterholics) and the smaller screen real estate was never an issue.
This could be the ideal phone to ensnare BlackBerrry users, but those Flash issues on the web browser meant there’s a part of the puzzle missing.
It’s still a clever pitch from HTC- and we think it’s been perfectly priced to soak up plenty of fans looking for a new mid-range phone.
(Thanks to Carphone Warehouse for the review model.)