HTC ChaCha

10th Jun 2011 | 10:52

HTC ChaCha

Body of a Blackberry, mind of an Android. Can the new 'Facebook phone' poke above its weight?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

A splendid effort at taking the BlackBerry masses away from RIM and onto a deeper Facebook Android experience.

Like:

Great Facebook integration; Thought-out UI; Typing is a dream; Small battery with a long life and quick charge; Responsive touchscreen;

Dislike:

Screen sometimes feels too small; Camera could be better; Flash on websites doesn't work properly; Chin makes the design look odd; Awful name;

HTC ChaCha - Overview


Let's get one thing straight: the HTC ChaCha is not the Facebook phone. It's not manufactured by Facebook. But let's get another thing straight, too: the HTC ChaCha is the Facebook experience

And it's even endorsed to a certain extent by the King of the network, Mark Zuckerberg, who gave a sermon about it at the phone's launch.

You can check out TechRadar's exclusive video review of the HTC Cha Cha

HTC chacha in hand.

HTC has taken its already winning Sense interface and remoulded it with a big blue 'F' at the centre - something the notoriously quiet Facebook founder went on record as saying he's "very happy" with and, in a nod to the future, how they "look forward to a lot more to come".

HTC chacha facebook key

Rocking the latest Android iteration, Gingerbread 2.3.3 and fully capable of a dance-off with some other 3G-capable Android devices, it's due to hit stores any day now, with a sim-free price tag around £250, and a contract offering of around £20 per month.

That's probably too much for the 14-21 age bracket the ChaCha is evidently aimed at, though we'd imagine Pay As You Go offerings might make it a little cheaper too.

HTC ChaCha: Design and feel

Like its (bizarre choice of) name, the HTC ChaCha is no bore. Slim and well built, it feels like a quality device in the hand. It's not particularly light at 124g, but feels a lot heavier than the Incredible S for instance (despite being 13g lighter).

The body is made of white plastic and brushed metal. The battery door is plastic, and if you plan on changing the battery or the SIM card often, you may find yourself uttering a few choice words.

HTC chacha sim slot

The ChaCha ships with a sticker on the screen warning about not pressing too hard on the screen, but we practically put our fingers through it trying to get the stubborn battery cover off.


Thankfully, we can't see the Facebook generation seeing the need to swap SIM and memory cards too often, so this shouldn't be that much of a problem.


For retro HTC fans, the chin is back. Introduced with HTC's first ever Android device (in fact, the world's first ever Android device), the G1, it became an odd design quirk we thought was being phased out. Evidently not. 


In fact, looking at the ChaCha next to the HTC Hero of a few years back, they look remarkably similar - as if they were designed at the same time. Same colours, same materials, same chin.


But it does have a function here - as you hold the ChaCha to look at the screen, the keyboard is naturally tilted towards you. We can't work out if it's a nifty bit of designer genius or a coincidence but either way, the chin makes the phone bulge out if wearing tighter trousers, so beware!


HTC chacha side-on view

The QWERTY keyboard is handy and pleasant to use with rubberised keys, since the ChaCha is a messaging device, but that dedicated Facebook button at the bottom of the phone which fires up a Facebook client is the main selling point.

At the top is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a lock button, and the left hand side holds the volume rocker and micro USB charge/sync port, while the bottom holds nothing but a tiny hole for the microphone.

There are two cameras - a 5MP autofocus job on the back complete with LED flash and a VGA camera on the front for self-portraits (or using the very handy Mirror app, which HTC bundles on Android devices and has saved our blushes on numerous occasions).

There's also an ambient light sensor for putting the display brightness onto automatic.

HTC chacha fornt camera

Under the screen, you'll find dedicated hardware call and hang-up buttons (something we thought HTC were no longer using, as we haven't seen them in a long time) and four touchscreen controls.

They're standard fare for HTC Android devices these days - Home, Menu, Back and Search - and acknowledge you've pressed them with a little vibration. The SIM card and memory slot are both inside the phone, behind the battery.

HTC chacha screen

As handset manufacturers go for gold, piling in dual-core processors, Super AMOLED Plus screens and 4G capability, it's refreshing here to see that the ChaCha has some of the more old-school (and budget) specs.

The touchscreen is just 2.6 inches, with a 480x320 resolution, and the processor sits at 800MHz (it was originally set at 600MHz, but HTC appears to have upped this closer to launch). Yet, for what this phone is designed to do, that's adequate and doesn't impinge on the experience too much.

HTC has seen fit to kit the ChaCha out with both HSDPA and GPS, which is just as well since browsing and location based services are two of this handset's biggest selling points.

