HTC Gratia £329.99

3rd Mar 2011 | 17:27

HTC Gratia

Is this 3.2-inch HTC smartphone a little something for everyone, or a small misstep for the mobile giant?

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

A neat little phone, but too small and underpowered to threaten the big boys and will struggle against the forthcoming and cheaper Wildfire S

Like:

Great HTC Sense-enriched core experience; Good hardware design; Intelligent mobile browsing; Contacts well managed; Easy to get online and synced up;

Dislike:

Flash for the web is a wash; Battery life is less than stellar; GPS is a battery killer; Weaker processor than we'd like; Lacks HD video and camera flash;

HTC Gratia: Overview

The US's slimline, Android-running HTC Aria was due to arrive on UK and European shores back in November, albeit rebranded as the less-musical-sounding Gratia and boasting Android 2.2 (Froyo), rather than 2.1 (Eclair).

Now it's finally here and ready to carry the tune begun by the HTC Wildfire. In so doing, it will have to face off against rival fare such as Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 Mini and the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Fit.

The family resemblance with HTC's HD Mini is clear in the Gratia's compact, 115g body, which comes packed with a five-megapixel camera, 600MHz processor, gorgeous 3.2-inch 320 x 480 touchscreen and Android 2.2 bearing the now-familiar HTC Sense UI.

HTC gratia

That aesthetic similarity is no bad thing, though, since both phones are pleasing enough on the eye. Here, the glossy black front plate and screen are on prominent display, encapsulated by a matte plastic outer shell that comes in a choice of three colours: white, emerald green and black.

The Gratia also features plenty of ways to get online, including Wi-Fi, 3G, GRPS and EDGE. This is bolstered with a selection of neat browsing tools, and a key weapon in the one-upmanship wars with Apple's iPhone: Flash support.

HTC gratia

The box contains the essentials: a micro-USB cable, a pair of headphones with foam covers and clip, and a USB plug for charging from the mains. These were universally rendered in pretty, but impractical, white.

On the software side of things, there's a slew of apps and widgets to cover all your communication needs, and HTC is keen to emphasise that "it's about people". This notably shines through in a focus on social networking in the touted Friend Stream app, as well as contact-orientated widgets and groups.

HTC gratia

Meanwhile, business users are catered for with Exchange email support, the range of office software on the Android Marketplace, and Stocks widgets.

Prices for the Gratia on monthly contracts were unrevealed at the time of writing, but we're expecting this to fall in the mid-range for smartphones: somewhere around the £20-25 per month mark.

Alternatively, you can fork out around £300 to buy the handset outright. In this kind of price bracket, that 600MHz processor is looking a little sluggish, but Android 2.2's speed optimisations are on hand to balance it out to some extent. More on that later.

HTC gratia

So if you want a veritable array of smartphone functionality in a pocket-friendly package, the Gratia seems to have a lot to offer. But can it really serve all those it aims to cater for, or has HTC overstretched and thus risked leaving no one gratified?

HTC Gratia: Design

HTC Gratia review: Design

The design influences on the Gratia are pretty clear: its modernistic frame takes a healthy dose of HTC HD Mini chic, adds a dash of the HTC Wildfire and HTC Desire, and then throws a soupcon of iPhone 3GS gloss into the mix. The overall result is a pretty sleek looker that stands out in the often-tepid mid-price smartphone crowd.

HTC gratia

The matte plastic outer feels sturdy enough and is less plasticky than some of the phones we've held (Blackberry Curve, we're looking at you). Turn the phone over and you'll see the tidy camera/speaker unit and some hefty-looking screws.

HTC gratia

The latter are an odd touch, since they actually belong to the hardware beneath the shell, and so could be hidden away. We think they look curiously industrial compared to the rest of the phone, but we do like the rugged aesthetic they lend the phone's rear. We also know they won't be to everyone's taste.

Looks aren't everything, though – how does it feel in action? We found the Gratia's 115g weight sits nicely in the hand, nestling snugly between fingertips and the top of our palm. The edges, which come to a rounded-off peak, aid one-handed ergonomics, but means it's slightly less comfortable to hold with both mitts.

HTC gratia

Still, it's more than good enough unless you're planning on doing heavy-duty landscape web browsing and typing for hours on end.

