Like any new SKU, all it takes is one manufacturer to launch a successful product and then everyone piles on. Apple’s iPad is one such example that comes to mind, since before its existence no one really cared much about tablets. In the mobile space, touchscreen devices seem to be the future as there’s no going back now. However, many would still argue that the feel of a physical keypad can never be replaced by even the best of touchscreens. So, in order to keep both parties happy, a new SKU had to be created which is where touch-and-type was born. This new segment includes phones with touchscreens and full QWERTY keypads or even traditional ones.
HTC Chacha Video Review
In the QWERTY space, Samsung was the first on scene in India with the Galaxy Pro, quickly followed by the Nokia E6 and then the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900. Recently, HTC launched the ChaCha in India which was perfect timing since it fills the gap between the Galaxy Pro and the E6. Known as the ‘Facebook phone’, it’s targeted at Facebook addicts who can’t go five minutes without updating their status or poking someone. Let’s see if the ChaCha can do the dance and emerge victorious.
Design and Build
The ChaCha is a very compact phone and fits perfectly in your hand. It has the same polished feel and sturdy build quality we’ve come to expect from HTC handsets in the past. The choice of silver and white blends really well, lending it a very classy look. If white is not your style, then the ChaCha comes in a black option as well. The bottom portion of the phone is angled a bit for better ergonomics. It’s very subtle and it does make a slight difference when you’re typing.
Compact and well built
The phone sports a 2.6-inch capacitive touchscreen with a 480×320 pixel resolution which makes everything appear really sharp and clear. Slight colour banding is noticeable on certain wallpapers due to the resolution as well as the lower color gamut (only 256K colours). The screen is much better than Samsung’s Pro as the resolution is higher inspite of the Pro having a larger 2.8-inch screen. Nokia’s E6 still has the best screen though for a touch-and-type handset so far. We have a similar set of shortcut buttons placed below the screen for Home, Properties, Back and Search, just like the rest of their Android handsets.
HTC has made good use of the available space for the keypad which is simply a joy to use. The fit and finish of the keys are near perfect with good spacing between them. The backlighting is even across all the keys and automatically kicks in thanks to the ambient light sensor. The dedicated Facebook button is placed at the bottom which lights up every time you browse, click a picture, watch a video or visit a link in the browser. Hitting this button takes you to a screen where you can add a caption or even tag people in the image and then upload it. Pressing the button home screen lets you quickly update your status message.
Even backlight across the keypad
The headphone and the power button are placed on the top while the volume rocker and the micro-USB port are placed on the side. The ChaCha comes with a 5MP auto-focus camera and a single LED flash. The speaker is placed just beside the camera and is clearly audible even when placed on a table.
The ChaCha runs Google’s latest version of Android, Gingerbread 2.3.3 with Sense 2.1. The lock screen is similar to the one seen on the Sensation but the home screen lacks the 3D menus. You can add a total of seven home screens and fill them with plenty of pre-installed widgets. The phone is pretty quick to navigate around and the animations and transitions are smooth without much stutter. The 800MHz processor is plenty to handle this resolution but not strong enough for HD videos. The phone comes bundled with a 2GB micro-SD card that's expandable to 32GB.
Sense UI never fails to impress
The menu system has gone through a bit of shuffling to suit the landscape mode of the ChaCha. The section that sorts the apps as per frequently used or downloaded is now placed on the side. You scroll through the apps in a vertical fashion. Everything works very smoothly and the capacitive screen is very sensitive to touch picking up even the slightest gestures.
Updating your FB status has never been easier
The one thing I missed was the customized notification bar which the Flyer had. It gave you quick access to Wi-Fi, brightness, Bluetooth, etc. which you could access from any app without having to go to the home screen. Instead, the ChaCha comes with the default bar which has nothing.
Starting with the video playback, the ChaCha will read common formats like 3gp, MP4 and WMV through the default video player. Other formats are either not displayed or show up with a blank thumbnail and an exclamation mark. The playable video resolution is restricted to DVD quality which means up to 800×480. Moboplayer will unlock other formats but 720p files still refuse to play which is to be expected with an 800Mhz CPU. The default video player is very limited in terms of functionality and HTC hasn’t bundled any audio enhancement options like Dolby or SRS. SD videos playback without a hitch and the colours are bright and vivid. The sound from the speaker is not too shabby either. You can of course share the video you’re watching by simply hitting the Facebook button.