Within HTC's domain, the ChaCha only has competition in the form of its big brother, the HTC Salsa. That's the other 'Facebook phone' it's releasing, although it will be an O2 exclusive at launch.


HTC's biggest rival for the social networking market is BlackBerry. Ironically, the device that was, for so many years, the preserve of the businessman or CEO is now the big force for schoolchildren and teenagers who want IM.

Elsewhere, there are the INQ devices. INQ brought us the very first Facebook handset - the INQ1 - a few years ago. It sold well (albeit only on the 3 network), and now INQ is following up with the Cloud Touch, which also has deep Facebook integration.

Prepare for an onslaught and expect phones such as this to be heavily marketed by the networks - especially towards Christmas, bearing in mind the teenage target audience.

HTC ChaCha: Interface


The ChaCha runs Android's latest Gingerbread iteration, which is a welcome move. We couldn't hide our disappointment recently when we reviewed the far more advanced Motorola Atrix (also a big social networking device) and discovered that it ships with the older Froyo version.

We wouldn't have been too surprised to see Froyo on the ChaCha, since it's more entry-level, so it's a real credit to HTC that they've decided to make this as up-to-date as possible.

HTC chacha home screen

Do you smell a 'but' coming? Good - here it is. The HTC Sensation - the company's newest flagship device - ships with the very latest HTC Sense on it (3.0). So why is the ChaCha (which comes out after the Sensation) running the older version of Sense?

Curiously, the unlock screen of the ChaCha does include a nod toward Sense 3.0 in the form of a ring that you slide to unlock the screen - so one of the main things missing is the 3D spinning interface, which we assume is simply down to a lower amount of grunt under the hood.

HTC chacha unlock screen

Also, another thing that we noticed missing is the Quick Shortcuts tab that HTC introduced in its Gingerbread rollout to the Incredible S. On that device, when you pull down the notifications bar, there are options to quickly toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS etc. It's very handy and, yet, it's been left out of the ChaCha. We don't understand why.


Since the screen is smaller than what we're used to seeing on HTC devices, everything it reformatted. Icons are smaller, and on the homescreen they're at the side of the large clock, rather than below it. Facebook status updates are also present, thanks to a widget.

By the very nature of Android, all of this can be redrawn by the user and you can decide which icons /notifications/clocks etc (if any) you want and where.

Out of the box, the ChaCha gives you four homescreens to play with, which you swipe across with your fingers, though you can easily increase this number to seven. The capacitive touch screen is highly sensitive and we found no issues with lag or slowdown. - impressive for a skinned Android device with a sub-1Ghz processor.

HTC chacha home screens

Another feature that we've come to love from Android phones is the sharing options that are present. Unlike the iPhone, where 99% of tasks have to be done from within a specific app (even with the forthcoming iOS5), with the ChaCha, you can export files across apps seamlessly.

So, if you see some text on a webpage, highlight it and tap 'share', and every conceivable method and app you own that allows sharing will let you.

It means that you can transfer just-taken photos to Dropbox, send a song you're listening to to a mail contact or add a soundfile from AudioBoo to a tweet. It's easy to use and makes life incredibly easy.


HTC chacha share screen

Interestingly, with most Android phones we've tested, the user has been required to have a Google account to use the phone.

The ChaCha is different, though - when you first turn it on, you just have to log into Facebook and the phone will then start up. You're prompted to enter your Google details (and you'll need them in order to use, for example, the Android Market) but you're not forced to, which is jolly handy if you're never going to use that Google malarkey anyway.

HTC ChaCha: Contacts and calling

Contacts have always been one of HTC Sense's strong points, with a fantastic and unmatched ability to manage your address book well. The ChaCha takes that and builds upon it.


To bring up a contact, you just tap out their name on the keyboard and, as you spell the name, it appears in front of you. You can then access their contact card and see every conceivable option of contacting them (bar carrier pigeon) and each last bit of information on them - from their latest Facebook update to their Twitter status.

You can message them on Whatsapp, and you're also able to view previous messages, emails, Facebook galleries and call history.

HTC chacha contact find

HTC really has managed to nail contacts, and they feel just like a natural part of the ChaCha. As with previous HTC models, there's also a sorcerer-like ability to automatically link Twitter, Facebook and Google contacts together, with the option of accepting or declining the change. It's one of the reasons we're big fans of Sense.


HTC chacha contact page

This being a Facebook phone, your Facebook contacts are all in there, too, meaning that you don't have to go rooting through the actual app to dig out a contact - you can just call them up on the Contacts app and away you go.

It saves time and effort; you feel that HTC really understand what they're trying to achieve here.


Some of the keys double up as your numbers for dialling (in the same way that they do on a BlackBerry) but there is a really helpful quirk. Say you want to call 'Pete", you dial PETE with the letter keys and Pete's contact comes up.