In terms of size, the Gratia's reasonably small compared to some of the big-screen titans on the market, measuring just 104 x 58 x 12mm. That means it's a comfortable fit in nearly any pocket and it's also just about light enough to be eminently portable.

115g is no featherweight for this segment of the market, though, so if you're after a mobile you'll barely notice carrying, you may want to look elsewhere.

Decent use is made of the phone's limited real estate too, with the predominant share going to the 3.2-inch touchscreen. This is pleasingly bright and vivid, with wide viewing angles.

HTC gratia

Below the screen are four touch-sensitive points used as Home, Menu, Back and Search buttons, which light up when the display's in service. If we could choose, we'd have these moved down a millimetre or two more, in order to cut down the times when a slightly misjudged jab at the lower edge of the screen results in striking one of these keys.

It wasn't something we often struggled with when standing still, but could be an issue while walking. Whether you feel the same will come down to the size of your digits and the care you tend to exercise.

There's also an optical trackpad located towards the lower edge of the face, which we're pretty blasé about. It's mostly there for scrolling through text to make corrections and for interacting with the camera, functioning as the shutter button.

While it does both of these tasks well enough, we'd certainly prefer a proper physical key for the latter in a more intuitive place.

Away from the main face, there's a bare minimum of buttons and ports. Along the left-hand side sits a lozenge-shaped volume switch, while the screen lock/power button is housed at the top. Bar the trackpad-cum-button mentioned above, that's it in terms of physical inputs.

HTC gratia

The lock leaves a little to be desired, since its position requires an awkward flex of the index finger to use when the phone's held in one hand. Still, this is a minor niggle and easily worked around.

Conversely, the large volume switch took a little getting used to, but once we learned where not to squeeze, became a real boon for tweaking volume on the fly.

HTC gratia

Rounding out the notable features, the bottom edge has a hole for the microphone, and a micro-USB port, while the top bears a 3.5mm headphone jack. Overall, it's a pleasing package, devoid of too much fluff. A few minor tweaks (such as making the edges more comfortable) and it'd be nigh-on perfect.

HTC gratia

HTC Gratia: Interface

HTC Gratia review: Interface

Click the on/lock switch and by default you'll be shown the most central of your seven HTC Sense-flavoured Android home screens. Out of the box, this contains a clock and weather widget at the top, plus icons for email, messaging, the internet and the camera app.

HTC gratia

You may also see one of the Gratia's neat little visual tricks – showing you the current weather by rendering clouds, raindrops or the like on your screen for a few moments before clearing away the effect away to a more standard view.

At the bottom lies the consistent and curvaceous HTC Sense UI hub, displaying your current position within the span of home screens with a little light-grey bar on the sweeping mound of darker grey.

Underneath that, sitting dead centre and touching the bottom edge of the display, is all-important Phone nubbin, which is your centre for dialling out to the world.

To its left is the app menu launcher, the triangle in a circle icon, which brings up a list of the phone's installed programs. To the right is a plus symbol, which allows you to add widgets, apps, shortcuts and folders of your choosing to your Home screens.

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

Swipe left and you'll see a new Home screen holding a widget for your email. Do it twice more and you'll see a widget for text messages and a page given over solely to telling you what the weather's doing. Going right from the central screen reveals a favourites pane, news feed and one empty space to stick whatever you fancy in.

Scrolling back and forth like this will yield one more treat for careful observers – the colour-shifting HTC Sense Live wallpaper. The balance shifts from red on the far right to purple at the opposite end of the Home screen spectrum.

There's a range of such offerings on board, but we were particularly taken with the rippling Water wallpaper and the Polar clock background. Of course, there are also several standard wallpapers if you prefer to keep your experience more constant.

HTC gratia

You're not confined to scrolling to navigate the Gratia, though – pinching on any Home screen shows your selection of screens in an exploded view, called Leap View, and from this you can simply tap to hop straight to whichever one you want.

HTC gratia

It's a handy way to find what you need in a jiffy. Meanwhile, pressing the Home key on any Home screen other than your central one will return you to it, and pressing the Home key there does the same job as pinching.

There's one final UI feature to account for: the notifications bar. This sits at the top of the screen, displaying essential information such as the time, your battery's current level of charge and your signal.

HTC gratia

As the name implies, it also notifies you of events – such as messages you've received, or if the Gratia's connected to a PC – with little icons. You can pull the bar down with a finger, revealing more detailed information in a list. If this has whetted your appetite, you can poke the entry to whisk you to the relevant app.

