Can you remember a world without Facebook? Well it’s not going away any time soon, there are now three Facebook phones on the market. Following the INQ Cloud Touch are the HTC Salsa and the HTC ChaCha, we’ve got all three phones in the Recombu office, but which is the best Facebook phone?
HTC chose to release two Facebook phones running Android 2.3.3. The ChaCha is its full QWERTY offering and with a white back and distinctive metal accent; it looks very stylish. At 120g it feels light, but retains a quality feel and the curve shape feels comfortable in the hand. While the keys are certainly small, they are individually raised; ensuring speed typers will easily be able to rattle out emails and texts.
While the 480×320 resolution is to be expected at this price, at 2.54-inches the screen is tiny. Browsing using the touchscreen to scroll up and down is fine for short periods, but heavy web users will find it too small, although the respectable 800Mhz processor ensures it’s certainly not lightening quick, but never feels sluggish.
HTC has done an excellent job of customising HTC Sense (2.1) to fit the space, with menu and customise tabs on the homescreen, which displays your Facebook feed. You can add apps, folders and widgets to four screens, but some – like Calendar – are huge. Customise the lock screen with four apps you can instantly launch.
Tapping the Facebook button lets you do different things depending what feature you are using. Most of the time you can post messages or photos to your wall or a friend, but in maps you can post a location or in the browser a link to the web page. There’s also now a Facebook Chat app, along with the standard Android Facebook app and FriendStream
Like its HTC brother, the Salsa too steps away from the Android pack, with a light purple body, which isn’t as female-orientated as it sounds.
Here there’s a 3.4-inch 480×320 touchscreen, which is much more conducive to playing games and browsing and with the same 800Mhz processor as the ChaCha,it doesn’t feel slow. The screen certainly seem brighter than the INQ Cloud Touch. The on-board keyboard is fine, but text prediction isn’t as impressive as the Cloud Touch.
Facebook integration is virtually identical to the ChaCha. Tap the Facebook button and the action it performs changes depending on the application you are in, by default you can post a message or a web link. Hold it down in Maps and you can post your location to your Facebook wall. You still get FriendSteam and Facebook widgets, which work better on the larger screen.
Running Android 2.3, here you get the full screen HTC Sense experience, including a customisable lock screen and swipe down notification bar, it’s just very slick and intuitive to use.
INQ Cloud Touch
INQ was the first to market with a Facebook phone. Available in white and red, it lacks the quality metal feel of the HTC handsets, although it still feels solid and we need to remember it’s a lot cheaper
Facebook integration is deeper than the HTC handsets, there isn’t a dedicated button, instead People, Calendar, Notifications and Places icons are easily accessible at the top of the homescreen.
Instead of Gingerbread you get Froyo, although INQ has used its own UI, with quick access to key features (like camera), as well as Facebook shortcuts to Contacts, messages etc. Almost every aspect of Facebook is a click away. There’s also a useful information button.
At 3.5-inches the screen is slightly bigger than the Salsa, with the same 480×320 resolution, although it’s a good size for browsing, it’s not as bright and whites are aren’t as pure. Text prediction on the Cloud Touch is amongst the best we’ve seen on any handset.
Which Facebook phone should you buy?
HTC and INQ have taken different approaches to creating Facebook phone, INQ’s handset is heavily integrated, whereas HTC has been more subtle. Although all phones share a 800Mz processor and 5-megapixel camera and are aiming for the mid-price.
If you use Facebook a lot (and we mean checking it all the time), but still want a large screen for browsing the INQ Cloud Touch is the phone to go for. But if you primary requirement from a phone is text messaging and email, with its full QWERTY keyboard, choose the HTC ChaCha. It’s not a phone for heavy browsing, although it’s fine for the odd Google search or YouTube video. The HTC Salsa is best viewed as a good, mid-range Android handset with some useful Facebook shortcuts; although it certainly makes Facebook quicker to use, it feels more like an extra you than being integral to its use. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the HTC Desire S has now come down in price, if you’re happy with Facebook apps, it’s a powerful alternative.
We’ll bring you reviews of the HTC Cha Cha and HTC Salsa over the next few days.