Say you want to call Daz, you press D (also number 5), A and Z (also number 7). Instead of instantly getting a D when you press the letter, you get a number 5 on the screen, because the ChaCha thinks you're dialling a number. But then when you press the A letter, it changes the 5 to a D. It knows what you're doing instinctively.


HTC chacha contact

To add a number, just start typing it and the ChaCha will helpfully invite you to add it to your contacts.

Call quality is good and we had no complaints.

The ChaCha managed to keep hold of a signal just as well as other phones and callers on the other end of the line said we sounded fine. The quality of the earphone speaker isn't going to win any awards due to a lack of bass but it was by no means bad.

We were able to hold a conversation for a good half-hour without any problems, and part of that was in the front seat of a car on the A1 going towards Hertfordshire from London, where signal bars were going up and down like an elevator.

Bluetooth syncing worked well with our car stereo, too, with no problems to report. The integrated speaker is loud enough to place in the centre of a table and hear the caller at full pelt.

In fact, at times it was so loud, we had to turn it down because some sounds were distorted - but this only happened when the person at the other end admitted to shouting down the line, and so isn't something that HTC can be blamed for.

Bearing in mind that this phone is clearly aimed at younger users, we can't help but feel sorry for bus passengers who may soon be subjected to a high-volume dose of Justin Bieber at the hands of teenagers, once they cotton on to how loud the speaker can be.


HTC ChaCha: Messaging


If you buy this phone, the chances are you won't be picking it up as a tool to make calls, but as a way of staying in touch via messaging.

You can see just by looking at the ChaCha that it is set up for that purpose - and it obliges with great aplomb. The chances are, any kind of messaging or social networking feed you want will be catered for by the ChaCha.

HTC chacha message

Aside from the obvious Facebook messaging - which we'll get onto in a moment in the Social Networking section - out of the box, you can set it up with Exchange, Gmail, Flickr, other email accounts, news feeds and Twitter.

HTC chacha emails

That's on top of the rather fantastic Whatsapp cross-platform messenger we mentioned before, which you can download from the Android Market. There are also plenty of other add-ons that will allow you to do this.


Text messaging is standard Android fare with the HTC Sense skin overlaid and looks nice. Threaded conversations are supported, along with little thumbnails. It is a small thing, but it's these tiny cosmetic elements that make a huge difference when you're using the handset day in, day out.

The dedicated Gmail app is buried away in the app folder and the HTC mail app is given prominence on the main homescreen.

We think that this is a great email app, for what it's worth - messages are displayed clearly in HTML, which is resized automatically to fit the window, and you can search easily through your mail and the whole experience feels well thought-out.

Tapping out a new message can be done in a number of ways - you can either go into the individual app (Mail, Messages, and so on) and compose a new one, or you can go in through the recipient's address book entry.

The built-in keyboard is a dream to use. Because of the shape of the ChaCha, the hands seem to fit around it perfectly so that you can hold it and type out your messages promptly. As with all of these things, it's a bit of a learning curve (it took us a while to stop habitually getting the FN and Shift keys mixed up) but it happens eventually.

HTC chacha keyboard

The full stop button also doubles up as a shortcut to the camera. Quite why it's necessary is another matter, because you have shortcuts (including a camera) on the homescreen, but it's better to have it than not, we suppose. Keys go down with a satisfying click and we couldn't fault them at all, with blistering speeds possibly within an hour of use.

HTC ChaCha: Social networking


Of course, the main selling point of this phone is the 'F' word. Although it's not being marketed explicitly as the Facebook phone since there are already a few on the market, it is being pushed as the phone to buy if you're a Facebook afficionado. And fans will love it.

We must admit, we were unsure what we were going to get here. We knew it'd be unlikely that the 'F' button would just fire up the Facebook website or application, and what we get is something that has been deeply integrated into the Sense skin.


Push the Facebook button and you're invited to post a status update. You have to post one to get past the update screen, which can become a bit tiresome - especially if you want to just view other people's statuses.

HTC chacha post status

If you really don't want to write your umpteenth status update of the day, then you have to go out of the application back to the homescreen and tap on the Facebook widget to get in that way. It's a slight annoyance but nothing major.

Once you're in, you can view All Feeds, Status Updates, Photos, Links, Lists, Locations and Notifications. You can also update other social network statuses should you wish, recommend apps, post photos or your own location. It's basically a variation of the Facebook for HTC Sense app that we've seen on other handsets from HTC in the past, but it just seems to work so much better on the ChaCha.

HTC chacha friend status

Hold the Facebook button down for a long press and up pops Facebook locations, allowing you to check in at various places. It was quite effective using our GPS indoors and confirmed that we were where we thought we were.