While the Sense UI itself is constant, all the Home screen layouts we've mentioned here can be customised to your heart's content with apps and widgets of your choosing. Plus, if you crave any functionality not provided with the Gratia, there's always the Android Marketplace from which to obtain new apps to fill the void.

When you've made changes, you can save your custom layouts as scenes, meaning you can flick between profiles for work and weekend use, for example.

HTC gratia

The context-sensitive Menu key is where your options for tweaking the Gratia and its apps live. Press it on any Home screen to alter wallpapers, scenes, app and widget layouts, and to access the Settings app, which is comprehensive. Similarly, touching it within an app will summon some appropriate options.

As we've noted before, such as in our HTC Desire HD review, HTC Sense tends to make for a pleasingly fluid experience in general use, and the Gratia's no exception, despite its below-average processor clockspeed.

It's snappy to respond to your touch, and quick to load into apps. So while on paper the processor is punching below its weight, there's little sign of that in standard navigation.

While all this may sound complicated, the Gratia's blend of Sense and Android is also pleasingly simple to get to grips with, even if it will take you a while to master all the settings. The default layout is a sensible place to start and will help get you on your feet quickly.

What's more, there's also a setup wizard for getting connected online and linking your phone to your social media accounts – just what you need when you're getting to grips with such multifaceted hardware.

HTC Gratia: Contacts and calling

HTC Gratia review: Contacts and calling

All the fancy functionality in the world will be a bit wasted on a smartphone if it doesn't also live up the latter part of that name. Thankfully, contacts are a traditional strength of HTC, and that shines through in the Gratia, too. Here, your hub for managing all those folk you want to stay in touch with is the descriptively titled People app.

Using this, you can pull in contact information from a variety of different sources – such as Facebook, Exchange or Google accounts – plus you'll see any contacts stored to your SIM, and can import contacts from an SD card. You can also link up Flickr and Twitter directories to stay on top of your social life.

We simply added our Google account details to the phone and, after a few minutes of syncing time, our People app was populated with names, numbers and pictures. We then connected up Facebook, which updated some of our rather archaic collection of contacts with pictures, current statuses and handy information such as birthdays and phone numbers. It was quick and painless – just the way it should be.

HTC gratia

However, you may find you generate some duplicate entires, each bearing different fragments of data for a contact. So the next stage of the process is linking multiple entries for the same contacts into one coherent whole.

This is brilliantly intuitive, and HTC deserves credit for making it so easy to untangle both the on- and offline strands of modern life into one useable address book.

All you need do is select an account to be the primary one, then click the link button in the top-left corner to access helpful suggestions for entries that should be subsumed into it.

Tap each of the correct ones in turn and then, if needs be, you can conduct a search to find any stragglers the phone has missed (usually because you've used a slightly different name).

Once you've added all the necessary sub contacts, tap on Done and you'll be returned to an entry that now represents the unified whole of all that contact's data.

HTC gratia

If you've opted to link up to social media, then brilliant use is made of this too. For example, add Facebook details to a contact and that person's entry will offer the option to view their profile, plus there's a dedicated tab to seeing their events and online galleries.

HTC gratia

Because of all the streams of data you can access, each contact's entry could become an unnecessarily complex affair. But each contact is handily split up into sections, accessed through a bar along the bottom.

There are sections for the contact's details (phone number, email address, birthday and so on), plus a screen for your messages with this person, a similar one for emails, one for updates and events, a page to show online gallery information and, finally, your call history.

HTC gratia

Adding new folk to your phone is similarly simple – just hit the Menu key followed by the giant Add Entry. Now enter the data you know into the available fields and click the big ol' Save button.

Your contact is created, and all fields you left blank are removed, keeping the entry as clean as possible. You can always add new data to the contact later by hitting the Menu key again in that contact's entry and using the Edit option within.

You're also offered the chance to add the number of callers you don't have stored in your phone after you take a call from them, which is a neat touch.

And if you're a keen bulk emailler or messenger, you can organise contacts in a group for batch communication.

While all of this is handled capably by the People app, we'd be remiss when talking contacts to skip over the Favourites widget. This enables you to create links to perform common tasks for certain contacts, such as sending a message, or calling a particular phone number, within a pane on your Home screen.