Music player app is not very feature rich
The stock music player faces a similar dilemma. There’s no support for FLAC, just the standard formats like MP3, AAC, MID, WAV, WMA and OGG. There are absolutely no audio enhancements to be found anywhere, not even a simple preset equalizer. Thankfully, there are plenty of free apps to fill the void like Tune Wiki and MixZing. The audio quality is just about average which is bettered with a decent IEM. You can’t share the song on Facebook but it lets you update your status message with the name of the song you’re listening too.
The HTC ChaCha is a quad-band GSM phone with HSUPA and HSDPA support. There’s also Wi-Fi ‘n’ and Bluetooth v3.0 which is a standard fare in current smartphones. The default browser does a good job of rendering web pages in case you don’t want to bother with Opera. The primary focus of this phone is the Facebook integration and as you’d expect, the app comes pre-installed along with a separate app for just the chat. That, and of course the dedicated physical button which tempts you to share what's on your mind with a pulsating glow. You also get a bunch of other internet apps bundled with Sense like Friend Stream, HTC Hub, HTC Likes, Latitude, Maps, Peep, Places, YouTube, Weather, etc.
Browsing is not bad
Call quality is pretty good as well. The earpiece volume is sufficiently loud and I didn't experience any call drops either.
The ChaCha is fitted with a 5MP auto-focus camera and a single LED flash. The plastic portion covering the lens protrudes outwards which is prone to fine scratches. This doesn’t really affect the picture quality too much but it’s something to be careful about. We’ve seen the same camera software before in HTC’s other handsets as well. Geo-tagging and face detection is supported along with a bunch of scene modes and other presets.
Decent camera software
HTC has also included an auto-upload feature which lets you automatically upload the captured picture to Facebook or Flickr. Indoor shots are not bad as the flash helps a bit but it’s still too weak to illuminate the object completely leaving the picture with bright spots in certain areas. Touch-to-focus is present and so are brightness, exposure and contrast settings. Out-door images are a lot better and the sensor is able to capture a decent level of detail and colour.
Out-door shots are pretty good
The ChaCha can record video up to 720×480 resolutions at 30fps. The recorded video is relatively smooth but there’s a slight hint of stutter that creeps up intermittently. This is noticeable while recoding as well.
The ChaCha comes with Google eBook reader app along with three books pre-installed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t browse more books as I kept getting an error message saying ‘Latest eBooks are not available in your location’. The eBooks open in portrait mode only which means you’ll have to hold the phone sideways in order to read them. There’s also a Mirror app which basically engages the front camera. There’s no bundled task manager app which means you'll have to download one from the marketplace.
The phone comes with a 1250mAh battery which gave me a solid 5hrs in our video drain test. In our second batch of loop tests, the ChaCha almost made it through a single cycle which included 2hrs of video, 2hrs or music, 1hr of streaming radio through Wi-Fi and an hour of phone calls. These are pretty good numbers and if used a bit carefully, the ChaCha should easily last you around two days before you have to charge it again.
Leaving aside the Facebook integration for a moment, HTC have done a really good job with the ChaCha as a phone. The name ‘ChaCha’ doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue but I guess that’s HTC’s way of differentiating their social media phones from the rest, the other one being the Salsa. The build and finish of the device is very good and the same goes for the keypad. The screen may be a bit small for touch usage but I didn’t face any problems during the course of the review. The sensitivity is spot-on and the high resolution and good colour reproduction of the screen make for a very good multimedia phone.
The best bit has to be the Facebook button. While it may seem a bit gimmicky at first, it’s actually very handy when you quickly need to share something with your friends. I’ll confess, I’m not an avid Facebook enthusiast but I did find myself sharing random images or links simply due to the fact that no extra effort is needed on your part. All you do is hit the blue button. Even without the Facebook button, the ChaCha would have been a great phone, no doubt about that. At Rs.15,000, it’s a tough choice as there are many good phones in this bracket. Looking at online sites alone, If you absolutely need a physical QWERTY keyboard then the ChaCha and the E6 (for 500 bucks more) are two excellent choices depending on your OS preference. If plain touchscreen is what you’re looking at, then the Motorola Defy becomes the default choice. The ChaCha feels a tad pricey at the moment but if HTC were to drop the price to about 10K to 12K, then it's a sure shot winner.
2.3.3, 3G, Android, Bluetooth, Capacitive, Chacha, Facebook, fb, FB phone, Gingerbread, Google, HSDPA, HSUPA, HTC, HTC ChaCha review, QWERTY, Review, Sense 2.1, Sense UI, Smartphone, Smartphones, Touch and Type, Touchscreen, Wi-fi
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