That Facebook button acts a little like a wise old seer as you navigate through the phone - advising you whenever there is something you can share.

HTC chacha share page

For example, just have a little scan through your photo album and it'll start to pulsate to let you know that you can share those pics on Facebook. Listen to a song, then it'll glow quietly to let you know you can tell your friends on Facebook what you're listening if you press it.

It becomes a bit like a greedy dog - always wanting to digest what you're doing and tell everybody. In fact, the little blue button even acts as a camera shutter button - taking the snap, then preparing it for you to send to the big social network in the sky.

One thing we noticed and instantly missed: no support for the YouTube applications. After photos, sharing videos is one of our favourite things to do on the network, so to not be able to pop them up too is a big oversight in our opinion.

The ChaCha is not the phone to have if your boss is a Facebook friend, as he or she will think that you never get any work done due to the amount of status updates you'll be churning out on this thing.

Facebook chat is integrated into the ChaCha and it works really well. This has been an element that various Facebook apps have struggled with across platforms, but it's built into the phone as what appears to be a separate Facebook Chat app.

HTC chacha facebook chat

We were really impressed with the fact that it had its own dedicated widget. It meant that our contacts were listed on the homescreen with a green light if they were available to chat, and we just had to do a quick tap to start talking to them. This is what we mean about Facebook's fantastic integration into HTC Sense; it's like having a chatroom on your standby screen.

One thing we didn't quite understand is why the ChaCha comes with all of this Facebook integration yet is also preloaded with the separate Facebook for Android app. It makes the whole thing confusing.

For example, if we took a photo and decided to send it the old-fashioned way (rather than pressing the 'F' button, going into the 'share menu'), we're presented with the option of sharing with 'Facebook' or 'Facebook for HTC Sense'.

We obviously know that it's the latter, but somebody using this phone for the first time may not well realise this and if they hit 'Facebook' (as most people probably will), then it will just do it via the standard Facebook app that you could use on any Android phone - rendering the ChaCha's main selling point useless.

The main reason we can see for keeping the Android app on the phone as well is the other functionality - unlike other phones, there's no unified inbox on offer here, meaning you have to drop into the application to get your messages.

It seems like a massively missed trick for HTC to not integrate that functionality, as we'd think it was brilliant to open a contact's name in the People tab, press the Facebook key and send them a personal message, but that's not to be at the moment.

Another thing we noticed is that when you sign into Peep (HTC's Twitter viewer), the status updates widget that's automatically included on the homescreen seems to populate itself with tweets instead of Facebook notifications, with the less-frequent FB not available for some reasong and we couldn't work out how to get them back.

You'd think there would be a drop down menu in the app to separate them out - but no such luck.

Speaking of Twitter, we couldn't help wondering why it's not getting a more prominent position on the ChaCha, as it would be nice to be able to share websites, songs and photos via Twitter in the same deeply-integrated way - although we know there are several applications to get most of the functionality.

HTC ChaCha: Internet


This being an Android device, the ChaCha comes with one of the best mobile browsers on a phone. Android's stock offering is brilliant at rendering pages and resizing text and it is testament to that that where Sense is so prevalent over other parts of the OS, when it comes to the internet, HTC does, on the whole, leave it alone. It isn't broken - so it's not fixed.

HTC chacha browser

But, where messaging is where the ChaCha excels, browsing is definitely this dancer's Achilles heel. Coming from an Incredible S, we found the browsing experience to be disappointing.

The real issue here is Flash support. Smaller flash elements appeared OK - advert banners and the like. But when we tried to load up flash video on a number of websites, the ChaCha just gave up.

An swirling loading icon filled us with hope - which was then dashed by a large yellow triangle with an exclamation mark warning us we had no chance of getting any further here.

HTC chacha flash loading

We already assumed Flash wasn't going to work thanks to the lower-spec Qualcomm processor, but to come so close to seeing the video and having it cruelly taken away is more annoying than being told it's not available at all.

Aside from that, browsing speeds are absolutely fine and we had nothing to complain about. The ChaCha is a 3G device that supports HSDPA, and loading pages happened quickly with the rendering speeds we've come to expect from Android's browser.

Wi-Fi was obviously quicker in the majority of cases, but we found absolutely nothing to complain about over 3G instead and we're big fans of the way text reformats upon tapping. The Android bookmarks system is top-notch and, combined with HTC's bookmarks widget, browsing is made even easier.


HTC chacha text reformat

That said, the screen size can impede your enjoyment. It feelsa little too small for any real web browsing and, although it's fine for a little bit of light use, you won't find yourself navigating full sites on the ChaCha for too long.