HTC gratia

It cuts down on trawling for everyday contacts immensely, which translates into more time for doing the important stuff, like actually communicating.

When it comes to making and taking calls, we're less able to be superlative, but the Gratia's offering in this department is mostly competent.

To dial out, hit the Phone button and you're presented with a standard pad of numbers that's suitably large and finger friendly. There's a big green call button at the bottom, and a link to your call history at the bottom-left.

You can also hide the keypad to see a list of your contact numbers, plus a few recent entires for phone activity right at the top, which makes returning a missed call easy.

HTC gratia

Our only real problem with this system is that hitting the wrong entry is slightly too easy on a screen this size, and we had to hurriedly kill mis-calls more than once.

Once you've made a call, you'll see a big screen with a large picture of your contact (where you have one), plus options for muting, turning on speaker phone and another big button for ending the call at the bottom. Again, we have a minor niggle, though – when you make a long phone call, the screen's supposed to turn off to preserve the battery, but we found our screen occasionally flickered on and off.

HTC gratia

Sound-wise, the people we called on the Gratia often noticed we were a little quiet – which could be an issue when near heavy traffic or noisy roadworks – but reported the quality of our voice was okay.

Likewise, we found the phone's ear speaker was quite good in terms of accurately conveying tonal information, but frequently found it a little weedy when outside conditions were loud.

Still, never once did the phone drop our signal, even during longer chats, which was pleasing. In fact, signal strength was good overall, picking up a few bars in areas other phones can struggle.

Finally, HTC's polite ringer feature is included. This lowers the volume of your ringtone when you lift the phone up to see a contact, and turns the volume off if you flip the handset over, taking a message. It's a neat little touch and works really well when your phone's on your desk, but can be more awkward when fumbling around in a pocket.

If you don't rate it, you can always turn this functionality off in the Gratia's settings.

HTC Gratia: Messaging

HTC Gratia review: Messaging

Messaging is a pretty big deal for any smartphone, so it's great to see it handled as competently as it is here. The Messages app is your centre for SMS/MMS texts, while there are also dedicated Mail and Gmail apps for sending longer form messages.

One of the nicer parts of using the Gratia is that you'll barely ever have to go looking for these apps, though.

The People app we covered earlier has links to begin SMS and email messaging a contact on each person's page (assuming you've entered an email address/phone number) and there is a pair of widgets for seeing the contents of an email inbox and the conversations you're currently having by text message.

HTC gratia

Again, both present ways of firing up the app they're linked to, so you can dip in and out of the interfaces as you please.

Constructing a text is simplicity itself – just type a name into the To bar at the top and you'll be offered appropriate contacts from your address book, or you can tap the little person icon to select message recipients from a list. Next, tap the text field below to enter your message.

HTC gratia

This will summon the QWERTY keyboard, either in its landscape or portrait orientations, depending on how you're holding the phone.

With such limited screen space, we found the portrait view fine for slamming out short texts, ably assisted by Android's capable autocorrection features, but often preferred the more spacious landscape orientation when getting wordy.

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

With the phone held sideways, we soon found ourselves typing at fairly respectable speeds and came to rely on Android's handy suggestions – simply tap to pick one – for when our brain moved faster than our digits.

The user dictionary is quick to learn your lingo too, but perhaps a touch overzealous, occasionally picking up mistakes. You can, of course, edit it later to rectify this, but that's a bit too much faff for our tastes.

When you're done, hit the attachment icon to add a file, or just hit the send key to let your message wing its way across the networks to your intended recipient.

HTC gratia

Note that you'll have to dismiss the keyboard in landscape view to do this, which is odd, since we reckon the return key (usefully employed in this manner elsewhere) could have done the job, but it's hardly a big deal.

The Mail app benefits from a touch of sensible logic, being handily split into Received, Conversation, From Favourite, Unread and Attachment pages to help you sort your incoming mail easily. You can also apply sorting rules from the menu, and flick through your mail account's folders using the Folders entry.

HTC gratia

Hooking up your mail accounts is easy too, mostly requiring just a simple one-time login before they're seamlessly integrated into the phone. Exchange support proved a little trickier in our tests, though, needing a more complex manual set up. Your mileage may vary.

Constructing emails is less immediately intuitive than browsing your way through them, but it's easy when you know how. There's a Compose option on the far left of the menu, which takes you to a screen that's remarkably similar to the one we described for text messaging except that it also bears a Subject field.