HTC ChaCha: Camera

HTC chacha camera

The ChaCha comes with two cameras - a fairly nondescript VGA on the front and a much better 5MP job around the back.

It's not a bad camera - but it's not wonderful. We'd put it in the category of "gets the job done." Pictures come out alright and are fine for a quick Facebook post or MMS. This being a Facebook phone, the likelihood is that most photos will simply be sent over social networking anyway and therefore, it doesn't really matter.

The irony is that the pictures look pretty bad when you view them on the ChaCha's screen. Yet when uploaded to a computer, they're much, much better. We actually thought a lot of our photographs were blurred and dull-looking when we viewed them on the phone, but they were sharp as a pin on the computer screen.

The other issue we had is that there is virtually no visibility in direct sunlight. Taking photographs as you lie on a beach in the Mediterranean is something you won't be doing with the ChaCha.

On the plus side, starting the camera from cold is speedy and you're looking through the viewfinder in less than a second, which is a good attribute to have. We've lost count of the amount of times we've missed the moment whilst waiting upwards of three seconds for an iPhone to get going and open the camera lens up.

Once in, you've got four options - switch cameras, switch to camcorder mode, flash on/off and gallery. These are displayed as thumbnails at the side of the screen.

Beyond that, hit the options button and you're presented with a wealth of options including self-timer, various fun effects, image adjustments, ISO levels etc. There really are lots to pick from -possibly too many considering the ChaCha is not a phone for budding Lord Lichfields but hats off to HTC for at least giving us the choice.

HTC chacha camera effects

The camera has autofocus, but it gave us mixed results. It makes plenty of cute noises like a real camera, but when taking a picture we found that we had to consciously tap to focus the portion of the picture we were after in the majority of cases or we were left with a slight blur.

HTC chacha autofocus

Shutter speed is not so great. At times, we expected to get an extremely awful picture, but actually got something that worked. At least on the screen. When sent to a computer, the photo looked a lot worse.


The camera performed well in good light, colours were reproduced well and, as mentioned, there are plenty of options to change the levels should you want more.

In dimmer light, the camera was adequate, but the LED flash comes in handy and you can set this to automatic. In pitch-black conditions, it managed to bathe the subjects in enough light to do the job well.

In low light conditions, the pictures looked great with the flash on but pretty awful without. The camera also struggled if we were in a room with a lot of light coming in through the window - picking up the light but making the rest of the room look incredibly dark.

HTC chacha camera image 1

Taken in good light with a window behind us. No problems with colour reproduction.

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HTC chacha camera image 2

We actually expected this photograph to look awful when sent to the computer because it looked so dim on the screen and quite blurred - yet surprisingly, the orchid came out clear.

Click here to see the full-size image

HTC chacha camera image 3

Similarly, the iPhone looked very dim and blurred on the ChaCha's screen. Not so when sent to our computer.

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HTC chacha camera image 4

HTC chacha camera image 5

These two photographs were taken as we moved the camera across the room in a sweeping motion to check the shutter speed. Unsurprisingly, they came out rather blurry.

Click here to see the full-size image

Click here to see the full-size image

Click here to see the full-size image

HTC chacha camera image 7

Close up subjects in direct light fared well on the ChaCha's camera.

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HTC chacha camera image 8

Macro shots in good sunlight didn't do too well with the autofocus. This image looks more like something you'd expect to see on a 2005 camera phone, not a 2011 model.

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HTC chacha camera image 9

HTC chacha camera image 10

We took this picture in low light and the LED flash managed to perform brilliantly. However, when we turned the flash off and took the same picture in the low, natural light results were not so pleasant.

Click here to see the full-size image

Click here to see the full-size image

HTC chacha camera image 11

The kitchen was actually really, really bright. However, the ChaCha struggled to work out what was happening with the sun pouring in through the window and just made it look bleak.

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HTC chacha camera image 12

This wasn't so much of a problem when we actually went outside, though.

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HTC chacha camera image 13

In artificial light, the Macro mode seemed to kick in and text was easily shootable with fairly good results.

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HTC chacha camera image 14

Outside, we cranked up the zoom and shot off into the distance. The result was surprisingly good - we could barely see this roof with the naked eye.

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HTC chacha camera image 16

HTC chacha camera image 17

These photographs were taken in pitch black conditions but you'll need to keep a steady hand if you're doing the same to avoid blur.

Click here to see the full-size image

Click here to see the full-size image

Of course, the benefit of Android is the Market, and there are dozens of camera tweaking apps that you can take advantage of to crank up exposure or modify your photos if you feel that the HTC offerings (of which there are many) aren't enough.


HTC ChaCha: Video

The video offering on the ChaCha is, like the stills camera, adequate but not ground-breaking. It shoots at a maximum resolution of 720x480 and looks good on the screen. Unfortunately, it only records in the slightly old and outdated .3gp format.

One thing we liked is the fact that when in the video recorder, you're able to fiddle around in the options and adjust your levels just like you can in the normal camera app. You're also able to shoot videos with a number of effects to jazz them up, and we think this is something that the target market will lap up.

Our only criticism is that you have to dig through the menus to do this and for most users, that'll be a chore. Having a shortcut on screen would have made this a lot more intuitive but it's hardly a big deal.

You can choose whether you'd like to save the video with audio (though why you wouldn't is beyond us) and the sound does record well. We had no issues with it being out of sync in any way, and audio was clear.

YouTube fullscreen logo

You have the option of shooting with the LED flash on and can also record from the front-facing video camera, which is ideal if you'd like to record your musings to Facebook (again, watch out for the pulsing blue 'F' button).

The ChaCha did struggle to keep up with the light as we moved from darkness to light and, it sometimes found it hard to work out if we were indoors or outdoors at time, making bizarre jumps from lightness to darkness. The handset also found it hard to move around (which is odd, since that's what video is all about) and pictures looked blurry unless filming a static subject.

HTC ChaCha: Media


The ChaCha is first and foremost a messaging phone. You see that as soon as you pick it up and notice the keyboard. That's not to say that media isn't supported, because it is - but messaging rules the roost here.

For watching media, it's not great for the simple reason that the screen is small compared to, say, the HTC Sensation - which obviously wants you to consume as much media as you can.

Internal storage is fairly paltry. Our unit told us that it had 150MB but only 79MB was free (presumably because of the OS) - and that was only because we cleared out the cache first to maximise what was available.

The ChaCha does support MicroSD cards, meaning you can bump it up to 32GB. Our ChaCha even came with a 2GB card included, although this is retailer-dependent, so it's worth checking before you buy.

There's only one music app on board - the standard Android one that's been given a bit of a Sense makeover - but HTC has been savvy enough to include its own widget that supports album art so you can change tracks from the homescreen. There's also an Android widget to do a similar job, so you're spoilt for choice.

HTC chacha music player

Playing music through the loudspeaker is incredibly loud and sounds very tinny, but listening through the supplied headset was fine. There's no SRS surround sound like we've seen in other models from HTC but it's no great loss.

One thing we did like was the option to automatically search YouTube for music videos of the song you're listening to, and if you hit that blue Facebook button, it'll notify your Facebook friends what you're listening to with a chance to buy the track (do it too often, though, you may find your friendship quota goes down - especially if you're a Celine Dion fan).

HTC chacha youtube search

HTC chacha search

You'll be able to play most formats and we certainly didn't struggle with any we had on our unit. Officially, the ChaCha supports .aac, .amr, .ogg, .mid, .mp3, .wav and Windows Media files. Sounds are recorded in .amr.Video wise, there's support for the usual suspects like .3gp, .3g2, .mp4 and .wmv.

Video

There a Videos app in the app drawer that scans the media card and plays what's in there - we had no trouble with it and it did the job it was employed to do.

However, we still wish HTC would label each video so we knew what we were trying to open before we did so - it's pretty much trial and error unless the thumbnail is explicit.

HTC chacha video player

You probably won't watch too many videos on the ChaCha, though. The screen is too small and although it's light enough to hold, just try propping the ChaCha up to watch a video on with that chin. You'll soon give up and find yourself getting a book out instead!

If your music collection really is appalling, there's also an FM radio onboard. We're always pleased to see these; although internet streaming means the lack of an FM radio is no longer a problem, it's always nice to have the option to listen to one.

As with most phones, it uses the headset as an antenna, so you'll need to plug that in to get a signal.

HTC chacha radio

Accessing your photos through the gallery is easy enough and fairly pedestrian - the app displays your photos and allows you to share. There's no built in editing software (which would have been a nice touch) but that's easily rectified by a quick visit to the Android market, so no great hardship there.


HTC ChaCha: Battery life and connectivity

Battery life

When the Desire HD launched last year, it came with a disastrously small 1230mAh battery pack that many struggled to make last a day. With the ChaCha, HTC has seen fit to kit it out with a 1250mAh battery so it's only marginally bigger. But it's a massive improvement.

HTC chacha battery

Thanks to the Android battery monitor on Gingerbread, you can see where the power is zapped from and it's more often than not the display.

Since the ChaCha has a pretty small screen, it doesn't require too much power to suck on to keep it going. It does, of course, use power to keep your feeds up to date, but we would go so far as to venture that this is some of the best battery life we've seen on a HTC device so far. It also charges remarkably quickly - probably because that battery is smaller.