HTC gratia

From there, the process is almost exactly the same, bar that fact the the send/attachment logos have been replaced with a menu at the bottom with a Send button, one to save messages as drafts and a discard key. It's hardly flashy stuff, but solid enough to use every day.

HTC Gratia: Internet

HTC Gratia review: Internet

With a Google-powered OS behind it, you'd expect the Gratia to be pretty capable at handling itself online and this usually proves to be the case.

HTC gratia

Web pages render quickly and accurately, while navigating with finger pokes/flicks proves easy. The pinch-to-zoom functionality is also impressive, scaling things up as well as reflowing text intelligently. This minimises the amount of scrolling from side to side you need to do, and makes it easy to read news text.

HTC gratia

The address bar is great, too. Summon it by swiping down at the top of a page and tap on it to enter an address. Google will even offer little buttons to take you directly to previously accessed sites, which start out as a range of possible sites, but are quickly narrowed down by what you enter.

HTC gratia

The input accuracy is fine, and you can always zoom in if you're struggling to hit a small button. You can also press and hold on web links to open them in a new window, or do an array of other actions, such as share, save and bookmark them.

HTC gratia

Once you've generated some bookmarks, you'll find them saved in handy thumbnail lists, along with your most visited sites, which are easily accessed using the menu key. It's the kind of seamless browsing usability you'd expect from a tech giant who made its name in search.

HTC gratia

So far, so solid, but this is where the good news ends. The headline feature of Flash support is a damp squib on the Gratia. For example, we tried watching a simple animation and it was horrible, its frames stuttering and jumping while the audio continued on in the background.

Likewise, loading up one heavy Flash-based site took so long, our handset went to sleep (as did we). Even a lighter one was far from the web 2.0 experience we'd hope for. Ultimately, then, if this is a trump card to be produced against the iPhone and Apple's shiny walled garden, colour us unimpressed.

HTC gratia

It should also be noted that we had little luck getting much online video to play that wasn't from the Google-owned YouTube.

Still, you're not limited to the Android Internet app – the Android Market holds plenty of alternatives if this doesn't suit for whatever reason.

HTC Gratia: Camera

HTC Gratia review: Camera

HTC gratia

The Gratia's five-megapixel camera isn't short of an option or two, but it's lacking a few features we'd like, so don't ditch that point-and-click camera just yet.

Control over the quality of your shots is merely fine, with an array of sliders accessible from the menu that enable you to tweak contrast, brightness, sharpness and the like. Sadly, these are quantised into levels, and the jump between each point can be both significant and frustrating.

HTC gratia

Further options, such as ISO, white balance and quality settings, can be accessed in a more standard way through the Settings tab. However, the menu as a whole is too screen-hungry for our tastes, often covering up half the display or more. It's forgivable when you're picking one of the extensive filter options or similar, but a real pain while tweaking shot-affecting parameters.

HTC gratia

A flash is noticeable by its absence, and we found that shooting in low-light conditions was tricky at best and unmanageable at worst.

Tapping to set the focus point is always a nice addition, though, and the face detection proved pretty reasonable, so this will suffice for a few party snaps – as long as you're not in a dingy nightclub.

HTC gratia

Click here for full-res version

FUZZY:The focusing can be a little off at times, such as with our muzzy king of beasts here

HTC gratia

Click here for full-res version

ZOOM:Get in close and while the shot will look fine on the handheld's screen, they'll be far too pixellated if you view them on a computer display

HTC gratia

Click here for full-res version

COLOURS:We noticed the Gratia's camera was particularly susceptible to colour casts, such as these red reflections that dominate the shot, but were pretty easy to miss by eye

HTC gratia

Click here for full-res version

OUTDOORS:Getting outside made things better, but the sky texture's blown out and it was hardly the world's brightest day

HTC Gratia: Video

HTC Gratia review: Video

The story from the stills camera carries over to the video-recording capabilities. Just flip the app into recording mode in the menu and the shutter button now initiates capturing video. There's no option for HD quality, though; this is strictly 640 x 480 VGA recording at maximum.

htc gratia

HTC Gratia: Media

HTC Gratia review: Media

The Music app's where it's at for tunes, but this is much the same flaccid experience provided on the HTC Wildfire. The Cover Flow-esque standard view lacks the panache of the trendsetting feature it so desperately wants to be like.