HTC quotes talk time as being up to 450 minutes on GS, with 400 hours of standby time. Of course, it's never quite possible to match the manufacturer's claims, and it will always depend on how you use your phone.

Gone are the days when we all had only phone calls, text messages and Snake to measure our usage.


We took our review unit off charge at 9pm on a Monday evening. After setting it up and downloading a few apps from the Market, by 9am, it was still on 80%.

Over the next day, we took about 15 photos, a couple of videos, played games for about 30 minutes, sent 36 texts and 24 emails plus dipped in and out of Twitter and Facebook. It didn't completely die until just after 8am on the Wednesday morning which, for a modern smartphone, we think is fairly impressive.

More so when you consider that Android phones don't have the best record when it comes to battery life. If you decide to go away for the weekend and use the ChaCha sparingly, we see no reason why this phone wouldn't give you a full two days' worth of juice.

Connectivity


Aside from the 3G and Bluetooth, we have Wi-Fi and GPS, which are now pretty much standard and essential for a phone of this kind.

We found the Bluetooth worked well with our car stereo, despite the car unit being a model designed for use with an iPod. Once paired, the ChaCha connected straight away each time we got in and streamed the music to the stereo making it a pleasant experience.

An added bonus was that it also automatically synced our phonebook each time, though this may be stereo dependent.

HTC chacha connectivity

Speaking of stereo, we weren't able to find any DLNA client onboard. It wasn't too much of a surprise, as that tends to be a feature reserved for higher-end phones, and we can't see it a feature being missed too much by the target market.


HTC always make it easy to connect your device to your computer, with a really helpful pop-up menu that offers you various connection options.

It's here on the ChaCha too, and although the actual options haven't changed (Charge only, disk drive, HTC sync, USB tethering and internet pass through), we were pleased to see that the menu has been given a little bit of a makeover compared to previous HTC devices.

HTC chacha computer

Not having to use proprietary software such as Samsung's Kies makes the whole thing a lot easier and whether you're rocking Windows. Mac or Linux, you don't have to start worrying about compatibility issues which is helpful.

There's also another option that's not in the menu, and that is to use your phone as a wireless hotspot. It's been part of Android for a little while now and you'll find this option tucked away in the app drawer. 


HTC ChaCha: Maps and apps


Maps

This being an Android phone, the fantastic Google Maps is here and works brilliantly, as it does on most Android devices. Google's free sat-nav system, Navigation, is on here too - though it still says its a beta, despite having been around for what feels like forever.

HTC chacha maps

Whether you're driving or walking, it makes navigation easy and - crucially - free, though we must admit that we did find it slightly frustrating using the screen for sat nav in the car because it's so small. This is more because we've become used to larger touchscreens - it still works as it should and does a sterling job.

Getting a GPS fix the very first time took around 45 seconds but after that, we had no real problems, with a lock tending to be found within 10 seconds.

We also used the ChaCha for a sport session after downloading Adidas's fantastic MiCoach app and it managed to keep us on track. A few times we heard Jonny Wilkinson's voice in our ear warning us that the GPS was low, but it still clung on for dear life and managed to give us what we hope was an accurate reading of our run when we got home.

Apps


Aside from the Facebook Chat widget, there are no brand-new Earth-shattering widgets on the ChaCha that we've not seen before. But that's not to say that what's there isn't good, because it is.

HTC chacha apps

You get the standard Android widgets but also the HTC variants (with the option to download more once you've set up a HTC Sense account). The thing about widgets is that, like apps, there are so many free ones available on the Android Market, you can always find one to do virtually anything you need.

Preloaded apps are standard fare - everything from a calculator and voice recorder to stocks and Google Latitude. But there was one new one we hadn't come across before on an Android device and that's Google Books.

HTC chacha google books

There were three loaded on as standard (Frankenstein, Wonderful Stories by Hans Christian Andersen and Pride and Prejudice) with the option to download more, but you may be limited as to what you can get by legal and copyright issues. The free Amazon Kindle app should sort you out, though, if you run into bother.

One very odd thing about Google Books is the way it's set up. When you open the app, it looks fine onscreen, but as soon as you select a book it opens sideways, which then means you have to turn the phone on its side to read a book in portrait mode.

If this were a large touchscreen, you could understand it but, frankly, you look odd holding the ChaCha the way you have to in order to read a book. There doesn't appear to be an option to change this.


One of the common complaints about Android is that it's difficult to put your apps into relevant folders - something BlackBerry and Apple have both managed to nail.

Most Android phones will just throw everything into the app drawer and you have to dig around, searching by alphabetical order. Samsung do offer a folder facility of sorts on their current flagship model, the Galaxy S2.