HTC gratia

While you can view your music in list views through the menu options at the side, the options are a little lacking. Where's the simple yet effective touch-sensitive alphabetical scroll list to help you locate a track, for example? Sure, you can use the Search key to narrow your options by typing, but that's not the same.

A similar story plays out elsewhere – the package is adequate, but it's not the slick, iPhone-like experience the glossy looks promise.

HTC gratia

There's no equaliser either, much to our chagrin. We find the Gratia's on-board speaker a shade treble-heavy, while the supplied headphones major more on the bass end of the scale, and we would like to exert some fine grained control over our music.

Of course, the Android Market has replacement options (we suggest Player Pro or Museek, for example), but don't expect audiophile heaven out of the box.

The HTC earphones bear a mention, in that they come with an in-line play/pause button and keys to skip tracks, plus a mic for use in calls. The delay after using the buttons was noticeable and irritating, though, so we quickly ditched them for our reliable Sennheisers. However, you'll need them for the built-in FM radio, which is a nice touch and quite pleasing to use.

Online music aficionados will also be pleased to note that there's a Spotify app on the device. You'll need a premium account to access it, though, and beware of running into trouble with the data limits your service provider imposes.

HTC gratia

Video playback was a mixed bag for us. While the vivid screen did our test music videos reasonable justice in terms of picture quality, serious sideways panning revealed ugly jerkiness. You wouldn't to watch an action-packed TV show episode on the Gratia.

HTC gratia

Notably, the Video app and the Gallery are one and the same. Your media is sorted into albums, with one for all photos and another for all videos, plus more specific sections to aid browsing. It's easy to navigate by swiping left and right in the main list view, but you're unable to do this when a video is playing.

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

The included YouTube app, however, is excellent. It's snappy to load and the quality is pretty good for streaming video, too. If you love to broadcast yourself, there's even a link to the camera in there so you can shoot some footage and upload it in double-quick time.

HTC Gratia: Apps/Widgets

HTC Gratia review: Apps/widgets

The HTC Gratia comes stuffed with widgets and apps aplenty, many of which we've already highlighted in relation to their function elsewhere in this review. The key ones we've yet to look at are the much-touted Friend Stream widget, plus the Android Marketplace for expanding the phone in the direction you want to take it, so let's examine those now, along with a few other bits.

Friend Stream takes two forms: a continuous torrent of little updates from various media accounts in one scrollable list; and a short status updater/tweet writing panel to quickly fire off your thoughts to the world.

HTC gratia

By default, the latter will update both your Facebook status and tweet it too, but you can tweak this as you wish. Unfortunately, you can't access the keyboard in landscape orientation this way, so we didn't feel like we'd use it much.

HTC gratia

The list view is a handy way to passively stay in touch with your friends' thoughts, and a great jumping on point for all the links, witticisms and random stuff you've come to expect from your contacts online. It offers exactly what the name implies – integrating your Flickr, Facebook and Twitter accounts into single stream of short, digestible chunks.

If you're after a more fully fledged experience, however, you'd be better off turning to dedicated apps – both Twitter and Facebook are catered for here by default.

As widgets go, the iconic HTC Sense clock/weather view is actually our favourite. It's handy to get an impression of what it's doing outside, and the big clock is easy to read at a glance.

HTC gratia

You can also set multiple alarms by tapping on the widget and selecting the appropriate page, which offers simple options to repeat the alert on different days, and to toggle your wake up calls on and off. Within a day we'd set up entries to get us out of bed at the right time for work, lying in on a Saturday to a reasonable hour and getting where we needed to be on Sunday. Ace.

HTC gratia

To try some gaming, we downloaded Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Tank Hero from the marketplace, but they did more to highlight the Gratia's slower-than-average processor speeds than anything else we tried on the handset.

In all three, there could be noticeable lag between inputting a command to fling an irritated avian or lob a bomb and the result occurring on-screen. It was only occasional, often occurring the first time we performed an action after loading, but frustrating. Not a big deal perhaps, but hardly a wonderful experience.

The Android Market app is simple enough to use, and ever expanding, so you can usually find what you need. There's a neat little carousel when you first log into to the store, and the ever-popular Top Paid, Top Free and Just In categories are around to make intuitive finding easier.

HTC gratia

There's a dedicated search button in the top right for locating something specific, and categories to browse as and when you need them.

HTC gratia

We could go on, but it suffices to say that there's masses of apps to get you started on the Gratia, and you can expand your selection to suit your preferences and use case. The real question is how many you'll actually use, and whether gaming is important to you.

HTC Gratia: Battery and connectivity

HTC Gratia review: Battery

Battery life isn't one of the Gratia's strong points, and could be a deal breaker for some – particularly those who are often away from a charge point and make heavy use of the web while on the go.

We found that a day of moderate use was enough to drain the 1200mAh battery to around half capacity. It should be noted that this included under an hour of Wi-Fi use, but we did leave the 3G connection that's essential to most of the phone's information-fetching widgets active all the time.

HTC gratia

Make reasonable use of the camera, surf the net a bit and watch a few videos online in a day, and you'll certainly have to think about charging up before you head out into the wider world once more.

Helpfully, however, Android does have a handy battery status page hidden away in the settings that can break down your power usage and help you identify where you can save some juice. There's also a power management widget that can make controlling your connectivity options a simple affair, thus helping you turn off whatever you're not currently using to save some charge.

HTC gratia

Connectivity

Talking of connectivity, the Gratia is bristling with ways to hook up to the cloud and other devices. There's 802.11b/g Wi-Fi for getting online, which we found was respectably fast over a decent Wi-Fi connection, but can't make the most of a speedy wireless n hub (such as the new BT Home Hub).

The phone's 3G connection proved reasonably capable too, and is stated to max out at 7.2Mbps downloading and 2Mbps uploading. In practice, we found we could watch a YouTube video if we left it for a few minutes before hitting play, but obviously you're better off with Wi-Fi wherever you can get it.

There's Bluetooth 2.1 functionality here too, with Enhanced Data Rate, A2DP for wireless headsets and a smattering of other profiles with three to five letter acronyms.

Elsewhere, there's a GPS chip for use with Google's Maps app, but while fairly accurate, it's hardly been blisteringly fast in our tests. It also chews through battery at an aggressive rate, so we'd only turn to it when lost, and then only to briefly ask for directions.

HTC gratia

Connect the handset up to a PC and you're offered a handy span of options from a menu that pops up on the handset's screen. You can opt to sync up your calendars and more with the HTC Sync program (Windows users only), set up tethering to use your handset to provide an internet connection, mount your device as a disk drive or simply charge it.

HTC Gratia: Hands-on gallery

HTC Gratia review: Hands-on gallery

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC Gratia: Official gallery

HTC Gratia review: Official gallery

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC gratia

HTC Gratia: Verdict

HTC Gratia review: Verdict

HTC gratia

Has the Gratia managed to ingratiate itself with us then? Well, the answer's yes and no.

We think it's a great little handset with plenty going for it, but it has no obvious point of strength to leverage when trying to claim a niche of the market, beyond the respectable core experience.

Overall, it's much like the Gratia's own rear face – part sleek gloss, part industrious workhorse, flirting with both but managing neither fully.

We liked

There are plenty of things it does well: your contacts are ably managed, calling is good and you'll find it simple to send messages and surf the web.

What's more, the rock solid core of HTC Sense/Android usability is fantastic, and there are plenty of good widgets/apps onboard that will make the main bulk of your day-to-day Gratia experience pleasurable from the get-go.

We disliked

Sadly, there's more than one part of the Gratia experience that's lacking the meat it needs to be convincing. To name a few, the less-than-ideally organised camera app, the juice-sapping GPS and disappointing Flash support.

Throw in a few behind-the-curve features – no HD video, no camera flash, the quickly taxed battery, and the slower than average processor – and it's hard to recommend the Gratia to everyone.

Verdict

Whether or not you'll love the Gratia comes down to what you care about. If you're after an everyday smartphone at a reasonable price, this could more than ably scratch that itch. In fact, we'd recommend it over many other phones in this bracket.

If, however, you'd prefer a powerhouse packed with cutting-edge features, there's no doubt that this is too much of a compromise to satisfy. Camera cognoscenti also need not apply.

For the mid-priced market, though, some compromises are acceptable – if the Gratia's vices aren't concerns of yours, then buy this knowing you'll have a wonderful time.

smartphone mobile phone Android 2.2
Share this Article
Google+

Apps you might like:

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version