HTC chacha download

Unfortunately, HTC doesn't accommodate this in the ChaCha but it does the next best thing. To the right of the App Menu, you're given three options - all apps, frequent apps or downloaded apps. It's a nice touch and makes navigating your downloads even easier.

Considering you only have seven homescreens on the ChaCha and are therefore limited on space for app shortcuts if you also want to have widgets on display, this makes all the difference.

It's an easy and intuitive system, and anybody familiar with Android will know instantly how to work it, and somebody new to Android will still be able to navigate it easily too.

HTC ChaCha: Benchmarks

tablet benchmarks

HTC ChaCha

How it rates against the rest - higher is better

S2

How we test

TechRadar aims to produce the most helpful phone reviews on the web, so you're able to make a more informed buying decision.

Part of this testing process includes benchmarking. It's a good way of measuring the overall performance of a product's internal hardware components.

We use Antutu System Benchmark to test tablets. It's a comprehensive Android benchmarking app and produces consistent results.

Antutu measures an Android device's CPU performance, 2D and 3D graphics performance, memory speed and internal and external storage read/write speeds. It combines the results for each test and gives the device a final score.

We test each device three times and take an average.

HTC ChaCha: Hands-on gallery

HTC chacha hands-on front

HTC chacha hands-on bottom corner

HTC chacha hands-on keyboard

HTC chacha hands-on socket

HTC chacha hands-on left side

HTC chacha hands-on top corner

HTC chacha hands-on back

HTC chacha hands-on camera

HTC chacha hands-on side view

HTC chacha hands-on in hand

HTC chacha hands-on apps screen

HTC chacha hands-on location screen

HTC chacha hands-on sim slot

HTC chacha hands-on battery

HTC ChaCha: Official gallery

HTC chacha pr shot main

HTC chacha pr shot multi view

HTC chacha pr shot front

HTC chacha pr shot back

HTC ChaCha: Verdict

If you're bored of all the one-upmanship from manufacturers looking to outdo each other with specs and just want something fun, then the ChaCha is a serious contender. It takes what is a fairly stable HTC Sense/Android combination and builds on it to make a phone that looks fun, and does its primary Facebook job well while not scrimping on (most of) its other obligations.

It's currently being marketed very heavily here in the UK - and will likely be on many a Christmas list at the end of the year. It'll be interesting to see what impact it has on BlackBerry's similar offerings.


We liked

HTC's Sense has become one of the big successes of the Android story, and the way they've integrated it here with Facebook is both intuitive and inventive.

Tapping out your status or just an email or message is a piece of cake, because the keyboard is usable and doesn't present any real issues like some do.

You'll also get more bang for your buck here with the battery. While Androids are notorious battery hogs, we felt comfortable enough with the drainage to not have to check how much was left every five minutes.

We disliked

Seriously, HTC... the ChaCha? It's one thing having a cool name - but who on earth thought that one up? We actually felt embarrassed when our Facebook status updates revealed they were 'posted from a HTC ChaCha', and became a bit of a laughing-stock among friends.

Although the shape does work well for the keyboard, the chin looks downright odd. We thought HTC's random design flaw/feature (delete as appropriate) had been consigned to the bin but evidently not. You'll notice the bulge this creates in your pockets, and people do comment on it, wondering why the phone is bent - although it does have some benefit for screen viewing angles.

Finally, creating a phone on Android Gingerbread that can't cope with Flash is a terrible omission. OK, we get that the ChaCha is designed to have a lower price point, and as such needs to have compromises here and there, but it seems this phone would really benefit from a spot of Flash integration.

Verdict

The ChaCha is not a revolutionary device. Yes, the Facebook button is new and a few of the elements in there are premiered here but ultimately, it's an evolution, not a revolution.

Having said that, it's not necessarily a bad thing. You know what you're getting here - a stable OS with an extra skin on top that has proven to be more than competent. And for the 14-21 year-olds who have their eye on this 'Facebook phone', it'll be enough.

The price certainly is closer to the budget end of the scale, which we really like, and the quirkiness of the phone makes it a real breath of fresh air in a sea of indentikit black-slab touchscreens.

However, with the cramped screen it feels like the HTC ChaCha is a one trick pony at times - get bored of the Facebook integration and you'll probably start casting envious glances at your friends' whizzbang phones and thinking 'do I really love having a keyboard?'

When you turn the ChaCha on, you're greeted with HTC's logo and slogan: "Quietly Brilliant". There's certainly nothing quiet about the ChaCha - and while 'brilliant' may be pushing just a little, it's certainly not far off for the Facebook generation.


Thanks to the Carphone Warehouse for our review unit and giving TechRadar exclusive early access to the finished model.

HTC ChaCha Facebook Mobile phone Smartphone
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